A ghost sign is an old hand-painted advertising sign that has been preserved on a building for an extended period of time. The sign may be kept for its nostalgic appeal, or simply indifference by the owner.
History and preservation
Ghost signs are found across the world with the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Canada having many surviving examples. Ghost signs are also called fading ads or brickads. In many cases these are advertisements painted on brick that remained over time. Old painted advertisements are occasionally discovered upon demolition of later-built adjoining structures. Throughout rural areas, old barn advertisements continue to promote defunct brands and quaint roadside attractions.
[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."
The painters of the signs were called "wall dogs". As signage advertising formats changed, less durable signs appeared in the later 20th century, and ghost signs from that era are less common.
Ghost signs were originally painted with oil-based house paints. The paint that has survived the test of time most likely contains lead, which keeps it strongly adhered to the masonry surface. Ghost signs were often preserved through repainting the entire sign since the colors often fade over time. When ownership changed, a new sign would be painted over the old one.
Renfrew Street. Glasgow (Scotland)
Former Kaffee-Ausschank Görlitz (Germany)
Former Kaffee-New York, Transylvania (Romania)
- Roberts, S. & Marshall, G., 2017. What is a Ghost Sign? In:Schutt, S., Roberts, S. & White, L. (Eds), Advertising and Public Memory: Social, Cultural and Historical Perspectives on Ghost Signs. New York: Routledge
- "Ghost Signs - A Waymarking.com Category". www.waymarking.com.
- see Fading Ad Gallery
- see Ghost Signs
- "Défense D'Af: Faux Ghostsign from John Downer". Ghost Signs (blog). Retrieved 5 May 2016.
- Ghost signs: Old slogans never die in Butte..., The Montana Standard (Butte, Montana). August 9, 2001. Accessed September 6, 2007.
- Stage, Wm. (1989). Ghost Signs: Brick Wall Signs in America. Floppinfish Pub Co. ISBN 978-0911380842.
- Joseph Berger. "Fading Memories". New York Times. November 5, 2005. Retrieved on October 5, 2009.
- Genovese, Peter (March 30, 2012), "Ghost signs: Jersey's commercial history is written large in faded paint on city buildings", The Star-Ledger, retrieved 2012-03-30
- Matheson, Kathy (May 12, 2013). "Painters brush new life into Philadelphia's 'ghost signs'". Associated Press. Retrieved May 13, 2013.
- Allen, Robert. "'Ghost signs' expose Detroit's faded history". Detroit Free Press.
- Barry, Dan (January 23, 2012). "In a City Fighting Blight, 'Ghost Signs' as Portals to a Bygone Era". The New York Times.
- Ghost Signs of Louisville – from the University of Louisville Libraries
Media related to Ghost signs at Wikimedia Commons
- Ghost signs from Canada & the US
- Ghost Ads at Lileks.com
- UK Ghost Signs
- Ghost adverts on Heritageandhistory.com
- Leading Ghost Signs Article
- Facebook page featuring British and Irish ghost signs
- Liverpool Ghost Signs - The first British ghost signs book
- Painted signs and mosaics - A record of ghost signs from the UK, France, Germany and a few other countries
- American Ghosts - Ghost Signs of the United States
- Dublin Ghost Signs - Capturing Dublin's history through its old and fading signs