Author: Helen Cox

Helen Cox is a UK author. She made her on-screen debut in The Krankies in 1990. Given the choice, her Mastermind topic would be Grease 2 and when someone asks her if she is a god she says 'yes.' Oh, you want to know about her books? Best click some of the links below.

Fading Ads of Manhattan (Part 2)

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Like any major city, New York churns. People and businesses rise and fall; come and go. Only traces are left behind. The typography peppering the city provides clues to its history. And, a bit of detective work can uncover a great deal about a particular area or street.

The sign pictured above, visible from 7th Avenue, is for Griffon Cultery Works. A business in operation between 1920 and 1965. Though the word ‘cutlery’ is used, the type of shears advertised here are designed for fabric rather than food. Fitting for a sign found in New York’s garment district.

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Though at a glance this sign appears to be purely for a furniture company (based in the Bronx with a showroom in this building on 24th Street, Manhattan) a closer look at the top reveals typography for ‘Human hair’ and the ‘Ball Engraving Co.’ Relax. Hannibal Lecter did not reside at this address. The former relates to a hairpiece manufacturer based here in the 1930s and the latter to an engraving business that operated into the 1970s.

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This sign near Grand Central station is in unbelievable condition considering its location. As Doehler were based here until 1990 however, it is possible the sign was touched-up until quite recently.

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I’ve always felt one of the beauties of these fading signs is that no product seems too small to promote. Whilst writing about ghost signs in London, I came across adverts for everything from matches to razor blades. This, it seems, is mirrored in New York with the above sign for ‘corrugated boxes’ available in ‘job lots’ and ‘stock sizes.’ There’s something indescribably quaint about these humble products…or at least, I think so.

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This advert for Super B Drug appears to be for a pharmacy, likely based somewhere near where Canal Street and Broadway meet – which is where I took this photograph. Just like the shears sign at the top we’re given a small illustration with the type. I’ve found illustration less-common in Manhattan signage than in London ghost signs.

This might just be the luck of the draw – there are hundreds of ghost signs in Manhattan. I couldn’t possibly catalogue them all during my short stay but there is a book on the subject for those wanting a broader view of Manhattan’s vintage adverts.

As stated in my book on London ghost signs, new adverts are destroyed and uncovered every day. The signs are not static making them difficult to log. In this post, and my previous Part 1 post, I’ve simply tried to offer a snapshot of the signs that can currently be seen in New York City.

 

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This entry was posted on December 1, 2015 by in Author Blog and tagged , , .
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