Sunday, April 9, 2017

Some Bendigo ghost signs

I've just come back from an overnight stay in the old gold mining city of Bendigo, where I stumbled on a few signs.

Firstly, three on an old building opposite the railway station:

And a bunch of others we stumbled on:

At the derelict gasworks - let gas help you!


There's also this sign in Bendigo, which we didn't encounter this weekend - this image is taken from here:

However a tour guide today told us about the Cohn family - one of Bendigo's old gold rush-era Jewish families (from Denmark)who made a name for themselves as the town's first brewers then expanded into other drinks. See:

Monday, November 21, 2016

Finally - the Happy Thoughts Tobacco sign on High Street Thornbury

I've been meaning to post this for a couple of weeks - the first decent uncovering in quite a while. (I've had issues with my phone not being recognised by my new computer...)

The Happy Thoughts Tobacco sign has recently been revealed in High Street Thornbury - an area of northern Melbourne that has taken the mantle of the latest hipster epicentre. And so it's not entirely unrelated that this part of our city is now "apartment development central", hence the tearing down of the building that has hidden this sign for nearly a century.

You can see the sign was painted by the Hancock and Taylor firm:

 A quick search on Google shows that Happy Thoughts was produced by a local company called Dudgeon & Arnell Pty Ltd. These guys had a knack for kooky promotions it seems:

But Happy Thoughts was not their only product. This site devoted to tobacco tins has photos of a large number of tobacco brands made by the Dudgeon & Arnell company, including others with names also straight out of a motivational thinking seminar: Perfection; Triumphant; Grenadier; Harbour Bar; Phoenix; Sweet Memories; Darnel; White Heather; Censer; Sport; Silky Oak; Patrol; Sunday Best.

It turns out that the company goes back a long way to Melbourne's colonial origins - see this blog. Co-founder John Dudgeon apparently arrived here in 1850 and died in 1884 (ironically of lung cancer) after having partnered with Charles Carty Arnell for some 20 years. He'd done OK with his tobacco empire, having apparently left 80,000 pounds to his wife and children.

The author of the useful blog is someone whose great great grandfather worked for the company. The blog has a number of entries from 2013, but nothing since. It states of the company's origins::

"Dudgeon & Arnell evolved from a tobacco manufactory started by Gideon Heard in the late 1850s. There are some hints that he may have been involved in the tobacco business even earlier in Sydney or Adelaide (although the Sydney reference is likely to be a confusion with the large American company “Messrs Heard & Co” of Augustine Heard which operated out of China and had a large Asia-Pacific presence at the time). Gideon Heard’s company became “Heard, Owen & Dudgeon” in 1862 and then “Owen, Dudgeon & Arnell” in 1864 before settling on “Dudgeon & Arnell” in 1876."

The blog also mentions that the Dudgeon & Arnell factory was located from the 1930s in River Street, Richmond, neat the corner of Palmer Street. It then says that "Dudgeon & Arnell operated from this location until 1953 when they were taken over by Dobie, George & Son before that in turn was absorbed into the Phillip Morris conglomerate."

You have to love the internet, at least sometimes :)

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

A few from France and Germany

It's been a while! I've just returned from a quick and intense family trip to France and Germany and managed to snap a few signs in passing. I actually saw a lot more than shown here: some were impossible to photograph from high-speed trains (including some great wall-sized signs in Paris' outer suburbs) and others were encountered when my phone had run out of power. C'est la vie. So here are the few I did manage to snap.

 Montmartre, Paris:


 Somewhere in the north of Paris:

Strasbourg - only just got the building side in time in this bad shot:


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Look what arrived in the mail today...


Finally, after three years from idea to completion - the world's first scholarly book on ghost signs is in my grubby little hands. Inside its pages are 22 chapters about ghost signs from Australia, the UK, US, Belgium, Peru and Vietnam, by a great group of academics, sign painters, historians, conservators, marketers and psychologists around the globe. It's been an enormous amount of work and to be honest I'm very glad it's all over - but also very glad it's here too.

It describes the book as "the first scholarly collection to examine the social and cultural aspects on the worldwide interest in the faded remains of advertising signage (popularly known as ‘ghost signs’). Contributors to this volume examine the complex relationships between the signs and those who commissioned them, painted them, viewed them and view them today. Topics covered include cultural memory, urban change, modernity and belonging, local history and place-making, the crowd-sourced use of online mobile and social media to document and share digital artefacts, ‘retro’ design and the resurgence in interest in the handmade."

As a hardback academic book with a limited market it's also very expensive - but it will come out in paperback in 12 months or so. Also, Google Books has some snippets if you'd like to peek inside :)

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

A few Hurstbridge signs

It's been a while since I've posted here - life's kinda got in the way of late :) So now I've got this ridiculous backlog of ghost sign pics...will try to clear it over the next little while. Stay tuned.

But first, some signs I snapped the other day in the main drag of Hurstbridge, including a fabbo Nestles sign uncovered by a billboard removal on an old grocery.

Oh, and PS: After over two years of work, WE'VE HANDED IN THE FINAL PROOFS FOR OUR GHOST SIGNS ACADEMIC BOOK!! It should be out soon...the blurb is here:

Note that it will be only available in ridiculously expensive hardback for the first 12 months, then out in more reasonable paperback after that.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Two Melbourne cafés with ghost signs attached

Melbourne is well known for its coffee culture and its ghost signs, so it's not that much of a surprise that the two have met in recent years.

At least two cafés are operating in premises that have uncovered ghost signs on their walls - and have left the signs there to their advantage.

In fact, one, Mr Morse - just next to the railway bridge in Johnston Street, Abbotsford, has named itself after the large early 20th century Mr Morse's Indian Root Pills sign uncovered on a former external wall:

This sign is part of an intense marketing push by the Australian purveyors of a snake oil remedy originally from the US - as seen by many other large cobalt blue Indian Root Pills signs around the district, including the famous chicory kiln in Bacchus Marsh (below) and various other Root Pills sign uncoverings (see: And for more details on Dr Morse's elixir, see the great Melbourne Circle blog for a fascinating history of the Indian Root Pills brand:

The second café is in Lower Heidelberg Road, Ivanhoe. Signwriter Larry Stammers alerted me to this great place after we met at a State Library talk recently. Funnily enough, when I went to take these pics recently, Larry was there having lunch. Again, the sign was painted on a former external wall. We wondered what oat company it might have been - possibly Uncle Toby's - there's a large faded ghost sign in St Georges Road in North Fitzroy that though very different in other ways has a similar curved swirl (any suggestions?)

This wall has an extra level of political interest too. Public external walls were used in much the same way that billboarders use construction sites and derelict buildings today - places to publicise events with posters. (See here for another example of posters being uncovered through building works: This wall has a spectacular trace - a 1934 election poster for a candidate for the United Australia Party, the predecessor to today's Liberal Party. It's been nicely preserved on the wall: