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New Bern, North Carolina

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Kraków, Poland

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Brighton, England

Brighton Beach Flint Sculpture Garden

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Gardner, Massachusetts

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Joshua Tree, California

World Famous Crochet Museum

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Walldogs and the Disappearing Art of Painting Signs on Buildings

by Anne Reddington / 13 Oct 2015


Factory building of the Bloch Brothers Tobacco Company, on Wheeling Island, West Virginia. (Photo: Library of Congress)

When the tall, lean 39-year old from Chicago was asked to explain his job, he said: “If anybody asks you, sign-painting’s just an occupational disease. But we get around, that’s something.” 

It was the mid-1930s, and the Works Projects Administration was assembling a Historical Records Survey–personal accounts about different professions–as a kind of oral history of American workers. They sent writers out to scour the country, hoping to create a portrait of its workforce. They interviewed all kinds of people, including a few sign-painters like the man from Chicago.

At the time sign-painting was a fairly common job, and many sign-painters did, indeed, get around. While most cities had their own sign shops, many smaller towns and rural areas depended on traveling artisans to do their sign-painting.

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