Before billboards advertising (names of businesses most often rather than ads as we think of them now) was painted on the sides of buildings.
Now those old ads are ghost signs, faded, weathered and forgotten. But, if you watch for them, you will still find a ghost sign in a town or city near you.
Ghost Signs are Not Signs of Ghosts
Ghost signs are old painted advertising on the side of buildings. Usually weathered and aged, they can be almost unreadable. Some of them may be covered over with multiple painted ads and other new ads like billboards. Others disappear and are forgotten when new buildings are constructed and overlap the space.
Ghost signs are special because they are vintage advertising. Usually the original business, service or product are long gone out of business, moved or have become absorbed into bigger corporations. I like ghost signs. They’re a bit of nostalgia, like having a surprise visit from a time machine.
I’ve heard ghost signs called wall dogs, street type and brick ads too.
The photograph with this post is one of my own. I took it this past weekend during a drive around Ontario, in the area of Niagara Falls. Ghost signs aren’t so hard to find if you keep an eye open while driving through a small town, or just about any size of settlement/ community. I seem to find them easier in small towns. Maybe because there is less construction, less chance the old buildings will be knocked down for the sake of progress.
Ghost signs are a bit of our history, faded but still around. But sign painting is fading away as a profession. Modern signs are created with different materials and posted on billboards.
Resources for Ghost Sign Explorers