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    

Vintage Brakeblok Brake Line Adv Sign Thermometer 25.5"x9.75"Vintage Trico Advertising ThermometerOriginal Prestone Anti-freeze Porcelain Thermometer Advertising SignVintage 1950's 7up 7 Up Soda Pop 12" Metal Thermometer Sign~works1960s Vintage Champion Spark Plug Old Gas Station Diecut Thermometer SignVintage Mason's Root Beer Thermometer Sign 1950s 1960s Rare No ReservePrestone Porcelain Thermometer New Old Stock Mint Working Condition OriginalVintage Chevrolet Car Dealership Gas Oil 12" Metal Thermometer Sign~worksVintage Thermometer, Porcelain On MetalVintage Chevrolet Car Dealership Gas Oil 12" Metal Thermometer Sign~works~very Nice~ 1940s Vintage John Deere Old Litchfield Il Metal Thermometer SignVintage Pepsi Cola Metal Advertising Thermometer Embossed SignVintage 7-up Porcelain Thermometer Sign "fresh Up" You Like It...it Likes YouVintage Condition Some Rust R C Royal Crown Cola , Thermometer- Works Vintage 1950' Red Top Insulation Gas Oil 16" Metal Thermometer Sign No Reserve!Vintage 1950's Moores & Ross Dairy Milk Cow Farm 15" Metal Thermometer SignVintage Iroquois Beer Thermometer Sign. Suspension Bridge Bottling Niagara FallsRare 1963 Golden Cola Girl Sundrop Soda Advertising Tin Thermometer Very Nice Nos 1963 Squirt Soda Advertising Sign Thermometer New Old Stock #4National Bohemian "mr.boh" Advertising Thermometer Baltimore, Maryland Natty Boh1950s Porcelain Original Moews Hybrids Corn Seed Thermometer Sign --works!Vintage International Harvester Howard Cooper Corp John Deere Thermometer SignNos 1971 Squirt Soda Advertising Sign Thermometer New Old Stock Mint In Box #3Penn Fishing Reels Thermometer Fishing Rare Original Mint Paint !Vintage Ford Remanufactured Engines & Parts Gas Oil 18" Metal Thermometer Sign Vintage Minneapolis Moline Modern Machinery Thermometer 12 Inch1950s Mail Pouch Tobacco Large 39 Inch Thermometer Fantastic ConditionVintage International Harvester Farm Implement Thermometer Sign ~ Very Nice !Vintage Casite Engine Treatment 12" Round Thermometer/sign W/glass Cover--nice!!Vtg Sinclair H-c Hc Gasoline Plastic Advertising Thermometer Waynetown IndianaVintage Mail Pouch Chewing Tobacco ThermometerVintage Walker's Deluxe Bourbon Round Thermometer Advertising Sign WhiskeyVintage 1930s Coca Cola Tin Thermometer Coke Bottle Dec 25 1923Vintage 1960's 7up 7 Up Soda Pop 12" Metal Thermometer Sign~worksVintage Nesbitt's Orange Soda/pop Tin ThermometerVintage 1960s Kuhn Agricultural Machines Farm Tractor 38" Metal Thermometer SignVintage 1950's Mail Pouch Chewing Tobacco 39" Metal Thermometer Sign~works Prg-40 Casio Protrek Compass Sensor Thermometer Lcd Quartz Men WatchVintage Tums Advertising Thermometer Tin Made In Usa Vintage 1950's Pepsi Cola Soda Pop Bottle Cap 28" Metal Thermometer SignBarq's Root Beer 1950's Antique Advertising Thermometer SignVintage Mail Pouch Chew Tobacco Advertising Thermometer 39 InchesVintage 1950s United Hagie Embossed Thermometer Original Metal Sign Accurate Vintage Lone Star Feed ThermometerVintage Sun Crest Soda Tin Advertising Thermometer 1950sVintage 4-h Clubs To Make The Best Better Metal ThermometerCoca Cola Non Porcelain Metal Die Cut Thermometer 1953 Original Not Pepsi Crush!Genuine Ford Parts Thermometer Metal Sign Ford Motor Sales Service ShopCirca 1940's Mail Pouch Tobacco Original Porcelain Thermometer / RestoreVintage Gm 1938 38 1939 39 Chevy Nos Schrader Tire Gauge Buick Ford Dodge HudsonVintage Pepsi Advertising Thermometer1938 Coca-cola ThermometerVintage 1960's Ge Color Tv-radio Television Service 12" Metal Thermometer SignRoyal Crown Rc Cola Thermometer Sign Old Scarce Soda Pop Fountain StoreFabulous Vintage 1950's Grapette Soda Pop Thermometer Bottle Sign Thirsty Or Not"dr Pepper Be A Pepper "advertising Thermometer 1940-50's1933 Chicago Hall Of Science Century Of Progress Souvenir Thermometer Jb Carroll1939 New York Worlds Fair ~ Vintage Advertizing Picture Thermometer !Vintage C.1900 Red Cross Stove Gas Oil 24" Wood Thermometer Sign60's Remington Arms Chain Saw Dealer Thermometer Sign Vintage And Rare Dupont