Ghost Signs of Philadelphia

You can still see Philadelphia through the ages. This is most obvious in Old City, where you can see Philly as it was in colonial times, but it’s also true of later eras. The city’s history is tattooed into its walls. 

This is the history graphic designer Lawrence O’Toole discovered when creating his book Fading Signs of Philadelphia, which chronicles advertisements throughout the ages. Many of the deteriorating hand painted signs of Philadelphia are still visible today, if you know where to look.

Surrounded by modern neon and plastic, the ghost signs of Philadelphia peek out to remind us of Philadelphia in the early 20th century. From the early days of motorized transportation to the first movie theatres showing Talkies, O’Toole has captured the evolution advertisement. The beautiful, clear handcrafted lettering stands in stark contrast to modern signage.

You can read more about the project on here or see more of our city’s hand painted signs at O’Toole’s blog. You can purchase his book now on Amazon