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“Ghost Signs”, Ads From the Past Still Capture Attention

Posted on: 3:46 pm, July 1, 2013, by , updated on: 03:19pm, July 1, 2013

Photo Gallery Expand 1 of 11
  • Found this faded sign off the Laurel Line right of way . Was an ad for a newspaper known as the Scranton Republican. Painted directly on the stone.

  • Part of an advertisement on the back of the soon to be demolished Hotel Sterling in Wilkes-Barre. Photo by Ed Mountjoy

  • Taken in the old mining town of Eureka, Utah. Chet Ross

  • This ghost sign of the Northampton National Bank is located in Easton. Photo by Jared Kofsky.

  • This photo shows a ghost sign in Center City Allentown. Photo by Jared Kofsky.

  • Here's a ghost sign that was recently uncovered in Plymouth after a building demolition took place in mid-April, located along Main Street. From: Ed Mountjoy

  • Woolworths 5 and dime Carbondale, PA submitted by Shawn Ashworth

  • Coca Cola signed tucked between buildings in Carbondale, PA submitted by Shawn Ashworth

  • Green Ridge Corners, Scranton, PA

  • Duquesne, PA

  • Butler, PA

(submit your “ghost sign” photo below)

We’ve all seen these faded advertisements commonly called “ghost signs” on area buildings.

Ghost signs are also called “fading ads” and “brickads”. No matter what they are called, these advertisements painted on brick by painters called “wall dogs” have survived the test of time and are a visual reminder of days gone by. Many ghost signs from the 1890s to 1960s are still visible today

Though many ghost signs can be found in cities, some can be found adorning the sides of rural barns.

In a New York Times article on ghost signs, 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.”

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 reprinting the entire sign since the colors often fade over time. When ownership changed, a new sign would be painted over the old one.

We’d love to see some more examples of ghost signs from around northeastern and central PA, so if you happen to capture a photo of one of these relics from the past, upload it here.  Who knows, you might even see your photo on Newswatch 16!

*Be sure to include your name and the location of the ghost sign in the description when uploading a photo.

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