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 1950's Adams Black Jack Chewing Gum Candy 18" Metal SignC.1870 English Fusee Fattorini & Sons "hovis Bread" Advertising Prize Clock SignVintage 1953 Sunbeam Bread 13" Metal Door Push Plate Sign~nice ConditionVintage C.1930 Red Star Flour Bread Bakery 14" Metal Sign1915 Grape-nuts "there's A Reason" Self-framed Tin Advertising Sign-post CerealSt.paul Minnesota Hamms Digesto Malt Hop Tonic Cardboard Sign Health Brew DrinkVintage Property Of Kemps Real Quality Ice Cream Advertising Porcelain SignVintage 40s 50s St. Louis Toastmaster Bread License Plate Topper Old Emblem RareVintage C.1940 Occident Flour Bread Bakery 20" Embossed Metal SignVintage 1950's Milk Weight Watchers Dairy Cow Farm 24" Metal SignVintage C.1920 Calumet Baking Powder 22" Wood Thermometer Sign W/indian~worksC1900s-bakers Chocolate Girl Store Display-24" St Louis Expo-tin Litho-signPurity Flour For All Your Baking Porcelain Advertising Shelf Strip Sign Oh Boy Gum Tin Litho Sign 1930's Original Goudey Baseball Card MakerVintage The Salada Tea Porcelain Door Push SignFoster's Freeze Ice Cream Cone 8.5" Long Hamburgers Porcelain Advertising SignVintage C.1940 Occident Flour 17" Embossed Metal Thermometer Sign~worksNear Mint 1940s Vintage Red Spot Coffee ~ Old A&p Grocery Store Emboss Tin SignVintage 1950's Fair-acre P~m Dairy Program Cow Farm 10" Metal SignVintage 1950's Leaf Spearmint Chewing Gum Candy 25" Metal SignTake Home Claussen's Bread Scioto Sign Metal Advertising Door Pull Sign Vintage 1950's Grade A Milk Dairy Cow Farm 2 Sided 24" Metal SignReal Road Sign Cold Stone CreameryVintage Die Cut Squirrel Brand Peanuts Nut Sign Peanut Butter Store Display NiceCheerwine Advertising Metal Sign Soft Drink Grocery Store Salisbury Nc 11x48 NewGraphic Nos Near Mint 1950s Vintage Heinz Soup Old Lunch Counter Emboss Tin SignVintage 1950's Gardner's Bread 28" Embossed Metal Sign~nice ConditionAmerican Research Kitchen Bunny Bread Metal Emergency Advertising Promo Sign Nos Rare Advertising / Colonial Bread Door Push / Porcelain Sign / Country StoreVintage Planters Peanuts Nuts Candy 16" Metal SignVintage 1950's Kas Potato Chips 2 Sided 24" SignOld Big Snickers Candy Bar Display SignVery Nice Early 1970s Vintage Pepsi Cola Old Grocery Store Tin SignAntique Bunny Bread Tin Advertising Sign Dolly Madison Quality Chekd Ice Cream SignGeneral Country Store Paper Cardboard Advertising Poster Sign Raleigh CigarettesVintage 1940's Kraft Malted Milk Dairy Cheese Cow Farm 13" Metal SignVintage Die Cut Squirrel Brand Peanuts Nut Sign Peanut Butter Store Display NiceVintage Nabisco Planters Peanuts Snack-alongs Nuts Candy 22" Metal SignBob's Famous Heavy 12" Porcelain Metal Sign Home Of The Big Boy Food RestaurantEarly Wagners Ice Cream Tin Advertising Sign60s Photo/las Vegas Morocco Motel/riviera/stardust/polynesian Food Aku Aku SignCar Topper Delivery Sign Papa Johns Pizza FoodKellogg’s Pep 1956 Flat Box & Silly Signs Premium Lot All Ex!1940's Emerson's Ginger Mint Julep Gives Pep Advertising Paper Sign PosterOld Bakery 1930s? Vintage Try Your Favorite Loaf Freshly Sliced Metal SignVintage Silverwoods De Luxe Ice Cream Sign W Oak Frame-double Sided-37"x 25"Vintage Metal Sign Guinness For StrengthVintage Colonial Bread Sign ( Great Old General Store Advertising )Vtg Verifine "the Perfect Food" Ice Cream Steel Tray / SignVintage Munchers Candy Tin Litho Door Pull Push Counter Display Sign 2 SidedEmpire Cream Seperator Advertising SignVintage 1950's Beiler's Bakery Bread Pie Cake 2 Sided 24" Metal Sign1983 Vintage Heileman Brewing Co. "mickey's Malt Liquor" Lighted Sign MickeysL3329- Vintage Hershey Emblem- Freezer? Ice Cream? Chocolate? Car? Vending? SignTaylor Wines&champagne New York State Bubbleing In Motion Glass Barrels Sign VtnCool! Vintage Advertising Mummert Metal Sign "eat More Ice Cream" NrVintage/antique 1920's 'out To Lunch' Door Sign Tennis Player Bazooka Joe Club Bubble Gum Metal Sign Retro Comic Candy Embossed Metal SignBob's Big Boy Restaurant Embossed Metal Sign With Vintage Look Burger Candy Cafe