Category Archives: Ghost Signs

Updated Ghost Sign Database

I just added around 600 more ghost signs to my database. These were signs I photographed in 2014, plus a few from 2015 and 2017.  The map shows where these newly added signs are located – mostly New York, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Connecticut.  There are a few others scattered around.

The map below shows the complete coverage of ghost signs in the database. It contains around 7300 ghost signs.  I still have another 1000 to add that I have already photographed.

Here is a gallery of some of the more interesting (and pretty) signs that I just added.  I have included some enhancements so you can see the separate layers.  If you want the signs’ locations, click on the map at the top of the left column of this page.  That link takes you to the database.

Mexican Mustang Liniment – for Man or Beast

I’m starting a series where, for ghost signs I have photographed, I will show examples of the products themselves which I have found on Ebay. The first is for Mexican Mustang Liniment.

I found this great sign on a side street in Virginia City, Nevada. Virginia City is the mining town associated with the Comstock Lode, the largest silver deposit found to that time.  The town went through the typical boom and bust cycle, peaking in the 1870’s.  The town is also notable because it is where Mark Twain started his writing career. Today, it is an active tourist destination.

[VENI. V]IDI. VICI.
The Old
Mexican Mustang Liniment
for Man or Beast
It has STOOD the TEST
for over HALF a CENTURY
Penetrates to the ROOT of ….
AND ……

Mexican Mesquite Liniment was started in 1830 and later purchased by a New York company. There was some residue in the bottle I purchased and it smells like some yucky petroleum product.  This bottle is from after 1923 based on the information shown on the paper label.

Where else would something named Mexican Mustang Liniment be made than Brooklyn, NY?

 

Revolving Account

I found this newly revealed sign in Denver.  I had been by the same location last  year, and it was not there.  Google Street View shows that it was revealed when the surfacing on the building was removed during remodeling.  So, while, as shown in the last post, many ghost signs are disappearing, others are reappearing.

 

May 2014

Sept 2016

Going, Going, Gone

When I started photographing ghost signs in 2009, it occurred to me that, as the economy came back from the recession, buildings would start being renovated or torn down.  Of course, I was correct. As I update my database to include the most recent Google Map formats, i have found some that are now gone. Here are example of some of the best ghost signs that are no longer with us.


Coca Cola – Schenectady, New York (Demolished)


Charter Cigar – Irvington, New Jersey (Demolished)


Bridal Tomato Soup / Coca Cola, Irvington, New Jersey  (Painted Over)


Mail Pouch Tobacco / Owl Cigar, Columbia City, Indiana (muralized)


 

Quaker Oats, Boston, Massachusetts (covered by new construction)


 

Quaker Oats  / Moxie, Boston, Massachusetts (covered by new construction)

Cripple Creek – 1957

Going earlier in my slides, I found the same view in Cripple Creek in 1957.  What this reveals is the location of the Wrigley sign in the previous post. It is barely visible on the building between the Schlitz and Texaco signs. It was blocked by new construction by 1984, and appears to still be there – a time capsule.

This was taken on Ektachrome which had faded to what appears to be totally red.  My Nikon LS-4000 scanner plus VueScan software reconstructs the color pretty well.  Pretty grainy however.

Also, the Mt. Pisgah sign was not there, nor was the Columbine Buffet sign.

Cripple Creek – 1984

I am currently scanning my slide collection – about 30000 slides, mostly family stuff. However, I have some photographs of ghost signs that I took way before I started this project.  Here are some from Cripple Creek, Colorado, in 1984.  Some signs are still there, some are gone.

 

Many of the buildings have now been converted to Casinos, or have been replaced by new construction.

In an extracted area of the above slide, the wonderful Walk-Ezy sign is visible, along with the Assay Office and the Safe Deposit building.

Across the street, the Mt. Pisgah sign is still there, but the top sign, the Bran…., is now gone.

This Wrigley’s Gum sign is  long gone, unless I didn’t look around the correct corner.  I couldn’t find it in 2009, and it doesn’t appear in Google Street view.  I wish I had photographed the entire sign!

This group of buildings in the photo below are also gone, and a gap between building is there today.

The building at the end of the block in the above photograph is still there, but the sign for the Columbine Buffet is now gone.

Ghost Sign Harvest #11 – Indiana to Nebraska

I had to truncate my route, eliminating a plan for Wisconsin, since I spent more time in Indiana and Illinois due to the road closures from flooding.

This sign in Vincennes, Indiana, has appeared since I was last there in 2010.

If you see these stars on a building, they are called “Star Anchors”.  They are a decorative way to cover the end of a threaded rod that braces the brick wall to the internal structure.  Apparently, these are taken down by people who sell them in antique stores, leaving the buildings vulnerable to collapse.

General Arthur Cigar in Plattsburg, Missouri

Terre Haute Beer in Linton, Indiana

When I first photographed this sign in Indianapolis in 2010, the building was supposed to be demolished.  However, here it is!  Jung’s Red Heart Beer’s Sustains Life [sic]. 

This great sign for Greenback Tobacco in Terre Haute, Indiana, was difficult to photograph. The tree branches touch the best part of the sign – an emblem of a happy frog.  I used a rope to pull branches back from the building, but still needed to photograph from many different positions and slanted angles. Note to self – carry a tree trimmer stick.

I drove through the beautiful Sand Hills in Nebraska on my way to some of the ghost signs in the West.

I “invented” my pole stick to specifically get this sign in Columbus, Nebraska, but hadn’t been back until this trip. It is a very nicely preserved Cremo Cigar ad.

Detail of the Cigar – part of the higher resolution imaging used for stitching.

I revisited Alliance, Nebraska to rephotograph this sign I first photographed in 2010.  This time, I used my pole to get the camera into a good position. However, it was also easier because a foreground tree had been removed. The town is undergoing a major makeover because it is one of many cities directly under the central path of this year’s Total Solar Eclipse.

It Came from Outer Space – 3 Dimensions, from the 1953 release.

Alliance makeover is in progress for the Solar Eclipse.  East Wyoming and Western Nebraska have the highest probability for clear skies on the eclipse date.  I thought it appropriate that one of the signs that is there is It Came From Outer Space.

Ghost Sign Harvest #8 – Pennsylvania & Ohio, plus a Barn Tour

One of the great joys of photographing ghost signs and ghost barns is meeting people.  As I was photographing this Mail Pouch Tobacco barn in Ohio, the owner came over and we talked. The first thing I did was thank him for not having the barn “restored”.  It is the only Mail Pouch Barn I have seen that has a depiction of the package.

Mr. Gardner, who has owned the barn for 35 years, invited me inside to see how it is built.  How cool is that!!!!  These are pretty amazing timbers.  What is even more amazing is that about 100 years ago, the barn was moved to this location from a field across where the present highway is located.

This view shows the inside of the painted part of the barn.

And how about this flooring?

Mr. Gardner maintains the barn, including climbing on to the roof when it leaks, and uses it for storage.  I think the continual usage is one reason it is in such great condition.

 



When I am planning my route, I always look for possible towns along my route to see if any other towns might have a sign. i found this beauty in Cadiz, Ohio, just this morning before starting my drive.

I returned to Carnegie, PA (it was just off the road I was on anyway) to rephotograph this Mail Pouch sign.  During my prior visit, I had to shoot around several parked cars, plus there it was sunny.  This is a nice shadow setup.

Another Ivory Soap ghost sign, this one in Washington, PA.

I returned to Lisbon. Ohio, to photograph this sign which required my using the pole rig to see over the edge of the building. I always shoot a wide angle panorama, like the one below, before using the longer focal length, to see what other objects are on the room that might block the view.

Mail Pouch Tobacco Barns seem to be everywhere in the Ohio River Valley.

I returned to New Kensington, PA, to continue my series of the revealing and deterioration of this Pillsbury’s Best Flour sign.  I photographed it in 2011, 2012, and 2014.  Now, the entire top of the sign is revealed, but the bottom half is mostly gone.  I’ll create a single composite image when i get home that contains as much of the original sign as possible.

2011, 2012, and 2014

Ghost Sign Harvest #7 – Pennsylvania, more Barns, and an Owl

This very nice Mail Pouch Tobacco barn is just south of Halifax, PA, and was unknown to me before I spotted it.

I went into the barnyard, through and open gate, and photographed the entire sign in lots of detail.  The letters always look like they are melting.  The farmer’ cows had a great deal to say – very moosical.

A very faded Mail Pouch barn, but I photographed it straight on as well and it can be enhanced.

I’m not sure this barn was ever originally painted as a Mail Pouch ad. I think it was just done for fun.

I found this sign in Alverda, PA, posted online and went to photograph it. Signs about now gone Flour brands are very popular.

A different kind of barn.  I asked permission of a very nice couple who let me go up their driveway to photograph the barn.  It belongs to their sister.  Thanks to all.

The GPS took me on this small back road to Johnstown, PA.  It was twisty, bumpy, potholey – in summary, wonderful.

I had been to Johnstown before, but this sign was exposed in the last two years.  It may be the best Owl Logo I have seen.  No tuckpointing or cleaning.  It may have been painted by the same sign painter who did the Owl Cigar signs in New Kensington that were revealed a few years ago.

When I arrived, it was sunny which produced bad tree shadows across the graphics. I waited about an hour for a storm front to arrive with a nice overcast sky.  I spoke to a couple about living in Johnstown.  They were around my age.  They had grown up here, moved to the DC area, and then returned for family reasons.  What struck them on returning is that everything is expensive in Johnstown.  Utilities are triple in the DC area.  I found that gas is the same as Los Angeles.  The city is slowly dying because it is not connected to the world by any major highway.  The young people are leaving because there are no jobs. Its past industries were Bethlehem Steel and coal.  Needless to say, I saw many Trump posters.

Once it became overcast, i used my pole rig to photograph the entire sign over the fence.

Here’s lookin’ at you, kid.  I’m looking forward to stitching all of the photos together when I get home.