Advertising thermometers first appeared in the 1900s and were widespread in the United States by the 1920s. Intended to be hung outside, the earliest were made of metals like tin, plus wood. Eventually, they were also made out of the same material as porcelain signs. Common shapes for vintage advertising thermometers include round signs with hands like a clock, and vertical rectangular or die-cut signs with a mercury meter in the middle. The sign might be cut into an ovoid “cigar-shape” or a soda bottle.

At the turn of the century, America was largely a rural nation, and it was difficult for advertisers to get the word out about their products. Most farming communities might not have a newspaper or even a train station nearby, so the local general store or diner would be the place people would gather to hear the latest news and gossip.

Traveling salesmen would often come bearing gifts, like beautiful tin or porcelain signs shilling their products, for the owner of the café, gas station, or the five-and-dime to hang at their establishment. Companies like Coca-Cola figured out that if an advertisement were also a utilitarian object, such as a chalkboard, a light fixture, or a clock, it would stay up at the store longer than an ordinary sign.

That’s why companies of all stripes began producing outdoor advertising thermometers in the 1920s. They were made by beverage, food, tobacco, automotive, and agricultural firms, as well as the health-care industry. These were hugely popular in rural areas, because knowing the temperature, as well as the wind direction, was key to predicting the weather.

Big brands like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, NeHi, Mail Pouch Tobacco, Hills Bros. Coffee, John Deere, Pabst, Sunbeam Bread, Nesbitt's, Exide Batteries, Royal Crown Cola, and Hire's Root Beer all produced metal thermometers. The earlier wooden thermometers tend to be for rare local brands.

Some are as small as circles 9 to 12 inches in diameter, while other rectangular versions were as big as 6 feet high. But the most common height for a rectangular thermometer is 16 to 17 inches. It was also typical to see popular cartoon characters, like Betty Boop, on these thermometers.

From around 1940 to 1976, the Pam Clock Company made many of the advertising thermometers for major companies, as well as advertising clocks. The 1940s was also the time that advertisers started making drugstore advertising thermometers out of Masonite...

In the 1980s, as antique thermometers grew in popularity as a collectible to hang on one’s wall at home, some companies started reproducing vintage thermometers to sell as retro-style décor. While they aren’t original, many of these are considered vintage now.

In recent years, particularly old and rare advertising thermometers sold for as much as $1,000 to $2,000. The most valuable antique advertising thermometers have a working temperature gauge. Even though condition is an important factor in an advertising thermometer’s value, collectors should be wary of any advertising thermometer that doesn’t show signs of wear from being hung outside—it could be fake. Same goes if a dealer has several of the same advertising thermometers for sale.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Advertising Antiques

Advertising Antiques

This classy looking British site features hundreds of high resolution photos of antique porcelain pre-war (enamel) … [read review or visit site]

Ad Access

Ad Access

Duke University's library has pulled together an impressive collection of over 7,000 ads printed in U.S. and Canadi… [read review or visit site]

Historical Marker Database

Historical Marker Database

If you're the type who pulls over when you see a 'historic marker ahead' sign, you'll love this site. Orchestrated … [read review or visit site]

Plan 59

Plan 59

From the Nostlagia Factory in Virginia comes this celebration of 'mid-century automotive advertising illustrations'… [read review or visit site]

Falvo Collectables Gallery

Falvo Collectables Gallery

Ralph and Carol Falvo's excellent collection of automobiles, petroliana, jukeboxes, soda, and general store items. … [read review or visit site]

American Package Museum

American Package Museum

Ian House's gallery of early 20th Century American package designs. Browse the exhibits in slide show mode or view … [read review or visit site]

Found in Moms Basement

Found in Moms Basement

Paula Zargaj-Reynolds’ blog, an extensive collection of 20th century vintage advertising, is a visual feast. Scro… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Pepsi-cola 1940's "girl With Straw" Thermometer Vintage 1920's Pan-am Gasoline Motor Oils 75" Porcelain Metal Thermometer SignOriginal 1930s Moxie Thermometer Soda Sign 25" X 10"Sunrise Beer Neon Thermometer Vintage Glass Front Sign Advertising Breweriana Nice C.1940 Orange Crush W/ Crushy Tin Litho Advertising Thermometer Tin SignPrestone Anti-freeze Porcelain Original Thermometer Advertising Sign 1940s Very Nice 1946 Vintage Norway Anti Freeze Old Gas Station Tin Thermometer SignNice Original Mission Orange ThermometerVintage 1958 Rc Royal Crown Cola Soda Pop 26" Metal Thermometer SignVintage White Rose (gas/oil) Pole Thermometer, Owen Sound, OntarioVintage Antique Frostie Cola Thermometer Advertisment Sign Man Cave Club HouseVintage 1950's Nesbitt's Orange Soda Pop 27" Embossed Metal Thermometer SignVintage C.1940 Coca Cola Soda Pop Bottle 17" Thermometer SignVintage Supertest (gas/oil) Pole Thermometer, Harriston, OntarioVintage Original Golden Girl Sundrop Cola Metal Sign With Working ThermometerRare Antique Arbuckles Coffee Tin Sign Advertising Thermometer 1920's 19" LongVintage Supertest (gas/oil) Pole Thermometer, Blyth, Ontario1950s Elsie Cow Borden Dairy Milk Advertising Thermometer - Round 12 Inch Nice Original Rislone ThermometerNice Original Suncrest Thermometer1950 Coca Cola Cigar Thermometer Original Condition Display GoodVintage 1930's Ramon's Pink Pills Medicine Drug 21" Metal Thermometer SignRed Seal Battery Thermometer Porcelain Vintage Ramon's Pink Pills Laxative Adverising Tin W/thermometerVintage Spuds Mackenzie Bud Light ThermometerVintage B/a (british American) (gas/oil) Pole Thermometer, Windsor, Ontario1920's Nr Nature's Remedy Porcelain Metal Thermometer Antique Advertising Vintage Original Amoco Tel-tru Thermometer With Original Box No Reserve!!Vintage United Hagie Seed Corn Advertising Metal Thermometer Rare Original Rawlings Baseball Pam Advertising Thermometer Sign Sporting Goods 1950 Vess Soda Pop Advertising Thermometer Sign No Gas Oil Cola Dr Pepper Farm1950's Ex Lax Tin Metal Thermometer Antique Advertising Vintage Original Castrol Oil Thermometer 1980s (new Old Stock) Mint In Box Vintage "bubble Up" Advertising Soda Thermometer (made In Usa)Vintage Seven Oaks Brooder Room Thermometer Made In Usa 12" GlassVintage Texaco (gas/oil) Pole Thermometer, St. Thomas, OntarioVintage Prestone Anti-freeze Thermometer1950's Vintage John Collins Thermometer J.j.barker Co.ltd. 27 1/2" Works Rare 1950s Vintage Carpenter Coaches Old School Bus Graphic Tin Thermometer SignFarmall Tractor Metal Thermometer Case John Deere International Harvester SignVintage Wm. Tell Motor Oil Co Advertising Thermometer Sign Rare Sohio Fleet WingVintage Metal 3d Camel Cigarettes Thermometer Smoking Advertisement Sign TobaccoSay "pepsi Please" Thermometer 1965 Scioto SignVintage Dr. Pepper Thermometer Reproduction Ltd Ed Of Only 1000 New / UnopenedJohn Deere Thermometer Vtg Antique Old Advertising Sign Tin Metal Tractor ToolVintage Royal Crown Cola ThermometerAntique Peppards Funk G Hybrid Seed Corn Mirror Sign Tin Frame Farm Thermometer Vintage Orange Crush Thermometer In Great Shape!! 15-u7up Soda Thermometer, Metal, Vintage!! Rare!! Excellent Condition!! Scarce 40's Simons Bubble Glass Thermometer Elkhorn, Wis Feed Seed Farm Deere Vintage Advertising Thermometer Sign Mail Pouch Chew Tobacco Antique RareNos Near Mint 1960s Vintage Sunoco Oil Old Bowling Green Oh Tin Thermometer SignRound Glass Old Pam Swift Animal Feeds Advertising Thermometer Farm Feed Sign Vintage O's Gold Seed Co. Round Wall ThermometerAntique Mova Products, Fahrenheit Thermometer 1923 Patent, Art DecoVernon's Ginger Ale ThermometerVintage Allis Chalmers Thermometer Bakelite Brown Farm Tractor Aircraft EngineVintage Dr Pepper Thermometer Vtg Advertising ThermometerOld Vintage Original Orange Kist Thermometer Advertizing Sign Deco Restaurant +