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Ghost signs of Launceston

Due to popular demand we are republishing a story and associated images by Jonathan Cant.

Having preserved its architectural heritage better than most Australian cities, Launceston has also retained, inadvertently or otherwise, some of its earliest outdoor advertising.

A leisurely stroll through Australia's third oldest city will reveal some of our country's best examples of pre war architecture, Colonial Georgian, Victorian, Federation, Edwardian, Art Deco and Streamline Moderne: It's all here within walking distance. And attached to some of these structures are 'ghost signs'.

USUALLY IN THE FORM OF HAND-PAINTED LETTERING AND ART ON BRICKWORK, THESE 'BRICKADS' - AS THEY'RE ALSO KNOWN - CARRY THE NOW-FADED CLAIMS OF ANOTHER TIME.


Showcased below is a selection of photos depicting the advertising tone of this bygone era. They offer us a glimpse into, not only the types of products on the market all those years ago, but the way in which they were promoted. It's also interesting to note the proportion of old signs around town touting some form of fermented (or distilled) beverage.

J Boag & SonThis one for James Boag's is on the outer wall of what was once known as The Lame Dog Hotel (and later, The Tamar Hotel) on William Street. The restored Georgian-style building now houses Boag’s Centre for Beer Lovers. 

Off St. John Street, on the side of the Berkana Bookshop, is an ad for yet another Merchant. Apparently Apple Isle Sparkling was (and still is) a sweet cyder. And no, that's not a misspelling of 'cider', just an archaic version of the word.

Apple Isle Sparkling Cyder

As for the illustration, you could say they really tapped into something here with the straight-from-the-fruit freshness idea. On the little guy's shirt, you'll also notice a 'C' for 'Cascade'. The artwork was produced by a company called MODERN SIGNS. In old press ads for this cider, as a novel way of saying 'Serve Chilled', the distributor was known to use the slogan:

"OFF THE ICE IT’S TWICE AS NICE."


Next up, this site on Charles Street has seen better days. However, it would appear from what remains here, that the text in white capitals reads:
C. H. SMITH & CO PTY LTD
SHIPPING & Agents bookings
Wholesale merchants
Marine supplies
Tarpaulins


Presumably, at a later stage, the text was redone in black capitals to read:
C.H. SMTIH & CO. PTY LTD
WOOL & GRAIN STORES

And below that, is an advertisement for one of the many products they carriess – seen as white shadowed test on a blue background:

Reckitt's Blue

Reckitt's Blue was a domestic bleaching agent or whitener sold as a solid block. Reckitt’s Blue was also somewhat of an Australian folk remedy “to relieve the itching of mosquito and sand fly bites.” And, in African-American folk magic, it was “sometimes used by doctors to provide the blue colour needed for 'mojo hands' without having to use the toxic compound copper sulfate.”

Van Diemens

Van Diemen & Co. was a maker of cherry brandy (most likely advertised here), apricot brandy, curacao red, crème de menthe, and gin sling - along with various other wine liqueurs and cocktails. The company was based in Hobart, though I’d like to point out, that it’s not to be confused with the more recently created Van Diemen Distillery who make vodka and also a raspberry liqueur; or Van Dieman (with an ‘a’) Brewing who produce an excellent range of craft beers over at Evandale.

Hopefully, these old ghost signs will continue to haunt us for a little while longer. From a creative perspective, I believe there’s much to love about their character – especially the ‘fading ads’. The weathered paintwork, the textures, the typefaces, and the hand-drawn imperfection all hark back to an uncomplicated way of life in a city that said no to high-rise a long time ago.

Have you spotted any ghost signs in your area? Feel free to share your pictures of ghost signs with us at info@atmmarketing.com.au Please ensure you tell us your name and where the ghost sign is situated.