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Fading Ads of St. Louis

Fading Ads of St. Louis

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Fading Ads of St. Louis

Longueur:
211 pages
2 heures
Sortie:
Sep 24, 2013
ISBN:
9781625847119
Format:
Livre

Description

Before the billboard, radio or television commercial, there was the painted ad. Today, these aging ads capture the imagination, harkening back to a bygone era. Vanishing paint on brick walls speaks to a time when commerce was much simpler and much more direct. Few cities in America have produced as many intriguing fading ads as St. Louis. Fewer still are home to such an expert on the subject as author Wm. Stage. For decades, Stage has studied and researched the lost art form of the painted ad, carefully tracking the history of this hands-on approach to advertising from its lustrous heyday to its disappearing present. Join Stage on a tour through St. Louis's fading ads hidden in plain sight.
Sortie:
Sep 24, 2013
ISBN:
9781625847119
Format:
Livre

À propos de l'auteur

Wm. Stage is a St. Louis-based writer and photographer. He has taught photojournalism at the Saint Louis University School for Professional Studies and feature writing at Defense Information School. His commentaries may be heard occasionally on KWMU, the NPR affiliate in St. Louis.

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Aperçu du livre

Fading Ads of St. Louis - Wm. Stage

www.paintedad.com.

Bricks, Mortar and Paint

A PRIMER

Once upon a time, a building in St. Louis was torn down, exposing a wall on an adjoining laundry. This might have been an ordinary event except this wall bore an archaic advertisement that had not seen sunlight for perhaps seven decades. News spread. It was as if a giant condor had landed on the roof of the Sam Wah Laundry. Curious residents gathered to gape at the discovery—a Gold Medal Flour sign that, spared from the elements, appeared almost as fresh as the day it was painted. Fields of red, yellow and green were still vivid, as was the product slogan: Eventually…Why Not Now?

Tucked away in cities and towns across the country, many such walls exist as advertisements for beer, tobacco, candy, stove polish, shoes, animal feeds, interest rates and practically any commodity or service one may imagine. They are often charming in presentation and sometimes naïve in their message, and once you start seeing them, you will see them more and more. They have been called fading ads, wall murals and ghost signs. St. Louis is a good place to see plenty of fading ads; it’s an old city and there are a lot of brick walls.

These signs were painted in the days before billboards, executed by professional sign painters working alone or in pairs. Some of them were skilled artists who could just as easily paint a portrait on canvas as they could illustrate, on a brick wall, a man happily smoking a cigar. Those sign painters who worked the large brick walls in cities, precariously perched on scaffolds high above street level, were called walldogs. There are very few of the old-time walldogs around today, although there is a contingent of the Letterheads (see Restoration and Preservation) who continue the tradition for a new generation.

One may almost neatly divide wall signs into two categories, the first being those specimens that are suddenly exposed when an adjacent building is razed, their lettering and background colors revealed, almost as fresh as the day they were painted. The second category, far more commonly seen, are those painted signs that have never been covered up but exposed to the elements, fading incrementally year by year and presenting themselves in varying stages of comprehension—totally readable, partially readable or one sign painted over another with text from the original showing through, the letters from both signs jumbled together like alphabet soup. The term ghost sign denotes a particular type of wall sign that is faded to the point of requiring study to make out the content and perhaps legible only during certain light or weather conditions—a soft rain, for example. Some of these wall signs are indeed something of an apparition, seriously faded by decades of exposure to sun and elements, yet their original charm shows through. Many of these fading ads tout products that may seem quaint today (Paris Golf Garters, for example) or products still on the shelves but bearing curious ad copy long in tooth—a popular soft drink that RELIEVES FATIGUE, for instance, or a cigar that states I AM FOR MEN.

WASHBURN-CROSBY’S GOLD MEDAL FLOUR, CENTRAL WEST END, ST. LOUIS, 1983

Suddenly exposed sign that appeared on the side of the old Sam Wah Laundry, St. Louis’s last remaining hand wash laundry, located at Laclede and Newstead. Only about eighteen months passed from the time this wall was exposed to the building itself being razed to become a parking lot. The sign was probably done sometime in the 1920s, yet because it had been sealed off, colors appear almost as fresh as the day they were painted. The slogan reads EVENTUALLY…WHY NOT NOW?

A casual survey of wall signs in a typical brickified city will yield numerous examples, something on the order of Brinkmann Florist or Acme Tool & Die. Garden variety signage, most of it. Plain block letters on a flat brick wall. What, then, makes a wall sign good? The unusual, the artistically superlative, the culturally significant, the commercially historic. At a premium are the still-legible vintage specimens, the last reminder of a business long since shuttered or a product no longer manufactured. And many wall signs—too many to count—are no longer with us, sacrificed to the onslaught of urban renewal. Yet there is hope, for somewhere in a humming metropolis or the main street of a small town, a commercial relic has just been uncovered and people are starting to

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