Ghost Sign

ghost signs

Ghost sign‘ is a term for old hand-painted advertising signage that has been preserved on a building for an extended period of time. The signage may be kept for its nostalgic appeal, or simply indifference by the owner. They are also called ‘fading ads’ and ‘brickads.’ In many cases these are advertisements painted on brick that remained over time. Many ghost signs still visible are from the 1890s to 1960s. Such signs were most commonly used in the decades before the Great Depression.

As signage advertising formats changed, less durable signs appeared in the later 20th century, and ghost signs from that era are less common. Kathleen Hulser of the New York Historical Society, said, ‘[The signs] evoke the exuberant period of American capitalism. Consumer cultures were really getting going and there weren’t many rules yet, no landmarks preservation commission or organized community saying: ‘Isn’t this awful? There’s a picture of a man chewing tobacco on the corner of my street.’

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