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
Landmark Coca-Cola sign will get a remake in Baton RougeThe Republic, March 15th
BATON ROUGE, Louisiana — The Baton Rouge Coca-Cola Bottling Co. plans to restore the neon Coca-Cola sign that's been in place at Third and Florida streets since 1946. Downtown Development District executive director Davis Rhorer told The Advocate ...Read more
Historic landmark in Crestview revealedWEAR, March 13th
He says the colors and style immediately made him think it was a Coca Cola sign, he believes from the 1920's. Nathan "It has survived being covered up, a building being built adjoining to it, that building coming down, and now being re-exposed" Virgil...Read more
The city's painted "ghost signs" are featuredPGH City Paper, March 12th
"Ryan's Ice Cream," in Wilkinsburg, was painted over a Coca-Cola sign. To capture the scale of the signs, project photographer Kelly Bogel used a Calumet monorail 4-by-5-inch view camera, a large-format device not widely used for a century. The exhibit ...Read more
Coca-Cola to restore downtown BR signThe Advocate, March 11th
The Coca-Cola sign was built in 1946 and lit the streets for years. The sign was part of a national promotional campaign by the soft drink company, but over the years, neglect led to disrepair. The sign was repaired in the mid-1980s, but storms dimmed...Read more
Inflation Is A Weak Argument For The Gold StandardForbes, March 10th
Prices have been going up ever since the Fed began centrally planning the dollar. If you've ever seen an old Coca Cola sign or Sears Roebuck catalog, or just remember the price of gasoline in the 1960's, you know how much it adds up over long periods...Read more
Eureka! Plans For Olympia 'To Match Historical Precedent'?!?Curbed National, March 5th
Built by storied Atlanta architects Ivey and Crook, the pie-shaped, two-story building with the iconic, flashing Coca-Cola sign on top has been listed and delisted for years. CSH-23 paid substantially less for the Olympia than its $3.5 million...Read more
The myth of Coke's powerDaily Caller, March 3rd
I can recall sitting at a baseball game a few years back and marveling at the sheer immensity of the Coca-Cola sign that was soaring above the stadium. Why did this company have to spend so much on advertising? Surely there wasn't one person sitting in ...Read more
Stock futures ahead slightly; Coca-Cola profit falls; King Digital files for ...The Plain Dealer, February 18th
ahead slightly; Coca-Cola profit falls; King Digital files for IPO: A.M. Business News Links. US Earns Coca Cola. FILE - In this Oct. 17, 2011 photo, a restored Coca-Cola sign is displayed on a building in Springfield, Ill. The Coca-Cola Co. said...Read more