10 Aug 2012

Walldogs, Ghost Signs and Slappy Hooper

Painted sign on a wall for Colt showing a cowboy on a horse
Photo: Cathleen Norman

In 2009 the Colorado Gambler published an article by Cathleen Norman called ‘Walldogs, Ghost Signs and Slappy Hooper’. It packs a surprisingly large quantity of material about the history of painting signs on walls in the USA into a very short piece. However, the opening sentence of the main body might be one for the dubious claims court… (See also the discussion under my recent post about Bath for some claims to the title of ‘oldest ghostsign in the UK’.)

One of the photos featured (not shown here) is also found in William Stage’s book, while the one above is the first I’ve ever seen for a firearm. It looks relatively new so I don’t know if it once served a genuine marketing communications purpose for Colt or if it is some sort of sign painter’s parody?

I am guessing that the Chicago signpainting school mentioned in the article is probably the Pullman School of Lettering. Their training guide, ‘The Sign Painter’, has been digitised and made freely available on the Internet Archive while hard copies can be bought on Amazon.

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