Ghostsigns of Minnesota and the Mid-West 1


Earlier this month I went on my first ever trip to the USA. This was to attend ‘Mazeppa Mardi Gras’, a meeting of the Letterheads in sub-zero Minnesota. It was a fantastic week of sign making and painting and you can read a full blown account of the week over on the Better Letters site. While the full tour of the states is still in the pipeline, I did get my first glimpses of some of the country’s treasures. These included some shared by people I met across the week, all of which are shown below, stating with my favourite for Squirt drinks.

Squirt, Wabasha, MN

Squirt, Wabasha, MN

Shortly after arriving at Minnesota St Paul airport I was taken to see this large-scale wall piece which features in the Sign Painters film.

Fitzgerald Theatre, Minneapolis St Paul

Fitzgerald Theatre, Minneapolis St Paul

On arrival in Mazeppa, population 850, I snapped this 1940s replica wall sign, produced at a previous Letterheads event in the town. Check out the cheeky/creepy sprite peering around the bottle.

Coca-Cola, Mazeppa, MN

Coca-Cola, Mazeppa, MN

Although the sun wasn’t co-operating for my photo I got to see an Owl Cigars sign in nearby Red Wing. It’s a palimpsest, we couldn’t work out who else once used the wall for advertising…

Owl Cigars, Red Wing, MN

Owl Cigars, Red Wing, MN

Here’s a close-up with the owl’s eye clearly visible.

Owl Cigars, Red Wing, MN

Owl Cigars, Red Wing, MN

The bottom right portion of the sign shows a fragment of the company responsible for the sign. Again, I’ve been unable to decipher this one.

Owl Cigars, Red Wing, MN

Owl Cigars, Red Wing, MN

Check out the simple triangle employed for the apostrophe on this one.

Lyman's

Lyman’s

I highly recommend the ice-cream at this place, although beware the scoop sizes, they’re significantly bigger than anything I’ve seen before.

08-Nelson-Creamery

While at the event I met a bunch of amazing people, not least John Ingles of Smiley Graphix, Germantown Hills, Illinois. He sent through the following selection from his own travels.

St Louis, Missouri, photo by John Ingles

St Louis, Missouri, photo by John Ingles

Peoria, Illinois, photo by John Ingles

Peoria, Illinois, photo by John Ingles

Peoria, Illinois, photo by John Ingles

Peoria, Illinois, photo by John Ingles

Peoria, Illinois, photo by John Ingles

Peoria, Illinois, photo by John Ingles

Peoria, Illinois, photo by John Ingles

Peoria, Illinois, photo by John Ingles

Peoria, Illinois, photo by John Ingles

Peoria, Illinois, photo by John Ingles

Milwakee, Wisconsin, photo by John Ingles

Milwakee, Wisconsin, photo by John Ingles

Galena, Illinois, photo by John Ingles

Galena, Illinois, photo by John Ingles

Galena, Illinois, photo by John Ingles

Galena, Illinois, photo by John Ingles

Butch Anton (a.k.a. Superfrog) also shared some of his discoveries. This first one dates from the turn of the last century and was the location for a new sign that Butch painted 20 years ago. Hence it isn’t there any more. RIP.

Fargo, photo by Butch Anton (Superfrog)

Fargo, North Dakota, photo by Butch Anton (Superfrog)

I like this close-up showing how the paint is decaying to give the ghosted appearance.

Fargo, photo by Butch Anton (Superfrog)

Fargo, North Dakota, photo by Butch Anton (Superfrog)

Finally is this one, also from Butch, advertising the Dakota Business College which was in its prime in the 1920s and 1930s. It closed 20 years ago.

Dakota, photo by Butch Anton (Superfrog)

Fargo, North Dakota, photo by Butch Anton (Superfrog)

And finally, this from New York by Caetano Calomino.

New York ghostsigns, fading advertisement painted on a wall

New York, photo by Caetano Calomino

So, just a handful of the material that lies across the USA. The grand tour is now being plotted, to include visits to all the ghostsigns enthusiasts across the USA and many of the surviving signs documented here and elsewhere online…

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