Archiving the Signs of the Times
August 8, 2022 3:35 PM   Subscribe

"The History of Advertising Trust Ghostsigns Archive is a free, searchable, online collection of hundreds of ghost signs from across the UK and Ireland."

"Over 1000 examples have now been documented for this archive, touting many different products and services, some familiar, some less so. Alongside advertisements for Hovis, Nestle and Boots are others for Bile Beans, Puck Matches and Peterkin’s Custard. The collections also showcase the styles and techniques employed by the craftsmen responsible for producing the signs. The diversity of lettering forms and illustration highlight the skill and flair that each signwriter once brought to their work, in contrast to the ‘carbon copy’ posters of today."

These caught my eye:
W.Smithson & Sons
John Nightingales

Via BLAG (Better Letters Magazine), a lovely-looking rabbit hole; some content is subscriber-only.
posted by MonkeyToes (12 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
There is a bar I played a show or six at back in a previous millennium which has now changed its name. It's a little bit gentrified for my tastes* now but I like that they have painted the name directly on the brick making it a future ghost sign. Retro!

*It is sort of a gastropub in there now. I recall a New Year's Eve gig there in the nineties where a fight broke out at the pool tables, with bikers and punks overhanding poll balls at each other. I was playing a lightweight little Hofner violin bass that night -- the things are hollow and made of balsa wood, seemingly; I was doing my best to shield the bass with my body as I reckoned my bruises and cracked ribs would heal, but single high velocity nine-ball would be the end of the axe.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:22 PM on August 8, 2022 [2 favorites]

posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:31 PM on August 8, 2022

I want to love this, but the location search is so utterly broken (it only lists up to C) that I gave up.
posted by scruss at 4:57 PM on August 8, 2022 [1 favorite]

Historical typographers of Metafilter:
What was with the periods (full stops) in signage of that period (era)?

I've always seen things written as
~ Willis and Dodsworth ~
Purveyors of Fine Ladies' Boots & Gloves.
and wondered about why there's so often a full stop period at the end.
What was with that?

(and will the 21st century equivalent be 'stop putting periods in your texts, it makes you sound hostile'?)
posted by bartleby at 9:49 PM on August 8, 2022

Scruss: I put [D for] Dublin in the Type Keyword here box to discover that
Joyce Nora Barnacle fans will be delighted to find her workplace Finn's Hotel in this database. I have 30 y.o. picture of the same gable-end: considerably more ghostly before Trinity College cut down a huge tree which occluded the view.
posted by BobTheScientist at 12:12 AM on August 9, 2022

One of my favourites in Dublin doesn't seem to be there - here it is on Streetview. I'm a bit surpised it's not featured as it's right beside the Finn's Hotel one - if you "drive" a bit to the left, you can then see the it on the gable-end of the building.
posted by scorbet at 2:07 AM on August 9, 2022

I want to love this, but the location search is so utterly broken (it only lists up to C) that I gave up

You might prefer Ghost Signs, a much better designed website. As a spin-off from the website, Sam Roberts has produced a book, Ghost Signs: A London Story (published last year; I have a copy and can strongly recommend it).
posted by verstegan at 5:34 AM on August 9, 2022 [2 favorites]

I love Ghost Signs - you can still see them in the older parts of LA and environs if you know where to look. There's one less than a block away from me that I was horrified to discover was gone, but luckily, the owners had just covered it with a fake wall - so the painting is still there on the brick, just hidden away for now.
posted by drewbage1847 at 9:37 AM on August 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

Ctrl F Plumtree's Potted Meat.

No luck.
posted by Bee'sWing at 10:49 AM on August 9, 2022

I like The noted house for PAPER BAGS. And the NOTED BACON STORES. We need more ads that just say This is a thing. This is noted.

They don't have the Home & Colonial Stores one near me. I should send it in.

I like the ghost cat, too.
posted by paduasoy at 3:28 PM on August 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

bartleby: Orthographic conventions simply evolve and mutate and drift over time, just like all aspects of language. In my non-professional experience, this seems to be particularly true of punctuation. (Presumably because you can often change punctuation without significantly altering the meaning of a text. Yes, I know about "eats, shoots, and leaves".)

You could just as well ask why English speakers in 2022 don't use terminating punctuation in this particular context. To someone from the 1800s, that would be the oddity that demands explanation.

I doubt that anyone can give you a linguistically supportable reason for either era's convention.

After all: Why do we capitalize every word in titles? Why do North Americans write phone numbers as "(303) 909-2600", and not "303/909/2600" or "[303] 909:2600"? Why is "Avenue" abbreviated as "Ave.", and not "Av."?

Well, because that's the convention. Why is it the convention? Well, because that's what people settled on. These things usually happen organically, not as the result of deliberate decision-making.

Occasionally, someone will codify a particular set of conventions as a style guide, and they may even provide justifications for some of the conventions. But I'm guessing that isn't what we're seeing here. If you asked an old-timey sign-maker why the period is there, I think they'd probably just look at you funny and say "...because you're supposed to put a period at the end of an utterance".
posted by escape from the potato planet at 5:23 AM on August 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

Saw one today and took a photograph to submit, but it's a bit of a faff if you just want to submit one picture - two forms to submit, which seems excessive for a poor snapshot.

For the record, mine reads

H [something] BRADLEY

Now I urgently need FANCY GOODS.
posted by paduasoy at 9:02 AM on August 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

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