In the first half of the 20th century, door pushes and pulls were an inexpensive way for advertisers to get their messages in front of potential customers. Like the advertising thermometer and advertising clock, whose usefulness gave them longevity in stores and shops beyond that of a mere sign, door pushes made out of tin or porcelain enamel saved wear and tear on a store owner’s door, which made them assets to small businesses such as country stores and diners.
Many door pushes were vertically rectangular, designed to fit on an unlatched, spring-loaded screen door. Because the door push was conceived as a kind of target for customers, they often had messages on them like “Push,” “Come In,” or “Come Again.” Other door pushes were designed to be placed near handles, or had handles built into the sign itself, so these door pushes would read “Pull,” for obvious reasons.
Another style of door push is the strip sign, whose ample width and narrow height made it perfect for mounting on, say, a screen door’s crash bar so that people would not push their hands through the door’s screen. Other so-called full-span door pushes were structural enough on their own to serve as a crash bar, saving store owners the expense of building ones themselves.
Since many door pushes were in country stores where groceries were sold, some of the most popular advertisers were manufacturers of soda pop, baking goods, and household products such as soap. A door push might invite customers to “Come In” while touting Crystal White as “The Billion Bubble Soap.” Another door push for Brandreth’s Pills invites exiting customers to ask themselves “What Have I Forgotten?” And countless door pushes worked bold commands into their advertising copy (“Ask For Betsy Ross Bread,” “Chew Red Man,” and, of course, “Drink Coca-Cola”).