Long ago, in a town called Denver, seven sign painters gathered to share their knowledge of their craft. Exchanging well-kept trade secrets was indeed a new concept, and they welcomed this new-found opportunity to share ideas with people of like mind and the fellowship it brought. It was a dark time though, with no internet or social media or even email. Still, word of their goings-on spread across the land with the help of people like American Sign Museum founder Tod Swormstedt, who at the time worked for Signs of the Times magazine. Tod believed in what they were doing and with his help, word spread to like-minded sign painters across the land. In 1982 Noel Weber held their first invitational gathering in Boise, Idaho, and soon the Letterheads – as they came to be known – were meeting locally, nationally, and even internationally.
- The ‘Denver 7’ from left to right: Bob Mitchell, Mark Oatis,
John Frazier, Mike Rielley, Noel Weber, Earl Vehill and Rick Flores. Photo courtesy of Signs of the Times magazine via http://www.letterville.com
In 2012, more than two dozen veteran Letterheads assembled at the American Sign Museum to ‘punctuate’ the storefronts and walls of the fledgling museum with their artistry and knowledge of the time periods represented. Dubbed the Main Street Reunion project, it was indeed the highlight of building out the museum. Their gracious collaboration, talent, and – dare I say it – good karma is still felt in the museum today. We are honored to be celebrating the Letterheads’ 40th anniversary at The International Letterheads Meet here at the American Sign Museum in September, 2015.
Within this widely dispersed, but tightly-knit family are a group of folks especially passionate about wall murals. They even have their own museum! Known as Walldogs, they gather every summer in a selected town to enhance the town’s character with murals specifically researched and designed for that purpose. This summer more than 200 Walldogs met in Shipshewana, Indiana and Tod was there. Here are some photos of the event:
Introducing the Shipshewana Walldogs.
Seasoned Letterhead and Walldog event planners, Dave and Suze Butler hosted the Shipshewana event with their usual outstanding preparation and execution. Dave and Suze, thank you for all you do.
The first night brought old friends together and recognized many individuals for their contributions to the cause. Tod was one of them – recognized for his helping to spread the word, especially in the early days.
Neither rain (and they had their share), nor sleet, nor dark of night could keep these Walldogs from their appointed walls.
It’s all about teamwork…
And individual talent…
The quintessential Letterhead/Walldog – Bill Riedel, is honored for his craftsmanship, his fellowship, his longevity (he’s 86), and well, just for being Bill. That’s Signs of the Times editor, Wade Swormstedt, doing the honors.
Many brought paint brushes from their shops with handlettered messages for Bill on them. They were brought up one by one and collected in a pot created by fellow Letterhead/Walldog, Doc Welty. Bill was a participant in the Main Street Reunion project. See him and other veteran sign painters in this video.
Back to work!
Our fearless leader resisting his fear of heights and earning his keep.
Noel Weber, one of the original Denver 7, is enjoying the event with his daughter, Anna, who is faithfully carrying on the tradition.
From 86-year–old Bill Riedel to these young whipersnappers, when the Walldogs come to town, it’s a community celebration!
Here is one of the completed murals. View them all here.
Photos are courtesy of the Walldogs at
Click on these links for more extraordinary examples of not only the art and craft of sign painting, but also the camaraderie and fellowship these amazing people share. And if ever you’re in the area of a Walldog or Letterhead event, be sure to stop by. But beware, you may be asked to pick up a brush…