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American Sign Museum Gains More Treasures

Signs date from early- to mid-20th Century; Cincinnati Letterhead meet announced

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I’m told by ST readers what they most like to read about in this column is new acquisitions. Most of these are acknowledged in the quarterly newsletter for the museum, but not all. Here are a few recent additions that missed the most recent newsletter.

The “Collins-LaCrosse” porcelain-enamel panel joins our collection of more than 40 such signs. It identified the painted bulletins and poster panels of outdoor-advertising plants. Collins-LaCrosse refers to the original Collins-LaCrosse Sign and Advertising Co., which Charlie Collins founded in 1946. The outdoor-advertising portion of the company was sold to Atlanta-based Turner Outdoor in 2010. The sign was purchased two months ago from a dealer at the Iowa Gas Show, which was held in late August in Des Moines.

“Lomack Electronics” was also purchased at the Iowa Gas show from a New York dealer, who had acquired it from an antique store in central New York. The hand-painted, projecting sign has the fabricator’s name in the bottom center of the sign face: “Smith Sign Service.”

Although the sign didn’t necessarily originally hang on a New York business, odds are it did. If anyone knows of an existing or former sign business bearing this name, please let the museum know. We especially prize signs bearing sign tags that identify the signmaker, and would like to know about Smith Sign Service.

On the drive to Des Moines, we picked up a truckload of neon tubing and electrodes in East Peoria, IL. The retired Ken Easton had originally contacted the museum about the availability of the glass back in early July. He also noted that another retired signman, Jim Walch, Ft. Myers, FL (formerly of nearby Davenport, IL), also had some glass. Easton took the time to drive to Davenport to procure Walch’s glass, and consolidated all of it at his own storage facility.

“Goldsmith-MacGregor” is an internally illuminated, screenprinted, reverse-glass sign recently donated by Craig Hoffmeier of Cincinnati, whose grandfather, Phillip Goldsmith, owned Goldsmith-MacGregor Sporting Goods. The company actually dates back to 1894 as The Goldsmith Co. The family purchased the well-known MacGregor Co. in 1936, and became Goldsmith-MacGregor. The Goldsmith name was dropped in the 1940s, due to anti-Semitic sentiments. MacGregor was purchased by Brunswick in 1955.

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The fourth acquisition, the Dr. Gertrude Hulet sign, was actually part of a trade. The sign was acquired several months ago from local collector Scott Bristoll, who had purchased the sign. According to Bristoll’s research, Dr. Hulet was born in 1873 and had practiced medicine in Zeeland, MI for all of her professional life. The sign comprises curved tin, and is mounted on a wood frame and gilded with a smalt background.

Future Letterhead meet
Preliminary planning has begun for a meet that will commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Letterheads. The yet-to-be-named Letterhead meet will be held in Cincinnati, September 24-27, 2015. The four-day event will offer formal workshops on Thursday and Friday, and will follow the Letterhead University format of the very successful Denver and Boise meets, which were held in 1995 and 2000, respectively.

The museum will be the focus on Saturday and Sunday, where informal demonstrations, panel exchanges and special, museum-related projects will be featured. An advisory committee of past Letterhead hosts, which includes Judi and Kent Smith, David and Suze Butler, Noel Weber, Gary Anderson, Joe Broxterman, Mark Oatis and Raymond Chapman, met twice in August, and will continue meeting to plan the celebration.

 

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