Ghost signs of Australia’s advertising past are more than faded memories & More News Here

Faded signs are the ghosts of advertisers past — as soon as fastidiously hand-painted on billboards or enterprise partitions, then uncared for and ignored for many years, they’ve turn into markers of our cultural historical past.

These derelict commercials are generally known as “ghost signs” and so they entice a sure kind of ghost hunter.

Photographer Brady Michaels and accomplice and co-author Dale Campisi have toured Australia in an previous mini-van to snap and catalogue the elusive phantoms.

“We call them ghost signs because they are ghosts of the past,” Mr Michaels stated.

“Ghost signs typically discuss with the hand-painted signs. My definition is a bit broader, as a result of I’ll have a look at any previous, faded signal.”

Blue barn painted with Indian Root Pills advertisement.
Dr Morse’s Indian Root Pills ghost signal at Morpeth, close to Maitland in New South Wales.(Supplied: Brady Michaels)

Mr Michaels and Mr Campisi travelled about 40,000 kilometres on the way to producing their book, Signs of Australia.

They are part of a serious and growing sign-hunting community.

“Their mission in life is to doc these signs and to share them,” Mr Michaels said.

“They’re not all photographers, however I come at it from a more ‘arty’, photographic level of view.”

Painting of red dingo on side of a flour mill.
The well-known Dingo Flour register Fremantle, Western Australia, was initially painted in 1940.  (Supplied: Brady Michaels )

The photo is only part of the joy of being a “ghost hunter”. Much of the joy also comes from the hunt itself.

“It is certainly a treasure hunt, not realizing what you’ll discover. It’s a bit hit or miss,” Mr Michaels stated.

Large sign at entrance of Starlight drive in
What’s on in Watson? The Starlight Drive-In film register Watson, ACT.(Supplied: Brady Michaels)

Mr Michaels said mining towns offer rich pickings as businesses there go through boom-and-bust cycles.

Towns such as Broken Hill, Coober Pedy, Charters Towers, Clunes, and Ballarat are happy hunting grounds for ghost sign hunters.

“Different cities have completely different relationships with their previous signs. Some cities painted over them with a view that previous signs instructed cities that hadn’t moved with the instances,” Mr Michaels said.

“Others haven’t been touched and are nonetheless there. But there are additionally previous cities that recognise the attraction of these signs to attract individuals in.”

Faded signs advertising ice cream and butter in Broken Hill.
The Broken Hill Ice and Produce Company register Broken Hill, NSW. (Supplied: Brady Michaels)

Author and researcher Amy Tsilemanis tracked down and documented many old signs in and around Ballarat for a heritage project in 2015.

“I used to be requested to create a digital path for Ballarat Heritage Weekend and that led to co-producing the web site Ballarat Revealed,” Dr Tsilemanis said.

“That website continues to be accessible for individuals to discover as they stroll across the metropolis.

“The first trail was about buildings and we created a slider function where you could see the site as it was in the past and what it looks like now.

“For the next 12 months I labored on a second path, with native historian and archivist Lauren Bourke, discovering and photographing ghost signs round city and researching the tales behind them by way of native libraries and historic teams, Trove, and Public Records Office Victoria.

“It’s always important when doing research like this to credit your sources because so much work goes into collating and maintaining historical information.”

Painted sign of cartoon barman with bottle of Ballarat Bitter beer.
Ballarat Bertie nonetheless peddles his bitter in Ballarat.(Supplied: Brady Michaels)

Dr Tsilemanis’s analysis uncovered signs and tales of dentists, dressmakers, brewers, grocers, hoteliers, and more.

“As a lover of vintage advertising I was drawn to ones like Richards and Co photographers and the vivid descriptions of their wares, or really sweet ones like Jim and Marg Welsh’s dance studio,” Dr Tsilemanis stated.

“Many people around town will still remember fondly learning to dance there.

“There’s additionally those that reveal tales of immigration and the way individuals made houses and fashioned communities in Ballarat.”

Some ghost signs celebrate products which still exist. Others mark brands that have become ghosts themselves.

Holden is as iconic as any Australian brand. The logos and signs that still mark former dealerships have become tourist destinations for Holden owners with a penchant for photography.

Abandoned mechanical garage with faded Holden signs
It’s definitely worth the drive to the previous Holden storage in Boort, Victoria.(Commons: Mattinbgn)

ABC Ballarat’s classic car correspondent John Emery said car lovers appreciated some of the old signs almost as much as their own old cars.

“There are no new Holdens anymore, so the signs do not actually promote something now. But they are a visible reminder of that essential historical past.

“It’s not just car brands. Golden Fleece had service stations all over the place. Golden Fleece no longer exists as a brand but many of the signs are still there.”

Some ghost signs keep a presence even once they have fully faded or been painted over, Mr Emery stated.

“There used to be a Peters Ice Cream sign at Sandown Raceway and that corner became known as Peters Corner,” he stated.

“The old signs have been painted over, but that corner will always be known as Peters Corner.”

A faded former motor mechanic garage.
The ghostly stays of the Koroit Motor Garage in south-west Victoria. (Supplied: Brady Michaels)

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