There were once almost as many different types of beer signs as there were varieties and brands of beer. These signs came in all shapes and sizes, while the materials used to make them ranged from wood and porcelain to steel, neon, and celluloid.
From the turn of the 20th century until the 1920s, literally hundreds of beer companies competed for a thirsty public’s attention in a battle waged through ads. Porcelain signs were the weapons of choice. These advertisements could be square or round, flat or curved, designed for indoor spaces or to weather the elements. Many of these porcelain signs—especially those from around 1905—featured extremely intricate, attractive graphics, which were printed using lithographic techniques.
Two of the largest manufacturers and distributors of porcelain signs were the Baltimore Enamel and Novelty Company and the Burdick Sign Company of Chicago. An almost endless para...
Tin signs can be difficult to find in pristine condition since they were very prone to rust, and, even more than porcelain signs, many were contributed to scrap-metal drives during World War II. The Pabst Brewing Company, for example, made tin door push and pull signs. Cardboard signs—made for beer companies like Stag and Red Top—were also common in the mid-20th century.
While very common today, neon signs were only produced in small numbers in the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s. Many more were mass-produced in the 1980s by companies like Everbrite and Fallon Luminous Products for Coors, Miller, and other brewers.
For collectors, one of the most prized beer signs doesn’t fit into any of these categories. In the 1950 and ’60s, Hamm’s Brewery produced its Scenorama signs (also spelled as Scene-o-Rama, Scenerama, and Scenarama). Manufactured by Lakeside Plastics of Minnesota, these motorized signs sometimes stretched five feet across, though some models were closer to three feet in width. In addition to a working clock, Scenorama signs included picturesque depictions of lakes and streams, which appeared to be flowing in the “moving” Scenoramas. Lakeside also produced non-moving varieties for Hamm’s.
The Hamm’s beer signs followed a number of themes. There were the Sunrise/Sunset signs, which featured a scenic view of a lake that appears to change from day to night and back again. Starry Skies signs offered pretty much what you’d imagine, except a pair of constellations in the sign’s sky resembled two twinkling beer mugs. Another class of vintage Hamm’s sign is the Rippler, which was produced in the shape of a television in 1956 and as a double Scenorama in 1965 to commemorate the company’s 100th anniversary.
Schlitz’s signs have also achieved some measure of prominence, thanks to the company’s distinctive “Belted Globe” logo. Schlitz produced numerous electric revolving globes designed for tavern walls; other, more two-dimensional signs simply featured a globe or half-globe in their design. Naturally, the dominant color of these signs was often blue.
Other brands that produced now-collectible beer signs include Budweiser, Glueks, Rolling Rock, Acme, Central, Colt .45, Knickerbocker, Consumer’s, Guinness, and Blatz.
Interviews & Articles
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