Missoula’s “Best” Ghost Sign
Of the more fascinating ghost signs I encounter are the ones that represent multiple layers of advertising like this one in an alley in Missoula, Montana. No other ghost sign in that town of the dozen or so I have documented has the complexity or variance that this one does, nor are there any with multiple colors like this one. Curious as to why this one building attracted so many advertisers, beside the fact that it is on the side of the old Atlantic hotel, I scoped the streets. It was not a reach to conclude it had something to do with the fact that the building also touted a lunch counter and the wall faced the direction of the train station where people would be embarking. This is a great example of how brick advertisements enticed weary travelers and locals to stop for a Coca Cola and a smoke.
Judging by the fact that most of the signs are broken up by the placement of windows it is obvious the wall was once an un-interrupted impressive display of advertising.On the right side of the wall on the bottom there is a faint graphic of Bull Durham Smoking Tobacco which was popularly painted across the country by Thomas Cusak Comany and an advertisement for an Outdoor Store. Try as I might I cannot make out signs below what is”TORE” and a graphic to the left. Judging from the published Bull Durham Smoking Tobacco signs I have seen I suspect the “ING” is part of “SMOKING.” If so, it would suggest that the Bull Durham ad was a very large display. I was a bit dismayed to see that the great representation of multiple ghost signs had recently added graffiti. Being one who photographs and has researched train graffiti I know many artists have a code of sorts that rejects painting over ghost signs. Too bad someone had to “save the date” on the wall of these great apparitions.
I have posted multiple views of this sign, including some close ups, on my Flickr page so please visit if you want to decipher this very interesting puzzle. There is also a very thoughtful editorial in the Tacoma Tribune published this June that discusses the trend of repainting ghost signs along with a possible compromise of retaining the history and mystery of multiple images.