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Roadside Signs and Markers

There are many types of signs and markers depicted on postcards. Sometimes the sign is the main or only subject. Sometimes the sign plays more of a supporting role, such as a sign for a motel or restaurant, or as part of a larger scene.

All of the postcards shown here are standard size chromes. There are some signs pictured on linen postcards, but signs did not become a popular subject for postcards until the chrome era.


The most basic type of roadside sign is the type that marks the road itself. There are signs for U. S. highway, interstates, and other roads. These are usually of a standardized type giving only basic information such as the road number or name, directions, and mileages.

U.S. Route 1 is a major north–south U.S. highway that serves the East Coast of the United States. It runs 2,369 miles from Key West, Florida to Fort Kent, Maine, at the Canadian border.


The Continental Divide separates the watersheds that drain into the Pacific Ocean from those that drain into the Atlantic Ocean. Signs mark the highways at the passes. Wolf Creek Pass is on U. S. 160 in Southern Colorado.


Interstate 75 is a major north–south highway running from Hialeah, Florida to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, at the Canadian border. It passes through six different states: Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio and Michigan. The description on the back of this postcard describes the route through Kentucky.



Many states and municipalities have roadsigns welcoming motorists. About half of the states have postcards showing their state welcome signs.

This Alabama welcome sign includes the name of John Patterson who served as governor from 1959 – 1963.


This Michigan welcome sign is the overhead type. This type is usually used on busier roads, where signs posted on the side of the highway would be hard for drivers to see. A small traffic sign, warning of a curve ahead, is also visible on this postcard.


Olney, Illinois is known for its white squirrels, which are featured on this sign along with emblems of civic organizations and banks.


Brazil "INDIANA THAT IS" had a beautiful Welcome billboard. The Charfariz Dos Contos is a replica of a Brazilian fountain that was given to the city in 1956 as a friendhip gift by Brazil, South America.



More than fifty years ago, Covey's Little America at the junction of U. S. 30 North and South in Wyoming was “America’s New Travel Center”. It was famous for having “the largest gas station in the world.” The yellow sign between the posts advertises 55 pumps and S&H green stamps. There was also a 300-capacity coffee shop and dining room and 150 motor lodge rooms.


The Ohio Turnpike was built from 1949 to 1955, about the same time as Little America, but the different style highway called for different style signs. This sign at a plaza on the Ohio Turnpike couldn't be simpler.


The Chief Restaurant / Diner in Durango, Colorado had a large Indian sign in front with a mechanical arm that moved up and down as if to wave. Another sign ran across the front of the diner, and a large totem pole sign on top advertised the Dining Room.


The Dog Team Tavern was a rustic restaurant near Middlebury, Vermont with a more folksy looking sign.


The sign on Duluth, Minnesota's Viking Motel looks like it is about to sail away in the sky, perhaps to land in nearby Lake Superior..


Holiday Inn's "Great Sign" was designed in 1952 and used on the numerous Holiday Inns for about thirty years. "It consisted of a marquee box; a tower with either red, orange, or blue neon lighting, a large chasing arrow that always pointed towards the motel/hotel, and a four-stage flashing animated neon star at the top. It had 1,500 feet (460 m) of neon tubing and over 500 incandescent light bulbs." (source: Wikipedia)

This 1950s Holiday Inn in North Lima, Ohio seems to have an identity crisis. The Holiday Inn sign calls it a HOTEL; a roof sign calls it a MOTEL; and a sign on the side of the building calls it a MOTOR COURT.

A night view of a Holiday Inn sign in Norman, Oklahoma:


South of the Border (the North Carolina / South Carolina border) is a rest stop with not only food, gas, and lodging, but also a small amusement park and curio stores. This sign represents its mascot Pedro. At the time this postcard was published, this 100-foot-tall sign was said to be the largest free-standing sign East of the Mississippi.



A huge frontiersman welcomed visitiors to the Old West at Rimrock City, Texas.


This entrance sign at Florida's Silver Springs was a spectacular example of mid-century modern design.


The 52-foot-tall Shell Factory sign is a mix of plastic and neon. It has changed little over the years.



Three huge redwood logs formed a sign marking the entrance to Big Trees Park. Big Trees Park became a part of the newly formed Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park in 1954.


The Natchez Trace Parkway is a 450-mile drive memorializing a series of Indian trails that became a wilderness roadway between Natchez and Nashville. It is administered by the National Park Service.


The Badlands National Monument Headquarters sign is shown against a backdrop of some of the grotesque rock formations there. Bad Lands National Monument was redesignated a national park in 1978.



The following description is from a web page:

Roadside historic markers are our windows to the past. They educate us, they make us curious to investigate, or they provide a nice excuse to take a break and stretch our legs while we read what happened here.

Many states have distinctive official styles for their roadside historic markers.

This Continental Divide historic marker is on U. S. Highway 66 in New Mexico. New Mexico began using rustic brown wooden markers to promote tourism in 1935 (source). This style has also been used for the state's welcome signs.


The Oklahoma Department of Highways established a highway marker program after World War II. By the mid-1970s there were more than 250 markers beside Oklahoma roadways and on historic sites (source). Oklahoma historic markers use the central design from the state flag at the top of the marker. This is an Indian war shield decorated with eagle feathers and overlaid with two peace symbols--a peace pipe and olive branch. The Cherokee Strip historic marker is on U. S. 81 South of Enid, Ollahonma.


Kansas had a historical markers program through the 1960s, but there is no current program to add new markers (source). Kansas is known as the "Sunflower State," and most of the state's historic markers have sunflower designs at the top. This marker marks the geographic center of the 48 contiguous states.



The Usinger Sausage Elf trademark was featured on Milwaukee billboards. Several different Usinger billboards were featured on postcards. This postcard is from 1962.


The Industrial Credit Company used a postcard with one of their billboards to advertise consolidation loans in 1956.



The "World Traveler Signpost" at Lynchville, Maine is one of the best known of the American signs that have appeared on postcards. The names on the sign are of real Maine locations that were named after foreign countries and cities.


Abourezk's Store advertised on humorous signs leading to Mission, South Dakota. These signs poke fun at President Lyndon Johson and his wife Lady Bird, who believed that a prime way to beautify highways was to remove roadside billboards.


The Petrified Watermelons (a.k.a. rocks) sign is one of the humorous signs posted by "Fearless Farris The Stinker," owner of Stinker service stations in Idaho. The back of the postcard has the following description:

The Sagebrush covered valleys of the Intermountain West harbor much animal life and hold panoramic beauty unrivaled. To the uninitiated or the hurried traveler the miles stretch monotonously until the road signs of, "Fearless Farris The Stinker", strikes the curiosity. The ex-sheepherding Stinker kids the natives and Tourists Flora and Fauna with numerous signs that eventually lead to the Big Skunk Signs that identify his, "horribly dignified", modern service stations.


At one time there were more than 250 South of the Border signs between Philadelphia and Daytona, Florida. The number of signs has diminished, and their messages have become more politically correct.


Watson Lake, Yukon is at mile 635 of the Alaska Highway. In 1942, a homesick U.S. soldier working on the Alaska Highway put up a sign with the name of his home town and the distance. Since then, travelers have been adding signs for their hometowns. This postcard shows a twenty year accumulation. The wall-like display has now turned into the Signpost Forest with over 77,000 signs.




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