Tuesday, March 24, 2015

#24, Wall Dogs and Ghost Signs

Who or what is a Wall Dog?  Until yesterday I didn't know.  Clue - Norman Rockwell was once one. How does a Wall Dog connect to Ghost Signs.  Ghost Signs are those old fading advertisements that were painted on buildings.  In one of the communities there is one painted on an old grain elevator.  The elevator hasn't been in use for at least 50 years and the sign is crystal clear.

I was reading the recent copy of "Montana Magazine" and came upon the article "Ghost Sign Scrutiny" by Claudia Rapkoch https://montanamagazine.com/ghost-sign-scrutiny-butte-grapples-with-how-restore-outside-ads/ .  She says wall dogs were sign painters hired by companies to paint advertisements across the country.

I loved this quote from the story by Nancy Bennett- "Wall dogs is what the old-time painters were called that did the company signs like Bull Durham and Coca-Cola.  They earned the nickname because they worked like dogs on the wall all day," she said. "We honor and respect the history of these signs by developing a plan that accurately restores the original colors but doesn't make it look too new."

We have quite a few ghost signs in Billings.  I think it would be a cool citizen history project to photograph and document the signs that still exist in our communities.

The Wall Dogs are a group of sign painters and muralists that are trying to keep the old skills alive.  I found their website here http://www.thewalldogs.com/.

Further Exploration

Ghost Signs of Fort Collins  http://www.fcgov.com/historicpreservation/pdf/ghost-signs-doc.pdf

Ghost Sign Weekly  http://blog.jeannemelliott.com/

Meet the Ghost Sign Hunters  http://www.theguardian.com/cities/2014/nov/05/-sp-meet-ghost-sign-hunters-hand-painted-adverts

Ghostsigns The Ads  http://www.hatads.org.uk/ads/ghostsigns.aspx

Flickr:  Ghost Signs  https://www.flickr.com/groups/10285999@N00/

Ghost Sign Project  http://ghostsignproject.com/


  1. I've never heard the term, Ruth. This is exciting to see. I clicked on the one from Ft. Collins-looks like a terrific article there. I have a student whose main unit this year was public art. She covered the art in two neighborhoods, interviewed several of the artists, the group that is in charge of acquiring and placing the art, etc. This is another area of 'public' art she didn't even consider! I'll share with her, know she will love it. Thank you.

  2. If she does anything with it let me know. Her project sounds exciting.

  3. There's so little time now, but I know she'll love reading about them. She is such a creative student, now studying and writing poetry! I will let you know.

  4. I love seeing the art of the signs on sides of buildings. It's nice to know that there is a group working to preserve that bit of history. Thanks for the new terminology of wall dog. I'm sure that was not a fun job.

  5. Wall Dogs is a new term for me. We do have lots of ghost signs around here. Occasionally one is printed in the paper. It is something when one is revealed.

  6. I found this fascinating. I did not know that term, but I have always admired the advertisements painted on sides of buildings. Now I have a new hobby...my husband and I take lots of pictures...so now we will add signs as another topic.

  7. I usually always learn something new when I visit your blog, Ruth. Today was no exception. Wall Dogs is a new term to me too. I will check out some of the links in a moment.

  8. Thank you for the wonderful complement.

  9. I am very glad you have decided to start photographing them.


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