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Pennsylvania Dutch Hex Signs

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Hex signs are a colorful but rather limited postcard collecting topic. The postcard above is an oversize postcard (8-5/8" x 4") showing some hex signs and their meanings. The descriptive information on this postcard makes them sound earlier and more traditional and meaningful than they really are. Some of the design elements are rooted in traditional folk art, and there were star designs painted directly on old barns. However, the circular hex signs appearing on postcards are a relatively recent invention and are now considered to be purely decorative or "just for pretty."

According to an article on The History of Hex Signs in the Pennsylvania German Review, the hex sign originated at the Kutztown Folk Festival in 1950 and became an immediate success. The designs are painted on circular pieces of plywood or masonite and include traditional barn star designs as well as distelfinks, hearts, tulips, doves and other gaudy designs. The superstitions associated with hex signs are called a myth.

 

 

Johnny Ott was a traditional Pennsylvania Dutch folk artist from Lenhartsville, PA who styled himself as a "hexologist." Ott and his designs are shown in the next cards. He designated superstitious powers to the signs because he found they made the signs sell much better. Ott painted both barn star designs and other Pennsylvania Dutch symbols.

 

 

The next postcard shows Jacob Zook from Lancaster County, "The Hex Man", finishing a large sign that was supposed to promote rain. Zook had a shop specializing in objects with silkscreened Pennsylvania Dutch designs. Before Johnny Ott died in 1963, Jacob Zook partnered with Ott. Zook's silk-screening production techniques were combined with Johnny Ott's art. Ott also continued to make handpainted hex signs.

 

 

The next postcards show some displays of hex signs theat are not attributed to an artist of manufacturer.

 

 

The next postcard shows a colorful roadside sign advertising Dutch Haven Barn, a gift shop near Lancaster, PA.

 

 

The last postcard shows hex signs used as decoration in Miller's Pennsylvania Dutch Smorgasbord near Lancaster.

 

 

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