Photo Essay: Signs of the (past) times

Some of the old signs on display at the Sign Museum. Photo by Spenser Hasak

As an artist, I’m a sucker for vintage signs and advertising. There’s something about the way old signs used to look, how they were displayed, the effort that went into making them, and the way they weathered over the years that just pulls me in.

So when Weekly News reporter Ryan Vermette told me that old signage from Marblehead was being hung in the basement of Abbot Hall earlier this week, I grabbed my cameras and hopped into the car.

Not all the pieces of Marblehead Historical Commission’s Sign Museum had been put up on display when I got there, but there were certainly some gems.

I marveled at the hand-carved Stowaway Sweets sign, the still-vibrant colors of the Spirit of ’76 Books sign, the hand-painted lettering of the Antique Shop’s “parking only” sign, and the fact that there used to be a potato chip factory (Winslow’s Potato Chips) in town.

Many of these started as pieces of advertising, something to draw a motorist or pedestrian into a shop or location. But these pieces have become so much more than that. They’re pieces of history that tell Marblehead’s history. They’re art. They make one reflect on times past, hopefully with fond memories.

I can’t wait to venture back to the basement of Abbot Hall and see the completed Sign Museum with descriptions of each sign. It’s going to be something special.