Signs (and billboards) of a Chicago past

September 17, 2010

I walk around the city–particularly downtown–and I can’t tell which is the bigger nuisance: the homeless dudes who shake their change cups at me like tambourines, or the outdoor signage that seems to be just about every place I rest my eye.

I’ll go with the signage.

But was it always this way? Or are all the signs blanketing the landscape simply a product of our current consumer age?

Dig the above video produced by an outdoor sign company in 1942. The landscape was pretty covered with signs then too. And back then, they were bold enough to have signs pushing up against Lake Shore Drive–and even brag about it. And having large billboards covering the frontage of empty lots seemed popular too.

Signs aside, I like seeing 1940s Chicago in color. The Art Moderne-ish A&P Food Mart at 2:08 is worth seeing. The neon marquee of the Paradise Theater at 2:21 is amazing. The Paradise was at Madison and Pulaski, but had a more traditional marquee during the years after its 1928 construction, so the one seen here must have been relatively new at the time. What a dazzling piece of signage, if only for a short while. The theater was demolished in 1957.