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    

**1950s *luminall Paints* Electric Lighted Wall Clock**vintage Advertising Sign Vintage 1940's Sherwin-williams Paints 2 Sided 22" Porcelain Metal Flange SignOrig 1870s Hardware Store Exterior Tintype Photo Sign For Tin + Stoves W 7 MenVintage Keen Kutter Metal Advertising Sign - Bright & Graphic Richmond MissouriRare! Nos Vintage C1950's Dutch Boy Paints Embossed Sign, Advertising 35" X 23"Vtg Allentown Cement Lehigh Porcelain Sign Rarest Look 39.5x16Ed Roth Rat Fink Style Crazy Man Warning For My Tools Tin Metal Sign Mechanic Vintage Hardware Store Belknap Bluegrass Trowels Tool Display Rack ~ Metal SignWarning Crazy Rat Fink Touch My Tools Embossed Metal Sign Shop Garage Man CaveWarning Crazy Rat Fink Touch My Tools 3d Embossed Metal Sign Shop Garage PartsCaution Flying Tools In This Area Embossed All Raised Lettering Metal Sign ShopAntique Keen Kutter Tools Sign, Fayetteville Tenn Hardware "the Real Deal" 1940sAntique 1900s Dutch Boy Paints Clock And Light Sign13 Vintage Original 1950's Building / Neon Sign 8x10 PhotosDads Workshop & Garage Dont Touch My Tools Embossed Metal Sign Garage Man Cave.Fashion 1pcs The Beatles Band Sign Metal Key Ring Pendant Jewelry GoldCaution Occasional Flying Tools Metal Sign With Raised Letters 18 By 2 InchesNew 1pcs The Beatles Band Sign Metal Key Ring Pendant Jewelry GoldBenjamin Moore Moorglo Latex House Trim Paint Vintage Metal Advertising Sign BBenjamin Moore Moorgard Latex House Paint Vintage Metal Advertising Sign ARare Vintage Cast Steel Sign Plaque Ingersoll Rand Steam Engine, Machinery ToolVintage Boker Tree Brand Knife Cutlery Advertising Wood Display Case SignMilwaukee Electric Tool Sign Power Tool Mechanic Jig Saw Sawzall Drill GrinderMortal Kombat Game Peripheral Sign Alloy Keychain Detachable Key Ring Pendants 2 Vintage Dutch Boy Paints Sign Clipboard 1961 Rare 1960's Hilti Powertool Sign Logo Hammer Drill Logo Contractor Fastening Jobsite CuttingVintage Miniature 7 Metal Sign Lot Road Construction Doll House Model Train SetFashion 1pcs The Beatles Band Sign Metal Key Ring Pendant Jewelry GoldThe Riddler Mask Sign Metal Keychain Key Ring Pendant Hangings