Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Roadside Advertising Relic

Mail Pouch Tobacco barn just outside Grafton, WV - Click photo for larger view

One thing generated by a capitalist economy is advertising. I would not be surprised to learn that the Roman Colosseum could have had signs advertising "Flavius' Chariot Repair Shop". Wherever people are trying to reach markets and sell products, advertising is inevitable.

One place where advertising has been prevalent over the years is the American highway. Everything from the sequential roadside poetry for Burma Shave to billboards encouraging motorists to stop and see the two-headed calf, have graced the side of the highway over the last century. One such advertising medium has been the sides and roofs of barns.

I remember seeing such barn signs promoting Meramec Caverns (Jesse James' Hideout) in Missouri; to "See 7 States from Rock City"; to the product whose ad is still barely visible on this barn in Grafton . . . Mail Pouch Tobacco. For 102 years, starting in 1890, the Bloch Brothers Tobacco Company of Wheeling, West Virginia, advertised their Mail Pouch brand on barns across several states. The farmer lucky enough to have a barn near a highway would get his barn painted, along with a small payment, to allow the tobacco firm to use the barn as an advertising sign.

I don't know the vintage of the sign on this barn, but I imagine it has been many years, since the sign is so faded. Still, it was an interesting find. This one is visible on US 119 South just before you come to Grafton.

CLICK HERE to read more about the Mail Pouch Barns on Wikipedia.

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