Before radio and television commercials, signs were the medium of choice to promote packaged food brands. Country stores were packed with advertisements, as companies developed increasingly complex countertop displays and gigantic wall signs to draw attention away from their competitors. Many highly collectible vintage signs featured food brands that are still in business today, among them Morton Salt, Campbell's Soup, Wonder Bread, Dairy Queen, Sunkist, Borden's, and Planter's Nuts.

Milk and dairy signs often included the requisite cow to show that the products being advertised were farm fresh. For example, the N.P. Hood & Sons logo featured the face of a friendly calf at its center. Butter and margarine makers, like Equity and Deer Creek, appropriated the rolling meadows and open air of the countryside to make their case. Another common motif highlighted Native American characters and scenes, implying the authentic, enduring appeal of brands like Five Roses Flour or Land O’ Lakes Butter.

With the expanding popularity of in-store soda fountains during the first half of the 20th century, a plethora of delicious sweets were hawked on signs for brands like Sealtest, Mellow Gold, Fairmont, Wrigley’s, Beech-Nut, Woodward’s, Old Glory, Kis-Me, and Schrafft’s. Dessert manufacturers bought into the bovine-marketing approach as well, with ice cream makers like Hershey’s and Borden’s relying on a dairy cow to lure eyeballs to its early ads. Though most food companies shied away from portraying edibles on their signs, dessert makers like Mansion House Ice Cream frequently portrayed mouth-watering graphics of their frozen treats.

Mischievous children often adorned the artwork promoting foodstuffs, especially signs for baked goods. From the yellow-raincoat clad Uneeda Biscuit boy to the curly-headed Red-Top Flour girl to the Butter Nut Bread urchins, tots with a twinkle in their eyes and a snack in their hands really sold food. Along with children, animals were adopted as proof of the tastiness of treats. Brown’s Jumbo Bread strapped its logo onto an elephant’s back to dramatize the amazing size of its loaves, while Jack Rabbit Candies proclaimed its highbrow quality via a jauntily-dressed bunny.

Other companies preferred to feature attractive young women enjoying their products, such as Armour’s Grape Juice girls. Somehow, flirty young females instantly made food more exotic and desirable, though the women were often shown doing nothing more than looking pretty. An advertisement for Adams’ Pepsin Tutti-Frutti is a perfect example of this sort of ad, as its only image depicted a well-dressed young woman clutching a rose and hand fan. Wit was also a weapon, and one of the wittiest signs of its day was one produced by the American Can Co. in the 1910s. In its campaign to sell the virtues of canning over other methods of food preservation, it came up with a slogan that read “Success Comes in Cans, Failure in Cants.”


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    

Vintage 1940's Mounds Chocolate Cocoanut Candy Store 20" Embossed Metal SignAntique Circa 1930 Fargos Ice Cream, Red Porcelain Advertising Sign, Nr1940s Sunbeam Enriched Bread “thanks! Call Again” Door Push Metal SignVintage Yan-ki-boy Pancake Syrup Porcelain Advertising Door Push SignVintage Kids Ken-l Klub Dog Food Bicycle Ad Tag Rack License Plate Topper SignVintage Wheatley's Wonderful Bread Door Push Metal Sign~super Rare!~wow~lqqk!Vintage Rainbo Is Good Bread Round Porcelain Store Outdoor Advertising SignDoor Push Pull Brass Bar Sally Ann Bread Advertising Sign Antique General StoreVintage Metal Tin Howdy Doody Twin Pop Popsicle Tin Advertising Sign Ice CreamOld Holsum Enriched Sliced White Bread Tin Advertising SignVintage "spaghetti & Meat Balls" Dinner Tin Sign C1940sVintage Armour Ham/eggs Easter Bunny Cardboard Store Display SignNeat Old Braun's Town Talk Bread Sign Thermometer, Baking SignHershey's Chocolate Porcelain Metal Sign Candy General Store Farm Cow Milk DairyVintage Piggly Wiggly Grocery Store Super Market Advertising String Holder Sign Old Heimbach's Dutch Maid Bread Advertising Thermometer SignSunbeam Bread Mmm... Everybody's Buying It! Vintage Advertising Sign 10 Cent Campbell's Soup, Metal Sign Tomato Antique Original Camden NoAmazing Ca1890 Moxie Nerve Food Large 35 Inch Tall Store Counter Display Sign Very Rare 1950s Wonder Bread Die Cut Metal Sign....nice!Sunbeam Bread Vintage Advertising Sign Kayo Chocolate Die Cast Sign With ThermometerRare Vintage Mammy's Buckwheat Flour 12 Oz Can Tin W/ Paper Label! Sign BlackVintage Old Rare Collectible Lipton's Tea Ad Porcelain Enamel Sign Board LondonVtg Hershey Vending Machine,coin Op Gum Candy,porcelain Sign Display,wrigleysVintage Planters Peanuts Advertisement Porcelain Sign Food Memorabilia CollectorVintage 1930's Drake's Cakes Bakery Grocery Store Kitchen 14" Metal SignKerns Bread Thermometer Sign Metal Vintage Look Deli Store Advertising Display1950s Morton’s Salt “it Pours” Dark Blue Tin Tacker 27.5” X 9.75” Metal SignVintage Industrial Sign "put Lunch Scraps In Refuse Cans" Steel Sign 10" X 7"Real Life Savers Porcelain Metal Sign Vending Machine Treat Desert Food CandyHeiner's Bread "bakers Of Good Bread For 50 Years" Vintage Advertising Sign 2 Vintage Wingold Flour "makes Better Bread And Excellent Pastry" Tin Signs-wornEastern Milk Producers Co-op Sign License PlateChocolate Chews For Kids Porcelain Metal Sign Door Push Candy General Store Honey Krust Bread Embossed Metal Tin Sign Snack Food Better Cooking Baking BearHuge Antique Metal Advertising Sign Long Island New York Food Stand 1920sAntique Vintage Toastmaster By Nickles Bread Tin Tacker Sign Country StoreMrs Baird's Bakery Cakes Metal Sign FlangeSweetheart Hard Wheat White Corn Flour Meal Porcelain Metal Sign Farm Food CookEnjoy Our Best Burgers In Town Embossed All Raised Lettering Metal Sign1963 Bunny Bread SignCollectible Hendlers Ice Cream Black Americana Metal Porcelain Sign Ande RooneyOpen-face Letter Board Vintage Diner Sign W/lettersVintage Die Cut Squirrel Brand Peanuts Nut Sign Peanut Butter Store Display NiceSchool Bus Stop Sign With Light /ice Cream Truck / Man Cave Vintage Valleydale Advertising Sign For Ham General Mills Gold Medal Flour Embossed Tin Sign General Store Mills FlourVintage Porcelain Cracker Jack Advertising SignVtg Dairylea Member Farm Dairy Milk Wood & Wood Frame Sign Scarce No Reserve!Captain Morgan Happy Hour Sign722 C1910 Rppc Mrs Gen Tom Thumb Middleborough Ma Ice Cream Stand Moxie SignsDucks Unlimited Sign Labrador Black, Yellow, Chocolate1936? Cascarets Childrens Chocolate Laxative Sign Trolly Car Sign8 Vintage Ice Cream Die Cut Cardboard Advertising SignsVintage Red Sykes Farms Canton Ny Sign Wooden Wood Advertising DairyVintage Dairy SignVintage Spaulding Super Enriched Bread Blotter Ad Sign Approximately 9" X 4" Fireball Led Sign New In BoxVienna Beef Polish Hot Dog Stand Up Sign New Old Stock