The golden age of print advertising

These vintage window posters were once the first line of promotions for films, plays and dances

By Steven Heller

Published March 20, 2012 12:00AM (EDT)

This article originally appeared on Imprint.

ImprintIn the age of LED and plasma screens at least one grass-roots design business will never go out of style … or need: the common window sign. Once a major source of income for print shops, these posters, also known as "show prints," were the staple of everyday advertising and communications. Now, the old ones are valued as antiques and the new ones, which lack the vintage patina, are taken for granted. But if you drive through any small town in America, you'll see these show prints promoting a county fair or other local spectacular. The days when they were the first line of promotion for films, plays and dances may be over, but they exist, just waiting to be collected.

Most people have heard of the Hatch Show Print company in Nashville, but this virtually forgotten Bower Show Print Company, "specializing in cardboard posters," from Fowler, Ind. (where the telephone number was "80"), is one of hundreds of mid-size printing businesses that served communities all over the nation. Here are some examples from their colorful catalog -- and a word from Mr. Bower, himself. (Note: The company name still exists in Waynetown and Veedersburg, Ind.)

Copyright F+W Media Inc. 2012.

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Steven Heller

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