When I am out exploring the world on my motorcycle, Ghost Signs are some of my favorite sights. Their nostalgic nod to a bygone era fills me with a sense of innocence and direct simplicity. They stir up feelings of missing a place and time that I never even knew.
While traveling through the city of Richmond, Virginia I saw this beautiful multi-layered Coca-Cola ghost sign.
The city of Richmond, Virginia is one of America’s oldest cities. It is the home to an incredibly large variety of modern street art. There are dozens of beautiful murals peppered around the city, thanks to the Richmond Mural Project.
And as an old city that has been densely populated and rich in industrial history, it is also ripe with advertising ghost signs of yesteryear. You will find them graces the facades of, in some cases, centuries-old buildings.
You could spend ages exploring and documenting what the city of Richmond has to offer.
Alas, in the early autumn of 2018, I was just riding through town on my way south. I didn’t have very much time to spend looking around. But, I did manage to snap a few photos like this one – a lovely Coca-Cola ghost sign paired with a modern portrait mural. Good old serendipity struck again. Lucky me.
There is something particularly sweet about stumbling across things that you love versus seeking them out. It’s like uncovering a treasure.
Coca-Cola began using the slogan “Delicious and Refreshing” as part of their first advertisement in 1886. You can see that slogan featured here on this ghost.
Also visible are the phrases “Relieves Fatigue”,”5¢”, “Sold Everywhere” and “Drink Coca-Cola.”
The slogans in Coca-Cola ads can sometimes help to zero in on the age of the piece. For example, the word “Drink” being placed above the logo came into use in the mid-1920’s. In addition the Spencerian script of the logo can also be a clue to assessing age.
Visit this Coca-Cola Ghost Sign
Coca-Cola Ghost Ad Location: 2100 E Main St, Richmond, VA 23223 (on the side of Whisk Bakery) Google Maps
The town of Newburgh, New York isn’t exactly what you’d call a motorcycle destination. At least not for pleasure riding, anyway. It’s a once-grand city that languished for decades in decline and now has an ember of resurrection starting to glow.
Cities like Newburgh, whose heyday has long since passed, are great places to hunt for ghost signs. That’s why I found myself riding through its streets.
One of the upsides of using a motorcycle for these trips is that motorcycle is easy to park, quick to get in and out of and around traffic and can present itself as non-threatening. Especially in the case of the Bonneville. That bike is downright polite.
Large Scale Uneeda Biscuit Sign
Over the past couple of years, I’ve seen quite a few Uneeda Biscuit ghost signs, in several different states. Whenever I do, I’ll think to myself, “yeah, I kinda do need a biscuit.” It’s kind of like an inside joke I tell myself. Perhaps the inside-est of all jokes.
The King of Wheat Foods Uneeda Biscuit 5¢ Sold only in Packages 5¢ National Biscuit Company
Maxwell House Coffee – Gold Medal Flour
This two-fer is a bit hard to make out – one layer is a Gold Medal Flour ad, and the other a Maxwell House coffee ad. Gold Medal Flour is another popular sight, but I’ve only ever seen one other Maxwell House coffee ad.
“Good to the last drop…” Did you sing the jingle? I did. I’m showing my age.
Another Uneeda Biscuit Ghost Sign
The National Soda Cracker
Gold Medal Flour – Jap-A-Lac
Jap-A-Lac is new to me. Apparently, it was varnish, stain, and enamel made by the Glidden Varnish Company. You learn something new every day.
Though I couldn’t get a very good view of this ghost, we can see it is Jap-A-Lac and Gold Medal Flour.
Jap-A-Lac – Gold Medal Flour
Another Jap-A-Lac and Gold Medal Flour two-fer. I was able to make out most of the writing, but the top and third lines in yellow on the upper right escape me.
Jap-A-Lac In the Green Can 10 Enamel Colors
Newburgh Ghost Signs are Plentiful
This handful of signs were all on Liberty Street, save for the Maxwell House. There are probably more just waiting to be seen. I hope to get back to look around some more!
In the fall of October 2018, I rode through the city of Richmond, Virginia on a Sunday morning. City riding isn’t so great, generally. But being on a motorcycle gives you the opportunity to pull over, squeeze into tight spots for a few minutes and to park and snap pictures in a way that you couldn’t possibly do in a car. Being on a low, slim bike like the Bonneville makes that even easier.
I was in town spotting ghosts. An old city like Richmond, has plenty.
This Pepsi-Cola ad is just hanging on for dear life. Topped off with “Watkins Barber Shop” the bottle cap is but a whisper. A quick search around the web and you can find images of this wall that were much more vibrant. Hang in there, lovely. We still see you.
Without any knowledge of the company’s history, I have no idea if they ever engaged in widespread campaigns like Coca-Cola. In my travels, I haven’t had the opportunity to see many Pepsi ghost signs. Off the top of my head, I can only think of one other. It was in Galena, Kansas:
I’m pretty sure I became aware of this ghost sign in York, Pennsylvania from reading Wendyvee’s great blog, Roadside Wonders. It’s been pinned on my Google Map for years.
When I pulled up to take pictures, a man across the street stood and watched me with a big smile on. I wonder if people who live with such things day in, day out, even notice them anymore. Or, do they become a source of neighborhood pride? Probably both.