Day 30: St. Clairsville, OH to NYC

We arrived safely home a few hours ago.  A beautiful, sunny day — wished I had been shooting stuff intead of bored out of my mind on the interstate.  I did shoot some stuff at a pitstop in Harrisburg, PA — probably post a few of those photos to Flickr tomorrow.  Not sure if there’s anything blog-ish in there since we were only there for about 20 minutes.  However, I’m still struggling to catch up here.  After this post, I’ll get the final one done tomorrow.

So this was Friday, August 28th.  I had just driven countless hours the day before from Nebraska to Ohio and gotten about four hours sleep.  But when I arrived in Cincinnati, I got straight to work.  Tod Swormstedt, the guy behind the American Sign Museum, is the former editor and publisher of Signs of the Times magazine.  He had graciously invited me to the publishing company library to have a look at old bound volumes of the  magazine. 

I only spent a few hours there but managed to do a quick flip through 1957-1961 and took a couple dozen photos of things of interest.  “Dee” did a better job than I expected.  Not quite scan quality but good enough for my purposes.  I hope to devote a full day or two on next summer’s trip to go through earlier and later volumes.

There was a lot of coverage in these magazines of old billboard signs.  Such a cultural loss that none of these remain.  The graphics and creativity were incredible.  Lots of them included giant cut-out pieces like this one:

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Many issues contained theme articles with sensory overload like this:

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I believe all three of these signs are gone.  I was mostly looking for info about and photos of signs that still exist — but some things were just too incredible not to pause and photo.

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I love those weather ball signs — you know, like the one in Flint that changed colors to tell you to expect cold or heat or whatever.
http://www.grbj.com/GRBJ/Nav/Weather+Ball+History.htm
http://www.mnhs.org/exhibits/weather/weatherball.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weather_beacon

But I had never seen one with these cute sliding panels before.

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So after Magazine Time, it was time to get together with The Man himself.  Tod gave me a tour of the museum to show me some of the new stuff that I hadn’t seen before.  And it was great to see all of it again.  I hadn’t been there since 2006.  The collection is mind-boggling with displays of signs from all eras and all media like this one:

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There are zillions of photos over at Flickr but here are some old photos at my website for now as well:
http://www.agilitynut.com/signs/oh3.html

The big news is that Tod is hard at work getting a new space ready — hopefully, the new location will open in 2012 or sooner.  It is HUGE.  Like two football fields. And TALL.  It may not look like much now — but try to imagine this space finished and filled with countless and colorful signs.  This photo only shows part of the space.  It was taken from the second floor where there are plans to have offices and a library.  At the back left in this photo, there will be an operating neon shop where local signs will be produced/repaired and restorations for the musem will be done.  The shop windows will allow visitors to observe the goings-on.

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If you love signs, this will be Mecca.  I urge you to contribute what you can to help with this exciting project — or just send Tod love notes.
http://www.signmuseum.net/home.asp

I’ll wrap up Ohio tomorrow…  I’m off to sleep in my own bed right now!

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10 Responses to “Day 30: St. Clairsville, OH to NYC”

  1. The new museum space looks like it’ll be amazing! Any idea what the building once was?

    • I don’t know what it originally was — but it’s in a great industrial, warehouse-y area. So I imagine it was manufacturing of some sort. All big brick buildings — even a bonus ghost sign on one of the buildings directly behind it. Tod is keeping the paint scheme apprpriately mostly the brick red.

  2. I love that Bowlero sign. It’s awesome! Those were the days… when bowling alleys were major entertainment venues.

  3. I just realized I have a vintage matchbook for that exact Bowlero. I’ll try and get it scanned in the next couple of days.

  4. This new space looks really interesting. I gotta get myself to Cincinnati!

    • The collection, as it is, is incredible. What is will be, is mind-blowing. It is enormous and will really allow Tod to organize, show properly, and add to what he already has. Cincinnati has lots of other incredible stuff to photograph — you’ll have a great time even if the new museum isn’t open yet (ETA 2010).

  5. Beautiful blog and writeup, I hope to make it to that sign museum someday. I believe that the “Z” Frank sign shown in the magazine spread still exists in Chicago (last I knew), it’s a gigantic car dealership on Western Avenue between Peterson and Devon.

    • Hey thanks! Yes, I love the Z Frank sign and I HOPE it’s still there. Last I heard, the dealership had moved, couldn’t take the sign with them, and its fate was shaky.

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