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Way Back When: The Evolution of Signage

There is an active market for antique and vintage signage in the U.S. A metal sign for a now defunct retail pharmacy dating back 95 years recently sold for over $20,000. You won’t find the oldest intact sign ever found available at auction, however. In 2014, a stone sign was uncovered during an archeological dig in the ancient city of Dholavaira in northwestern India. The two-meter sign was thought to have hung from a wooden plank over the entrance to 10,000 seat stadium dating back to around 3000 BC. The sign is in a language yet to be deciphered.

There is evidence of even older signage. Though documentation and authentication are less than stellar, pieces of stone tablets dating back 40,000 years found in the Nile Valley appear to advertise the bows and arrows of ancient craftsmen.

The Evolution of SignageSignage made its mass debut in ancient Greece, Egypt and Rome when tradesman and artisans used available wood, brick and stone to advertise their goods. Mass illiteracy meant that signs were generally simple pictures of what product or service was offered. Businesses that catered to the rich carved their signage out of alabaster, marble or copper, and their design was usually more intricate. Almost all stores and workshops uncovered in the archeological uncovering of the ruins of Pompeii had some sort of signage, and some are in excellent condition.

Over the next several hundred years, the Dark Ages and widespread economic and political unrest meant the destruction of many cultural symbols. A steep decline in trade meant a concurrent decline in the need for signs. Signage became minimal with basic symbols and crude design. By the end of the post-classical period in the 12th and 13th centuries, European revival brought back signage with elaborate carving, gilt, painting and the first use of logos to differentiate businesses.

Eventually, laws governing the size and placement of signs became necessary with the explosive growth of cities in the 1700s. The Industrial Revolution paved the way for mass production of signs for every sector of the economy. The advent of electrical power in the 1800s meant the proliferation of illuminated signs. They could be seen at night and brought attention to shops and pubs otherwise missed in the dark. Plastics in the 1950s meant signs could be made quicker and cheaper. Anyone who wanted a sign to advertise, lead, direct, inform or identify could get exactly what they needed.

Technological advances have led to the use of digital signage, LED signage, programmable messages and more. The future possibilities of signage are bound only by imagination. If you need a sign today, check out all of the amazing options available to you with Dale Sign Service. Our talented St Louis sign experts have more than 40 years of experience and can work on any sign project. Full-service design, manufacturing permitting, and installation are only part of what we offer. Check us out for sign repair, refreshing and replacement, too. Dale Sign Service delivers the utmost in quality with reasonable prices and service after the sale. Call us today at (314) 966-2620.

The sign experts

13652 Manchester Road
St. Louis, Missouri 63131

Phone: (314) 966-2620

Immediate sign services

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