Few brands have been as effectively and aggressively marketed as Coca-Cola, which was invented in 1886 by John S. Pemberton. Almost from day one, advertising materials, including signs, were produced to trumpet the virtues of the sweet, carbonated beverage. In fact, in his first year of business, Pemberton spent more money on advertising than he took in, producing, among other items, 14 outdoor signs painted on oilcloth and another 45 painted on tin. Today, thanks in part to his early obsession with advertising, Coca-Cola is one of the best-known brand names in the world.
The first metal Coca-Cola signs were lithographed or painted. Known as tackers, these signs were designed to be nailed directly through the metal and onto a wooden wall or fence. Even at this early moment in the company’s history, Coca-Cola understood the power of the celebrity endorsement—by the end of the 19th century, the popular opera singer Hilda Clark was pitching the beverage on rectangular and oval signs, made out of everything from paper to metal.
By 1910 the short-lived era of large outdoor oilcloth signs had come to an end. Because these signs wore out quickly (they were no match for the elements), they were systematically replaced by more durable, and expensive, metal ones. Some of these large outdoor signs were similar to the tackers, but others were made of fired enamels that were baked until they created a porcelain surface on a base of iron or steel. Eyelets at the corners and sides were built into the design, since nailing through porcelain would destroy the sign.
The first of these porcelain signs were roughly eight-by-eight feet and got right to the point: “Ice Cold Coca-Cola Sold Here,” they proclaimed. The Coke bottle depicted on the sign was straight sided—the company’s trademark curved bottle, which resembled the contours of a hobble skirt and was nicknamed “Mae West,” was not widely used until 1920.
Some tin signs were embossed, giving the brand’s famous logo relief, while others were made of aluminum and coated in celluloid, which was less durable than porcelain but worked fine in interiors such as soda fountains and bars.
An especially popular sign from 1914 featured a model named “Betty.” This marked a shift for the company away from high-brow celebrity toward something approaching sex appeal, although the young lady’s attire and flirtatious gaze is certainly tame by 21st-century standards. Other signs on cardboard from this period admonished customers to ask for Coca-Cola by its full name, which was an effort by the company to combat competitors trying to capitalize on the parts or even misspellings of the brand’s good name.
World War I brought severe sugar shortages, so very few signs were produced during these years, but in the 1920s the Coke advertising machine was in full swing again. One classic sign from this decade is the gas-station sign, which often had a chalk circle or triangle built into the sign so station attendants could write in that day’s gas price. Larger signs had what are known as “privilege panels” above the Coca-Cola panel itself. These gave retailers space for signage of their own, in close proximity to the Coca-Cola panel, of course...
The 1920s were also when flange signs first came to prominence. These signs featured stenciled-and-fired enamel artwork on both sides of the sign, with a small right-angle flange at one end so the sign could be attached to a building and read by customers walking in opposite directions.
Another famous vintage Coca-Cola sign shape is the so-called red button, which was made by porcelain sign manufacturer Temco of Nashville, Tennessee, among others. The red button sign shape found its way onto Coca-Cola clocks, metal trays, and calendars, as well as flange signs. Shield signs forced the logo into a triangular shape, while rectangular signs were jazzed up by placing the logo within a fishtail shape.
As with the rest of popular culture, Coca-Cola signs changed with the times. For example, the frames of Coca-Cola signs exhibit distinctively Art Deco touches through the 1930s, while the signs themselves often feature mirrored or reverse-painted black glass. In fact, despite the Depression, the 1930s were a big decade for Coca-Cola signage—in 1934 alone, for example, the company offered 28 different styles of signs to its retailers, plus four versions designed just for coolers.
The 1940s saw the arrival of a new Betty on Coca-Cola signs, but new metal signs were put on hold due to the needs of World War II. Untold numbers of porcelain signs were scrapped for the war effort, which, of course, has led to their current scarcity and popularity among collectors. After the war, porcelain signage fell out of favor for less-expensive alternatives such as aluminum and eventually plastic.
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Recent News: Coca Cola Signs
Source: Google News
A little more time on the islandLa Vernia News, July 1st
If you visit, be sure to notice the large Coca Cola sign on the exterior. It is one of the oldest porcelain neon Coke signs in existence. The Reuben sandwich and the hamburger are the most-ordered meals. You may be surprised to see how close the Strand...Read more
BAMBERG-DENMARK 50 THINGS/DAY 11: Acclaimed national artist began ...The Tand D.com, June 30th
Jim Harrison, nationally acclaimed for his rural Americana art, began his journey as an artist when he first climbed onto a sign painter's scaffold on the side of McCartha's Hardware in Denmark. The Coca-Cola sign he began that day with his mentor, J.J...Read more
Explore the Home of Coca-Cola Collectors Club VP Bill CombsEIN News (press release), June 30th
In 1976, he and his then-girlfriend found a 1930s-era Westinghouse Coca-Cola cooler through a newspaper ad. The machines circulated cold water to keep drinks cool. The seller threw in a cardboard Coca-Cola sign, and Combs and his girlfriend took the ...Read more
Coca-Cola billboard in Kings Cross is removed for face liftThe Daily Telegraph, June 24th
“The Kings Cross Coca-Cola sign has been a beloved feature of the Sydney skyline for more than 40 years. We are currently working to restore it to its former glory and improve the energy efficiency,” a Coca-Cola South Pacific spokeswoman said. The sign ...Read more
'New' Coke sign to be celebratedMount Airy News, June 16th
A longtime dream will culminate later this week when the revitalization of a historic Coca-Cola sign in downtown Mount Airy is celebrated. The event is set for Friday at 11 a.m. at the site of the large refurbished sign at 185 N. Main St. The public is...Read more
Store in 600 block getting two new Coca-Cola muralsHendersonville Lightning, June 11th
The bottling company commissioned a fresh coat of paint on the Coca-Cola sign at Mike's on Main in December 2012. "Mark sent them the historic photos and they were excited," Fralin said. "We were lucky we were able to pursue it this season." Ray said a ...Read more
Baton Rouge Coca-Cola sign remains dark a year after ownership spat beganGreater Baton Rouge Business Report, May 11th
After a year of on-and-off negotiations over the ownership of one of downtown's best-known landmarks—the neon Coca-Cola sign atop the Richoux Building at the corner of Florida and North Third streets—the building's owner and the Arts Council of...Read more
Jose Bautista smashes Coca-Cola sign at Fenway Park with long foul ballYahoo Sports (blog), April 29th
In the fifth inning against Red Sox right-hander Edward Mujica, Bautista skied a long foul ball down the left field line and the ball smashed into the Coca-Cola sign that stands high above Fenway Park. The Red Sox escaped without suffering any further ...Read more