History


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When did old painted signs on walls become known as ‘ghost’ signs, and who coined the phrase? These questions crop up often in my discussions with others, and on my tours, and I always have to hold my hand up and say I didn’t invent […]

Tracing the Origins of ‘Ghost’ Signs


Joe Thompson emailed me these fascinating photos of lettering on unusual objects, namely a dead whale (1919) and a shipwrecked oil tanker (1926). They are from San Francisco, recently donated to the Western Neighbourhoods Project. Read more about the photos and the project on SF […]

Writing on the Whale and Other Novelties





Painted sign on a wall in Deal, Kent, for Henry Dunn's furniture shop
This mid-1800s photograph shows a painted sign on the wall in Deal, Kent, advertising Henry Dunn and his various trades of cabinet maker, upholsterer, paper hanger, undertaker, broker and more. Born in 1818, Henry Dunn is my Great Great Great Grandfather, so I was chuffed […]

Ghostsigns in the Family: Henry Dunn of Deal


Hand-painted wall sign advertising Waits Butcher 1
Mick McTiernan has sent me his collection of archival ghostsigns photography, and what a collection it is. (More in his Ghost Signs set.) Proving that fading advertising painted on walls has held people in fascination for many years, Mick dates some of his images to […]

The Mick McTiernan ‘Wall Paintings’ Collection



Ghostsign in Ypres, Belgium, advertising details for visitors from the British Legion 4
[This post has been updated since it was first published on 18th August 2013 to reflect clarifications received from Genevra Charsley of Flanders Battlefield Tour.] This intriguing English-language ghostsigns is found in Ypres, Belgium, and has been identified for protection given its historical significance. I […]

Ghost of the British Legion in Ypres, Belgium


No.2 Sign Painting shop from Greatest Wonder of the World Exhibition
While on my recent travels I was lucky enough to stumble upon The Greatest Wonder of the World exhibition at the State Library of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. The banner outside in big gold letters of various scripts obviously attracted my attention, and […]

The Greatest Wonder of the World




Horse heads cave painting from the Chauvet cave Ardèche 4
I’ve become increasingly intrigued by the origins of painting on walls, and the evolution of the form over time, up to the current vogue for street art.  While the walls of caves were not made of brick, they did nonetheless provide people with an early […]

The origins of painting on walls






History of the Johnston Type Face image
HAT archive contributor Mike Ashworth is giving an illustrated talk about the London Underground Johnston typeface next week on Tuesday, 3rd April.  More details in the pdf below and on the Sign Design Society website.  Followers of this site are eligible for a small discount, […]

The history of the Johnston typeface: Sign Design Society event ...