OLD ADVERTISING SIGNS
Enamel or Vitreous Enamel is a thin layer of glass fused by heat on to the surface of a metal,it was the material used to produce the now highly collectable advertising signs produced during the early 20th Century which were part of the everyday street scene.
The durability of the early advertising signs, still showing the brilliance of the original colours after a hundred years, is one of the best examples of the long-term colour stability of vitreous enamel.
Vitreous enamel is strong and hard wearing,it retains its bright colours far longer than paint or print.
The companies who had the equipment to do this could also use it for making other items where enamelled sheets were useful and they provided a range of such things, including panels which imitated ceramic tiles, fire surrounds and fire screens.
Likewise companies that were mainly engaged in enamelling other sorts of goods could turn their hands to enamelled signs, dependant on the size of their furnaces.
Enamel advertising signs were first manufactured in Birmingham in the 1880s, quickly becoming the principal advertising medium of the Victorian / Edwardian era. By 1900 every shopping street in Britain were displaying the signs. Eventually millions of enamel signs were manufactured for display on shop fronts all over the world, yet by the 1970s virtually all of them had been scrapped, their usefulness having been overwhelmed by more modern forms of advertising such as multiple sheet paper hoardings and by television advertising.
With multi coloured designs of which there were many the process had to be repeated each shade being fired separately at around 900 degrees.This painstaking process resulted in beautifully designed signs in striking colours. often incorporating the prices to reflect virtually inflation free times. Not the kind of thing you could do these days,especially the beer and cigarette prices.
They remained in situ for many years but today few can be seen in their original places. Many are now in museums, on old steam railway platforms, and of course in the hands of ardent collectors.