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Signage for a TN landmark finds its way to the American Sign Museum!

Posted on May 21, 2015 | Posted by Kris Williamson

Once upon a time we wrote about the American Sign Museum in Cincinnati, Ohio. This remarkable exhibit preserves the iconic signage of the past and allows visitors to get a true feel for the craft and history of sign making. In an era when we spend most of our time staring at our smartphones and other mobile devices, we tend to miss the environmental wonders around us. Look around! Businesses, organizations and some pretty amazing natural creations want you to know who they are and where they're located. 

The American Sign Museum houses memorable signage from hotel chains, hamburger joints, retailers, restaurants and more! At the end of 2014, it even gained a little piece of Tennessee signage. (Well, the sign was from Kentucky, but the advertisement is for a famous locale in East Tennessee.) The sign was situated on a wooden Mail Pouch barn in Spencer County, Kentucky. The message on it read 'See Beautiful Rock City'. Have you seen any of those in your travels?

A barn with See Rock City hand painted on the side. Photo courtesy of the Barn gallery on the Rock City website. 12-Point SignWorks

One of the many Mail Pouch barns with a 'See Rock City' message painted on it.
Photo credit: See Rock City website, Barns gallery

Rock City, located in Chattanooga, Tennessee, is well-known for its hand painted advertisements on the sides of Mail Pouch barns around the eastern half of the country. The attraction opened in 1932 and the advertising project began shortly after that. A young painter named Clark Byers was hired to travel around and offer to paint farmers' barns in exchange for adding the three words: See Rock City (or a variation of it). From the early 1930s on, anyone traveling the country from Michigan to Texas probably has driven by a Mail Pouch barn or two with some form of those words highlighted on the side. The barns are so well-known that they even have a section dedicated to them on the See Rock City website.  

Now let's get back to the new treasure at the American Sign Museum. Tod Swormstedt, the founder of the museum, heard that a Mail Pouch barn with the iconic words was going to be torn down for a highway project in Spencer County, Kentucky. He quickly assembled a team that traveled to Kentucky to save the hand painted sign. The team disassembled that section of the barn, sometimes one board at a time, and returned it to the museum. Fittingly, the sign is on display near a preserved 50 foot Mail Pouch barn already featured in the museum. I believe fate played a hand in this. 

The barn in Spencer County, Kentucky before it was taken down for a highway project. Photo courtesy of the American Sign Museum blog. 12-Point SignWorks

Here is a photo of the barn before it was taken down in Spencer City, Kentucky. You can see the team working on the boards on the American Sign Museum blog post.
Photo credit: American Sign Museum, See Rock City blog post 

See Rock City signage in the American Sign Museum. Courtesy of Robert Miller, photoilsa.com. 12-Point SignWorks

This is the signage since its been installed at the American Sign Museum. Pretty amazing!
Photo credit: Facebook post by Robert Miller, www.photoisla.com

We hope you've enjoyed this little sample of sign history. We are so happy to see our wonderful state of Tennessee represented at the American Sign Museum. Is your business signage worthy of a museum? If you want to make it memorable, contact us today for a free consultation. We are happy to help!

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