From celebrated tool companies like Stanley to paint producers such as Benjamin Moore and Pittsburgh, building-products manufacturers created signs for hardware stores for most of the 20th century. While the majority of these building signs were made for products like paint and cement, other seemingly marginal materials such as insulation and door frames were advertised with equal enthusiasm on equally beautiful porcelain signs.

Signs for smaller companies like Trinity Cement sometimes featured maps to help potential customers get to their locations. Bigger brands like Keen Kutter simply relied on their recognizable logo or typeface. Others used clever mnemonic devices, such as Kuhn’s Paints, whose logo included a sneaky raccoon to subtly remind customers of its brand’s name.

Possibly the most familiar building sign is the ubiquitous Sherman Williams Paint logo, with an upturned “SWP” can pouring a healthy coat of bright red paint onto a blue globe, marked with the slogan “Cover the Earth.” First used in 1893, the familiar phrase was clearly coined in an age when environmental protection was not at the forefront of most customers’ minds. Dutch Boy paint signs from the 1920s date themselves by bragging about the paint’s primary ingredient, white lead, now known to cause damage to the brain and the central nervous system. “A quick-mixing pure white-lead for all painting,” read their signage, featuring a smiling blonde-headed boy in a cap, blue overalls, and wooden clogs.

Colorful signs helped prove a paint company’s worth, and many incorporated a range of bright shades to emphasize their wide selection, like the rainbow bedecked Murphy Paints signs. A particularly elaborate Pittsburgh Paints sign from the 1930s even featured a row of lighted circles representing its available bright colors.

The most common names on collectible building and paint signs include Sherwin-Williams, Dutch Boy, Pittsburgh Paints, Chief, Keen Kutter, Benjamin Moore, and Lowe Brothers. However, endless forgotten companies like Duplate Glass and Galt Shingles also had their names permanently affixed to hardware signs. Still, some of the cleverest construction signs aren’t for companies at all, but rather feature “wet paint” or “DANGER” warnings, using sometimes comical images of people or animals to illuminate their cautionary messages.


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]

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]

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]



Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Antique Tin Flange Advertising Sign Hamilton Brown Co Hardware Shoes NrOriginal Porcelain Woolsey Marine Paints 34" X 22" Enamel SignVintage C.1900 Black Cat Shoe Polish & Stove Enamel Metal Match Holder SignVintage 1940's Sunlite Stores Farm Grocery Hardware 2 Sided 17" Porcelain SignVintage C.1960 Sentry Paint Hardware Store 2 Sided 27" Porcelain Metal Sign~niceVintage ,old Original Porcelain Castle Gate Coal Co. Sign.neat Old Coal SignAntique Porcelain Advertising Street Building Sign Apartments Elevator Rare NyVintage Keen Kutter Tools Advertising Hardware Store Sign Farnhamville IowaVintage Ace Hardware Store Sign. Vintage Airplane Sign For Ace Hardware StoreRare John Deere Advertising Knife Sharpener Clearwater Implement Nebraska SignVintage 1960's Key Chewing Tobacco Can Dispenser 15" Metal SignSherwin Williams Paint Varnish Sign Stand Store Brush Display Old Rare HardwareDutch Masters Paints Dsp 30" Porcelain Sign Cars Trucks 1960's 28" Chief Paints Double Sided Metal Sign Indian Texas Deere Ih Coke Store-edison Phonographs+hoefler's Ice Cream+mcginnis&reed Hardware Signs*photo.leroy Coal Co. Leroy,pa. Lone Star Coal Tin Sign 1930'sGold Bond Embossed Big Sign Non Porcelain Barn Fence Ranch Building Sign Nice!!!Vintage Sherwin Williams Paints Card Stock Sign Original Caution Flying Tools In This Area Embossed All Raised Lettering Metal Sign ShopAntique Cabinet Photo Interior Hardware Store View Winchester Sign Stoves LampsBeautiful Graphics Makita Tools Hardware Store Sign Near Mint!!Old Metal **keystone Detective Agency** Building Marker Sign Pittsburgh, Pa Vintage Polly's Beat The Heat Pollys Soda Pop Parrot Cardboard Sign OriginalVintage Wet Paint Sign Pittsburgh Paints Just Painted SignHand Carved Wood Pirate Quarters Sign Plaque Skull Skeleton Wall Decor Knife ArtThe Hunger Games Mockingjay Sign Metal Key Ring Chain Pendant Toy GiftRolling Stones Big Tongue Sign Alloy Keychain Key Ring Pendants Collectible RedMarvel Deadpool Sign Alloy Detachable Keychain Key Ring Pendant Collectible GiftWarning Crazy Rat Fink Touch My Tools 3d Embossed Metal Sign Shop Garage PartsRare Vintage "lock Door With Push Bolt" Porcelain Sign Only 4" In Length Vg+ Vintage 1960's Chief Paints 2 Sided 28" Metal Sign W/indian~very NiceCraftsman Tool Sign Mechanic Sears Workbench Shop Advertising Logo GarageVintage Merchant Police Patrol Building Sign Tag 1910 Brass Gaskin Bradley (754)Vintage Sign Acme Quality Wet Paint 1937 Kozacik Hardware Whiting Indiana UnusedPs4 Destiny Warlock Profession Sign Keychain Alloy Key Ring Hangings Pendants Justice League Batman V Superman Sign Metal Key Ring Chain Pendant Toy GiftCopper Justice League Batman Sign Metal Key Ring Chain Pendant GiftMortal Kombat Game Peripheral Sign Alloy Keychain Detachable Key Ring Pendants Rpg Shooting Game Borderlands Sign Alloy Keychain Key Ring Pendants CollectibleNew Game Of Thrones Stark Badge Sign Alloy Detachable Keychain Key Ring Pendant Pittsburgh Paints Store Sign Antique Vintage Brand New In Box Double Sided BigVintage American Lumber Co. Arvada, Colorado Nail Apron SignCaution Occasional Flying Tool In This Area Embossed Metal Sign Man Cave Garage!New Startrek Starfleet Academy Sign Alloy Keychain Key Ring Pendants CollectibleHot Movie Peripheral Ghostbusters Sign Keychain Alloy Key Ring Hangings Pendants1pc Colorful Peace Sign Popular Metal Key ChainNew Dragon Age 3: Inquisition Sign Alloy Detachable Keychain Key Ring Pendant