Excerpted from Tod Swormstedt’s Signs of the Times October column
Our thanks to Signs of the Times for featuring the museum on the July cover and inside in a six-page spread. I trust we’ve piqued your interest . . . enough so that you’ll want to make the pilgrimage to Cincinnati to experience the history of your industry. I’d love to give you a personal tour.
When you come to the museum, we hope you’ll take a guided tour, and if you’re really interested, I’d be happy to take you behind the scenes—or in this case, on the other side of the wall—where we have another 20,000 sq. ft. for expansion. There you’ll see many of the signs not yet on display, as well as lots of room to expand. So if you’re wondering like so many visitors if we’re still looking for signs (and other sign-related items), the answer is a resounding “yes!”
We recently acquired two new signs, both of which were icons unto themselves in their home towns. Both were acquired with the help of a local sign company, and in the case of Norman Glass, the original sign manufacturer as well.
Norman Glass was founded by Loraine and Joseph Norman in 1948. It was the Post World War II era, and many new businesses were opening across the country. Sign companies like Federal Sign were also rapidly expanding, now that materials were once again becoming available. One of the company’s major manufacturing plants was located in Louisville, so it was natural that Federal made the new Norman Glass sign.
Norman Glass became a staple in Louisville, and when the Normans were ready to retire in 2000, Helen and Richard Rosenbaum purchased the business. Earlier this year, the storefront underwent renovation and the vintage sign was destined to be removed. The Rosenbaums sought information about the sign and seeing the Federal Sign imprint in the porcelain face of the sign, did a little research and contacted Federal’s – now Federal Heath – Texas office. Someone there—the Rosenbaums can’t remember who—told them about the museum and they contacted us.
We still needed to get the sign down, so we contacted Paul Fisher at ABC Neon who we had had past dealings with. It was a good choice, because the sign was a difficult removal with its 15-inch lag bolts. Paul and his son, Paul Jr., took great care in taking the sign down without damaging the porcelain or glass. They even added some dabs of silicone around the glass housings to prevent the neon from vibrating on the trip back to Cincinnati. Now three months later, the sign (with neon intact) resides at the museum.
Our other recent acquisition hails from Music City, and like Norman Glass, had been a local icon since the Post WWII era. Beaman Pontiac came to us by way of Bobby Joslin, Joslin and Sons of Nashville. The long-time auto dealer was moving to a new location and needed a new sign, although the owners recognized the iconic nature of their original sign. Joslin designed a new sign very much in keeping with the original, and suggested that the Beaman family might want to donate the vintage icon to the museum. They agreed.
If Norman Glass was difficult, Beaman Pontiac was even more problematic as you can see from the image of the sign. Unfortunately, the majority of the neon had fallen in disrepair and the sign’s original porcelain had been painted over. This sign will require a more extensive restoration.
We welcome donations of not only signs, but catalogs and salesman’s samples, artwork such as blueprints and sign sketches, photographs, tools and equipment and any other sign-related items.