Old Vancouver Signs

As a Vancouver sign company that lives and breathes signage, we've taken a few trips down Vancouver signage memory lane on our blog, but you can't write about old Vancouver, BC signage without looking at neon. Although we don't create neon signs, these vibrant signs were a salient feature of Vancouver street scenes of yesteryear and neglecting to mention them would be sign history sacrilege. Neon sign making is a dying art, for a variety of reasons: it's expensive and it's being replaced by new modes of lighting and signage. In the heyday of neon (the 1940s and 50s) Vancouver was aglow with neon signs, making the downtown streets of the then smallish coastal city seem metropolitan, especially at night. Neon became synonymous with “downtowns” worldwide — an icon of the hustling, bustling urban nighttime landscape. This beautiful sign included some fantastical creative touches including lit steam rising from a cup and...

It's been awhile since we've posted old Vancouver signs, so here's another tour down sign memory lane. It's funny that, depending on your perspective, certain things stand out in old photos. Though we also notice the dirt roads, old brick and stone buildings, horses and horse-drawn buggies, being a Vancouver sign company we can't help but admire the signage. Vancouver was, after all, a coastal frontier. The first permanent non-aboriginal settlement was a trading post on the Fraser River that was established in 1832 by the Hudson's Bay Company. The first incarnation of what would eventually become Vancouver sprung from the community created around Gassy Jack Deighton's saloon, where his potables quenched the thirst of the ever-dry mouths of mostly loggers and other labourers. In 1870, this community became the first incorporated settlement in Vancouver — known then as Granville. It's always remarkable to see what Vancouver was — and as it...

Vehicle graphics are not new. From the first days of company owned vehicles, vehicle signage was an obvious way to advertise your business. Of course, things were much simpler and often the hand-painted lettering simply displayed the company name upon a van or truck. Now we have vehicle wraps and vibrant full-color, large scale graphics, but, the intent was the same then as now: be seen. The photo below shows the simple beauty of hand-crafted vehicle signs on Vancouver delivery trucks of yesteryear. There is something elegant in the obviously hand-painted lines and lettering. Vehicle signage doesn't get much simpler than this. The goal? Same as today, really. Brand the vehicle with at least your company's name, address, and phone number. It's likely that this delivery truck has the company name and address on its right side just as we see upon its sister vehicle on the right of the photo (below)....

The art of creating store signs has been with us for some time. As long as there have been stores in Vancouver, or anywhere for that matter, there have been signs. Even in small-town outdoor central marketplaces of old, the table or plot of grass from which people sold fruits, vegetables, raw wool, and medicinal herbs was adorned with signs so people knew who you were, what you were selling and at what price. Those were, and still are, the basic elements of store signage. “Basic” because concepts like branding and leading with benefits were probably not foremost in the minds of hawkers. They just wanted to be seen and found amongst all the other sellers who journeyed from rural or farming communities to larger towns weekly or monthly to sell their products. In this photo taken in the Yukon around 1890, a young retailing couple is standing outside their store...

We were searching online  recently and came upon an amazing collection of old Vancouver photos. We were struck by how the photos not only document the history of the city, but also provide a visual history of Vancouver signage. This vast and stunning collection of photos contains more Vancouver signs than we've ever seen assembled in one place. We're not positive about the source of the photos. Many may be culled from the Vancouver Public Library public domain photo collection, which is a great source that would peak the interest of any Vancouver sign makers or signage geeks. [caption id="attachment_1291" align="alignnone" width="512"] North east corner of Granville and Hastings in circa 1900-1905. The competing signs of several Vancouver businesses.[/caption]   Old signs are beautiful, and it makes us wonder whether 50 or 100 years from now people will look back at the signs adorning buildings in today's Vancouver and have the same feeling...