written by American Sign Museum Founder Tod Swormstedt
The museum has made a number of acquisitions since the last newsletter, mostly courtesy of two shows. We recently went to the Hershey car show for the first time, and while we didn’t find any car-related signs, we were able to find a late 1960s Plasti-line vacuum-formed sign.
We also found these wonderful examples of hand-lettered—make that, hand-scrawled—signs in a vendor booth at the show. Very nice. One for the portfolios, I’m sure.
It’s been two years since we attended the bi-annual Coin-op show better known as Chicagoland in St. Charles, just west of Chicago. The show was originally jukeboxes, pinball machines and other coin-operated devices, but has evolved to be a great place to find advertising – aka signs. Our trek to this year’s fall event got us two signs. The first is a porcelain can sans neon or any housings, but was manufactured by a once very important sign company: Kolux of Kokomo, IN. This “Toridheet” sign was painted over many times, but the seller did a majority of the stripping so that you can see the nice color scheme. This will take some work, but it will be a beauty.
The other sign is the “Texas Wieners” flashing sign—a classic Superior Outdoor Display, Inc. (Long Beach, CA) design. Superior was known for its various configurations of flashing arrows and stars, but most of these 1950s/60s era signs have since rusted out and are difficult to find in good condition. This sign appears to be NOS (new old stock). The seller told me that he had purchased the sign at an auction in Pennsylvania. Apparently the owner of the Texas Wieners business had purchased the sign, but when he went to install it, found that local sign codes wouldn’t permit such signs, so it sat in a backroom. We’re glad to have such a pristine example of a Superior sign.
We also found a nice vintage signkit which we purchased. Unfortunately, the dealer did not remember where he had acquired the kit, but he thought possibly Bloomington, IL. If anyone from that area recognizes the kit, please let us know. The kit is pictured with another recent acquisition, courtesy of our good friend, Dave Greene, and an anonymous (to us) antique dealer. Dave has been frequenting the Springfield (OH) Extravaganzas for more than a quarter century. During the most recent show, he chanced upon this Acme Plastics salesman sample kit at a booth and inquired about the cost of the piece. The seller responded, “$200,” which Dave thought was rather high. He told the vendor it was for the American Sign Museum, and the vendor replied, “In that case. Take it. It belongs in the museum.” So be it.
Last, but not least, is the most recent selection of interior changeable message signs, letters and showcard kits donated by Jeff Levine of North Miami, FL. Levine is an alphabet and font guru, who has been collecting such objects for several decades. He lives for typography. He has created 940 fonts to date and says he’ll hit the 1000 mark by May 2015, if not sooner. Jeff has donated enough showcard, stencil, letter kits and related literature that the museum could devote an entire room to displaying the items. I just wish we had the space.