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Friday, October 29, 2010

APPALACHIAN ADVERTISING BARN

KINGSTON ADVERTISING BARN - SIDE 1
Going... going ...  almost gone. That is the condition of a barn in the rural  Kingston community of  Madison County, Kentucky. With this decline one realizes the loss of a historic vernacular advertising barn.


Most folks are familiar with the Chew Mail Pouch Tobacco ads that are painted on barns, mostly found across the eastern part of the country. However, old barn ads cover a wide spectrum of products. In the case of the Kingston barn (above photo) we see an ad for Standard Motor Oil. 


Barn advertising was very popular during the period of 1900 to 1940. Companies paid barn painters to adorn ads on barns while the barn owners were paid a small stipend each  year. The advertising company was responsible to keep the ad freshly painted.  


KINSTONG ADVERTISING BARN - SIDE 2
This particular barn in Kingston has two sides painted. Each side has presentation to the flow of traffic in a particular direction. In the photo above one can see that the second painted side has most of its paint worn off and only the word GAS can be made out. 


It is difficult to date when this ad was painted on the Kingston barn. One local I talked with said he could remember the ad being on the barn since he was a boy about 45 years ago. Of course he also mentioned that it could have been there longer than 45 years. 


Today such painted barns can be considered historic landmarks. Some have been federally listed as National Historic Landmarks. Many are in decline or have been demolished. Efforts to save these artful treasures could bring community pride to rural areas. 


SOURCES:


Advertising Barns by William Simmonds


Rock City Barns by David Jenkins


Mail Pouch  Tobacco Barns,  Wikipedia

21 comments:

  1. Cool. I guess these were the forerunners of roadside billboards. This practice doesn't seem to have been popular in Ontario. At least, I can think of no examples that I've seen personally.

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  2. barefootheart -- Actually billboards became active along highways when automobiles started cruising them in 1908. After that date billboards began to be another method of advertising. An example would be the famous Burma Shave billboards that were small wood poster-like signs attached to posts along busy rural roads. They have a verse that you would read a portion of -- following the billboards down the road. So I feel that barn billboards would have developed along with the other primitive billboards after the 1908 date. Maybe the barn signs were a US thing? Thanks for stopping - I appreciate it -- barbara

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  3. Interesting that they're becoming historic landmarks. Perhaps it isn't happening in Eastern KY yet, but in various parts of the country people are painting quilt designs [and some are hex signs such as the Amish used] on their barns. This brings summer tourists to rural areas and some income to rural restaurants and farm stands.

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  4. There's only a handful of similar advertising on barns or outbuildings that I can think of here in Melbourne's regional areas but that's not to say it wasn't popular in other states.
    Gotta snap those signs before they completely disappear - and take whatever record of the company's activity in the area.

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  5. June -- In the summer of 2009 I wrote two posts on quilt squares on barns and buildings. One post was titled Madison County, Kentucky Quilt Square Project that dealt with quilt squares used on commercial buildings. The second post was titled Quilt Squares on Barns which mentioned a few of the many quilt squares on barns that can be found in Central Kentucky. Are they doing quilt squares in your area? - barbara

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  6. Jayne -- I have a question for you -- why do you call your country OZ? Fascinating that this barn painting custom of the past was done in OZ.

    What I found interesting was that most locals I talked with were unfamiliar with the sign. Here it sat in a very visible place for many years and they had a difficult time recalling it.

    -- barbara

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  7. My feeling is that when things like that are around and they are not significant/useful/meaningful, then people don't deem them memorable. For instance, my grandmother is like that. She wouldn't necessarily think that something like a barn advertisement was important. Anyway, I think they are great and really beckon to an earlier time. We have two that I have seen, though one of the barns was torn down about a year ago. Both are Mail Pouch advertisements. I also love the Ruby Falls barns.

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  8. We have a few of these wonderful old barns in our county.

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  9. Thanks for referencing your past posts -- before I discovered your blog. I'll read them later on. No barns to speak of in my area of any kind. Here on Cape Cod tool sheds are about the only outbuildings. My home territory in Indiana has not discovered them either but I believe areas farther north in Indiana have. I know they're in parts of Ohio and in Pennsylvania.

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  10. Wow, that old barn has been through a lot! What a shame it's been allowed to deteriorate nearly into oblivion. Looks like one good snow or stiff wind will finish the job. I've never seen advertising barns out here in Wyoming where I live, nor do I remember seeing any in New England where I used to live for several years, though both places have plenty of barns (several out here in the same condition - or worse! - as the one on this post). But I have seen them in photos and on trips across country, mainly in the midwest and south.

    I just found this web site a few days ago, and this post made me think that in the unlikely event you don't already know about it, you might enjoy it ~ especially since it stars your neck of the woods!

    Abandoned: History and Photography

    By the way, a stretch of South Dakota highway has a series of "Burma Shave" style signs, only they're advertising Wall Drug, a famous (or infamous) South Dakota landmark still in operation.

    And it was your posts about the quilt squares on barns and buildings that led me to your site, as I was looking for holiday gift ideas for a quilting friend! One of your posts came up in my search and curious, I clicked on it. I obviously didn't find a gift for my friend here, but your blog is a gift I found for myself! :-)

    Happy Hallowe'en!

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  11. Farmchick -- Did you get a photo of the Mail Pouch barn before it was torn down? I tried to copy some photos off flickr on advertising barns but was unsuccessful. But I do have the link if you want to check them out. There are some Ruby Falls barns. http://www.flickr.com/photos/brent_nashville/162819449/in/set-72157600004039015/

    Happy Halloween -- barbara

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  12. Vicki -- I hope there are folks looking after them. It appears that barn advertising is saved through individual efforts. I do not know of a local, state or federal group that is working to inventory or save them. Do you?

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  13. June - I referenced a link on my response to Farmchick (above). there are apparently many old barns left with the old ads but as you can see by the link they are falling fast. -- barbara

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  14. Thanks for the Abandoned History and Photography link -- I bookmarked it. Its full of the "stuff" that appeals to me.

    When I did research on advertising barns I found that most were east of the Mississippi with the exception of Calif. So -- South Dakota has Burma Shave advertising -- and is west of the Mississippi! Wall Drug is a new one for me?

    I will be placing a post on Round Robin quilting -- probably in Nov.

    Thanks you for such a lovely ending remark on your comment -- barbara

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  15. Laloofah I forgot to wish you a Happy Halloween too on my comment back to you which is right above this one.

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  16. It is sad how much of our heritage is simply falling apart. We have a program for barn preservation in VT, but just around the corner from me is a barn whose roof collapsed last winter and which can barely protect its nesting pigeons. Is it just my age? I can remember driving the country and seeing "Chew Mail Pouch" on barns regularly. Faded and nearly gone. Alas.

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  17. Hi Chris -- Barn Preservation is rather new in preservation programs. By new, maybe twenty years or so. Barn Preservation does not have a lot of teeth so barns still go down the tubes in most cases. Only the real special barns are saved. Money to stabilize or restore barns is in short supply. If farmers with old barns could convert the doors to handle large equipment perhaps many barns would be saved. Little things like that make the barn worth having to the owner. But then we need farmers to save the barns and they are being driven out of farming. Some communities don't realize that barns especially with painted ads bring tourists which ultimately bring dollars to the community. Of course many barns, outbuildings, and houses on farms decline rapidly when the property is sold to a land speculator. Sitting empty the weather and animals bring it down quite rapidly. Heritage is a large issue. I agree with you that we do seem to be losing our heritage rapidly. Thanks for the comment -- barbara

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  18. Hi, Barbara!

    The signs aren't really Burma Shave, they're probably just inspired by them. I guess Wall Drug also has signs all over the world, announcing the distance from each place to Wall Drug. I'm sure that's very helpful for the vast majority of the globe's citizens. Not. If Wall Drug is new to you, let me assure you that you haven't missed a thing. It's very tacky/kitschy/tourist-trappy. Of course, that's what many people love about it, but it's not my cup of tea! :-)

    I did see your Halloween greeting, thank you! And I'm looking forward to your Round Robin quilting post this month!

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  19. Laloofah -- I glad you gave me a heads up on Wall Drug. I am not one to enjoy touristy places. The name Wall Drug reminds me of the real drug store Walgreens. I thought is was related in some way to that chain. Thanks for stopping by. -- barbara

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  20. I've never seen oil advertised on a barn before. We have many of the Mail Pouch barns in our area. I have posted about them numerous times on my blog. Recently one down the road from me fell. It was sad, it had been leaning for quite some time and they never tried to do anything to keep it from falling. A friend who lived across the road from it said it fell around 9:30 at night and it sounded like thunder when it fell.

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  21. Janet -- I lived in Williamtown, W. Virginia for a short period so long ago. It is a beautiful state. I don't see any of the Mail Pouch barns in my area. In fact the Standard Motor Oil sign was the first painted barn sign I had seen since I moved here three years ago. So glad that you stopped by. -- barbara

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