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 C.1950 Bunny Bread 32" Embossed Metal Door Push Pull Bar Sign1957 Sunbeam Bread Stays Fresh Longer Unused Near Mint Sign!! Old OldVintage 1940's Velvet Ice Cream Cone Shop Soda Fountain 9" Metal SignVintage 1960 Sunbeam Bread 30" Embossed Metal SignVintage 1950's Coca Cola Candy Film Soda Pop 30" Porcelain Metal SignVintage 1940's Smith Ice Cream Soda Fountain Grocery Store 28" Metal SignVintage C.1930 Feen-a-mint Chewing Gum Laxative Candy 29" Porcelain Metal SignLarge Vintage Piggly Wiggly Grocery Store 51" Sign W/pigVintage C.1930 Mccormick Deering Cream Separator Farm 24" Embossed Metal SignOriginal Vintage Embossed Butter Nut Bread Sign Antique Old Metal General StoreFender Guitar Sign Electric Stratocaster Case Sunburst Strings 3-d Metal MobilOriginal Arden"sunfreze"ice Cream Porcelain 2 Sided Sign~rare~rare~28"x31 1/2"vnVintage Heavy Porcelain Sign We Use De Laval Cream SeparatorVintage 1920's Rogers Quality Food Shops Grocery Store 29" Porcelain Metal SignVtg Match Book Vending Machine,coin Op,candy Gum Dispenser,display Sign,vendorRare Vintage Original Yoo Hoo Chocolate Drink Soda Embossed Metal Near Mint SignNeat Vintage Old Porcelain Holsum Bread Door Push Sign, Old Bakery SignVintage**rare**spaulding Bread Embossed Metal Door Push Kick Plate Sign.sunbeamVintage C.1908 De Laval Cream Separators Dairy Farm Metal Match Safe Sign W/boxVintage Hires Root Beer Lighted Clock Sign 50s Or 60s Soda Fountain Ice CreamOriginal 1964 Braun's Town Talk Bread Sign No Reserve!Vintage 1930's Schlitz Beer Malt Syrup Prohibition 24" Embossed Metal SignLarge Vintage 1950's Dreikorn's Bread 55" Embossed Metal Sign Oak Coca Cola ,coin Op Gumball Candy Peanut Soda Fountainvending Machine / SignEmbossed Chevrolet Sales And Service Sign Garage Chevy Nascar Corvette Truck 59 Buy Taste Bread Porcelain Advertising Grocery Store Screen Door SignVintage 1987 O Baby Chocolate Dairy Drink Embossed Tin Sign Very Nice Old Marigold Quality Checkd Ice Cream Double Sided Heavy Sign 36 X 29Gluek's Stite Malt Liquor Beer Button Sign Tray Brewing Minneapolis Mn MinnesotaRare * Graphic Near Mint * 1940s Vintage Calo Cat Food Old Die-cut Stand Up SignVintage Die Cut Squirrel Brand Peanuts Nut Sign Peanut Butter Store Display NiceOriginal 1929 Fleischmanns Yeast For Health Metal Sign Raised LettersGlass Advertising Sign None Such New England Mince Meat Pie Antique Store SignVintage Original Brauns Town Talk Bread Thermometer Sign, Not PorcelainRare * Graphic Near Mint * 1940s Vintage Calo Dog Food Old Stand Up SignBunny Bread SignNeon Style Historic Route 66 Street Sign Chevy Usa Ford Motorcycle Truck Texaco"dad's Workshop" Metal Sign.garage, Shop,chevy, Ford,man CaveCirca 1930 Original Porcelain Enamel Sign €Vintage 1960's Kayo Chocolate Soda Pop Can 25" Sign~niceHistoric Route 66 Street Sign Chevy Usa Ford Harley Chevy Mobil Exit Texaco CellEmbossed Chevrolet Sales And Service Sign Garage Chevy Nascar Corvette Truck 59 9 Vtg C1950s Soda Fountain Hendlers Ice Cream Signs 4x14.5 Inches New Old Stock8 Texaco Motor Oil Can Rack Gas Pump Outboard Aircraft Engine Sign Globe MobilSuper Rare 1966(dated) Laveal Ice Cream 2 Sided Flange Sign8 Texaco Motor Oil Can Rack Gas Pump Outboard Aircraft Engine Sign Globe MobilVintage 1950's Borden's Ice Cream Dairy Elsie The Cow 44" Metal SignSunbeam Bread Door Push Signs1959 Kern's Bread Metal Door Push-door Pull Sign-never Been Used Near Mint 1967 Vintage Borden's Elsie Ice Cream Old Graphic 24x12 Inch Tin SignTexaco Airplane Die Cast Crop Chevron Air Express Motor Oil Gas Sign Mobil EssoFirestone Tires Metal Sign Motor Oil Gas Pump Globe Goodyear Mobil TexacoPennzoil Metal Sign Motor Oil Gas Pump Globe Valvoline Sinclair Bottle Mobil CanOld Porcelain.foremost Ice Cream Double Sided Sign With Flange.cool Piece!Ford Mustang Emblem Hood Ornament Desk Sign Pony Shelby Boss Truck Mobil TexacoVintage Oakhurst Ice Cream Sign.Vintage Polar Brand Ice Cream Flange Sign-double Sided-15"-confectioneryRare Robin Hood Flour Advertising Sign Vintage 1957 Morton Salt When It Rains It Pours Die-cut Counter Top Display SignFord Mustang Emblem Hood Ornament Desk Sign Pony Shelby Boss Truck Mobil Texaco