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 place to go and chat' Local restaurateurs to unveil revamped soda shop next ...The Hudson Reporter, November 30th
For instance, the iconic Coca-Cola sign that hangs over the sidewalk was given a new coat of paint but not replaced. The intricate tile floor remains with a few new sections here and there, and the twirling stools were reupholstered but still shine...Read more
Coca-Cola and the origins of the curvy Coke bottleABC Online, November 24th
In Sydney's Kings Cross, the Coca-Cola sign has been a major landmark since 1974 and is now heritage listed. In terms of perfectly integrated and accepted advertising it seems that Coke is, indeed, it. What one makes of the drink itself is quite...Read more
50 years ago in Dallas, Part 1Denton Record Chronicle, November 22nd
The crowd between the terminal and Mockingbird Lane were not solid. There were good crowds along Mockingbird. The Coca-Cola sign at Mockingbird and Lemmon said 63 degrees. There was a solid crowd along Lemmon. “Mr. President. There is still hope ...Read more
Marjorie Louise (Shreiner) LeeThe Wenatchee World Online, November 19th
Along with her numerous Hampton cousins, she grew up having the time of her life on the Hampton ranch, playing in the barn, hiking the hills and in the winter, coasting down the steep pasture on the coca-cola sign saucer. Many Sunday afternoons were ...Read more
Construction underway at future downtown Raising Cane'sNOLA.com, November 18th
Known for its large neon Coca-Cola sign, the 11,000 square foot building has been vacant for several years. Crouch purchased it in April for $1.2 million. Raising Cane's signed a deal to bring the Baton Rouge-based chicken finger franchise to the first...Read more
Krohn: Signs of the times spoke wellMankato Free Press, November 16th
The rules also allow building owners to repaint old signs that were often used as advertising on the side of buildings, such as the Coca Cola sign in Old Town and a Wrigley's Spearmint sign uncovered on the side of a building on Front Street when two...Read more
BACKWARD GLANCES: Batavia bus station, 1958The Daily News Online, November 9th
This postcard shows the downtown bus station about 1958 at the corner of Court and Ellicott streets. It is from the collection of James R. Owen of Batavia. Joe Gerace owned and worked in the diner at right (with Coca-Cola sign) from 1964 to 1966...Read more
Gay Rights Issues Could Make Sponsoring the Sochi Olympics ControversialDailyFinance, November 7th
Global audience, nontraditional sports viewers, and a compressed time frame make it an excellent advertising opportunity ... usually. And that's why major companies like Procter & Gamble , McDonald's , and Coca-Cola sign up: they want to reach people...Read more