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Sign Museum Update: We Got It Here, We Can Get It Out

Expanded displays create need for donated samples, specialty items



Construction has been proceeding full-speed ahead at our new home since it began back in mid-August. The major construction should be winding down as you read this column, and, by mid-month, we should have occupancy. There’s still plenty of work to do in refining the exhibits and displays, but the biggest task won’t begin until January, when we start to move the contents of our original home over to the new building. Unfortunately, we’re hitting right in the heart of winter, which makes moving everything a little tougher, but, as I tell everyone, “We got it here. We can get it out.”

I’m always asked if we have enough signs to fill the new home, which works out to be about 450% larger than the existing Essex Studios site. My usual response is, “More than enough.” In fact, we’ll still have so many signs that we’ll have to put some in storage. What we still are searching for, however, are smaller items which will accompany the signs on display.

We’re greatly expanding the number of storefronts, whose windows become our themed display cases. Essex has four such storefronts; the new, Camp Washington site has 14 spread along the “Signs on Main Street” area. The various themed areas – signpainting, goldleaf, lightbulb signs, etc. – will also feature displays with themes like smalts and opal-glass letters. While we are still working out the themes of some of the windows and specialized displays, a number have been determined. And that’s where you can help.

If you’re a regular reader of this column, you know I am particularly fond of salesman samples. These are the items you may have in your back closets, under your work benches or maybe on some forgotten back wall that once served as a sales room. They can be free-standing or wall-mounted, in a display case or loose in your bottom drawer. Whatever form they may take, we’re looking for such donations.

We recently acquired two such salesman samples that will comprise two of the aforementioned themed displays. One was a gift from the museum’s go-to expert on vintage POP signs, Dave Greene of Cincinnati. He usually exhibits at the bi-annual Antique Advertising Show at the Indianapolis Fairgrounds, so he was wheeling and dealing even before the show opened to the public. When he saw the wood-grained, porcelain enamel sample (see photo), he snatched it up right away, saying, “This one’s for the museum.” On the Saturday morning that the show opened, he walked up and presented it to me. “Thought you’d like this,” he said. Indeed, I do, and it’ll find a prominent place in our porcelain enamel area.

But he wasn’t finished. Next, he pulled out an original Zippo lighter box. “Here, I found this, too. It’ll look good in the museum as well.” In the palm of his hand was a Neon Products engraved lighter with the copy, “30th anniversary.” Very cool.


The other salesman sample acquisition was purchased from Wayne Woodrum of Wayne’s Neon Clocks (New Carlisle, OH), who often shares a booth with Dave. It’s a pre-WWII, salesman-sample, Glo-Dial clock in its original salesman “suitcase.” The porcelain clock face has a uranium-glass border tube and two tubes encased in the bezel of the clock – one clear red, the other clear blue. These internal tubes can be turned on and off with an independent switch. A killer piece, it will be a great addition to our exhibit of neon clocks.

Again, we’re always looking for more salesman samples – whether they’re from sign-product manufac-turers or custom-made samples from sign companies. Ad specialty items, such as lighters, yardsticks, paperweights, match packs, pens, etc., are also wanted.

So, before you toss it out, call Tod at the American Sign Museum at (513) 258-4020 or e-mail a photo to




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