One of the segments of the United States economy most affected by the industrial revolution of the late 19th and early 20th centuries was agriculture. During that period, farms that had been relatively small-scale enterprises were transformed by new machinery and fertilizers into food factories. Naturally, entrepreneurs selling products designed to increase a farmer’s production were anxious to get their brands in front of these new rural customers. Thus the proliferation of farm signage and advertising from this period.
Vintage farm and agriculture signs ran the gamut from tasteful or humorous notices on lithographed paper to bold proclamations on embossed tin and porcelain enamel. In addition to planting and harvesting machinery, food-processing equipment, and feed, signs were produced to warn vehicles of cattle and tractor crossing, to discourage trespassing, and to proclaim one’s membership in the local grower’s co-op.
Some advertisers, like feed supplier American Stock Food, used patriotic symbols like Uncle Sam to sell their goods, while Monarch Poultry Feeds used a wooden cutout of a rooster. Crosman Bro’s of Rochester, New York, dramatized the positive impact of its seeds by depicting a farmer carrying a carrot the size of a sow; Oliver Chilled Plow Works depicted its signature product sitting like some sort of monumental sculpture in the middle of a South Bend, Indiana, field. Cypher’s Incubator promised “A Great Hatch” by showing its machine fairly overflowing with yellow chicks; the Empire Cream Separator Company suggested wholesomeness by simply portraying a smiling mother and child.
Some of the most distinctive farm-sign brands include tractor-and-equipment manufacturer John Deere, whose signs are generally green and yellow; corn-seed supplied DEKALB, whose iconic logo is composed of an ear of corn with wings; De Laval, which made automated milkers and cream separators for dairies; McCormick, which was named after the inventor of the mechanical reaper and whose company became International Harvester, the maker of the Farmall.