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    

Rare Vintage 1920's Remington U.m.c. Cutlery Folding Pocket Knife 32" Metal SignRare Vintage C1950 Chevrolet Ok Used Car Key Drop Box Sign-niceRare Vintage 1930s Remington Cutlery Knives 39" Porcelain Metal Thermometer SignVintage Falstaff Shield Lighted Sign Rare Quality Built Aluminum Back Neon BulbEmbossed " Ziggy Says Buy" Super Washed Zeigler Coal Tin Sign Lebanon Fuel YardAntique Vintage Roundup Coal Montana Advertising Metal Sign Cowboy Bronc HorseOld Ceramic Makers Plate Sign Advert Vintage Antique Windows Glass UnbreakableVintage Firestone Tire & Battery Double Sided Porcelain Sign Key Hole1930's Original Red Devil Three Forks Portland Cement Double Sided Metal Sign Antique Porcelain Canada Locker Company Advertising Sign Enamel Key ParcelExcellent Vintage Remington Bullet Knife Porcelain Advertising Store SignJohn Deere Thermometer Vtg Antique Old Advertising Sign Tin Metal Tractor ToolScarce Sealed Old Virginia Smoking Tobacco Display Tin Can Sign Canada W/keyOld Antique J I Case Cast Iron Tool Box Lid Tractor Sign Not Seat Wrench PlowOriginal Keen Kutter Metal Sign Farm Feed Seed Tool Deere Vintage Sylvania Light Bulb Embossed Tin Sign 1942-1959 Era Milwaukee Tool Sign Power Tools Jig Saw Cordless Drill Screw Gun SawzallOld Shop Display Box Advert Sign Reckitt's Blue Dye Packet Hardware Store GrocerAntique Railroad Danger Sign Cats Eye Reflectors Metal Train ConstructionOld Lawrence Ready Mixed Pittsburgh Paints Porcelain Door Push Plate Ad SignVery Old Keen Kutter Tools Dealer Embossed Metal Sign..,kansas30's? National Biscuit Co. Brass Building Sign ! From Factory ~rare~unusualNice Vintage Keen Kutter Tools Hardware Sign Country Store Bluegrass MancaveVintage California Street Sign - Morrison St -cool Like Jim Morrison & The DoorsVery Nice Vintage Original 1950's Keen Kutter Old Country Store Embossed Sign!!!Vintage Early 1920-30's Era Boat Hardware Advertising Sign Wc Double Sided Ed Roth Rat Fink Style Crazy Man Warning For My Tools Tin Metal Sign Mechanic 1970 Challenger Cuda Hemi 426ci Vintage Key Sign Mopar Parts Dodge Plymouth Large Metal Advertising Key Sign - Independent Lock Company - Famous Black Nancy Coal-the Best For Domestic Use - Tin SignAttic Fresh Mortar & Pedestal Pharmacy Drug Store Old Medicine Advertising SignVintage 1960's Chief Paints 2 Sided 28" Metal Sign W/indian~niceVintage Advertising Nos Metal General Electric Ge Sign " Electric Appliances"Warning I Get A Little Crazy When People Touch My Tools 3d Metal Sign Rat Fink Vintage Store Advertising Metal Display Rack "billings" Sign Worshop ToolsVintage Fuller Hand Tools Sign Dealer Metal Display Rack Shop Garage Man CaveVintage Old Advertising Lectrolite Hand Forged Tools Tin Sign Defiance Ohio Old New From Original Factory Schrade Knife Tin Sign For Cowboys & Log CabinJapanese Vintage Forged Iron Fixed Blade Knife With Wood Handle & Sheath W/signWet Paint Sign Sherwin Williams Paints & Varnish Swp 2 Sided French Canada RareVintage Proto Tools Display Sign Advertising Board Vintage Dutch Boy White Lead Paint Sign M.g. Horne Philipsburg PaOld Shop Display Box Advert Sign Hudson's Soap Packet Hardware Store GrocerAntique Toronto Sign .die Cut Stove Part , CastVincennes Indiana~main Street~bernard's~light Bulb Lunch Sign~furniture~1920s