Sunday, November 18, 2012

Visit Our New Website and Blog

Now that we've moved our physical home, we've also moved our virtual home to a new website complete with a new blog.

We are in the process of moving blog posts from this site to the new blog, but in the meantime there is new (and old) information on the website and blog that you might find interesting. Check the blog and Archives.

Please visit for the latest on activities at the American Sign Museum.

And don'forget to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sneak Preview Festivities Pave the Way for Grand Opening

On the one hand, it was a long time coming. On the other hand, the race was on to be ready for our target date of June 1 to debut our new home. Either way you look at it, Sneak Preview Weekend arrived and was a wonderful opportunity to welcome old friends and make new ones.
The weekend was to begin with the Second First Annual American Sign Museum Golf Classic Friday morning. Sadly, it was rained out. But thanks to all the golf sponsors and participants who meant well... and to those who generously donated their sponsorship and registration fees just the same.
Friday evening brought an invitation only gathering of museum supporters for a first look at the new site. Friends and family from Florida to Maine and even Canada were there. All heads were looking down as they entered, reading the inscribed pavers leading up to the entrance. All heads were looking up as they entered the museum and experienced the signs and displays throughout the space.

Wade Swormstedt kicks off the brief ceremony
Wade Swormstedt, editor / publisher of Signs of the Times Magazine and brother of museum founder Tod Swormstedt, emcee'd a brief ceremony that included recognizing the winners of the American Sign Museum Extra Mile Service Award. MANY people were instrumental in opening the new space, but everyone agreed United-Maier Signs and David and Suze Butler deserved to be the first recipients of the new award.

Roger Crice, Chairman of the Board of Trustees,
gives a shout out to very special friends, Sharon and Jim Wienel,
who were conspicuous in their unavoidable absence
Founder Tod Swormstedt pays homage to founding Board Members
no longer with us: Rick Glawson, Rudi Stern, and Steve Izenour
Win Swormstedt delights with deadpan anecdotes such as finding
4-year-old son Tod on the living room floor scouring the yellow pages
for crane trucks and fork lifts 

Elaine Wallis, all the way from Ontario presents presents the museum
a check for money raised in the name of David and Suze Butler (far left)
to be used to preserve the Main Street Reunion project on film.

Saturday was the actual Sneak Preview event, which offered the public an opportunity to see the museum in advance of the June 23 Grand Opening. Both events were not only an opportunity for museum folks to make new friends, but for visitors to connect with one another. A favorite was connecting creator Debra Jane Seltzer with Road Trip USA author, Jamie Jensen and fellow roadie Denny Gibson (Thanks for the use of the photos, Denny).

There was also lots of media attention that weekend, including some great commentary and images. Here's a favorite:

Now it's on to the Grand Opening Saturday, June 23. We'll be open our regular hours, with a brief ribbon cutting ceremony at 9:30 and Adult admission discounted to $10.00 for the day. We hope you'll join us on June 23 or anytime thereafter. Click here for hours, cost, and directions.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Veteran Sign Painters Lend Their Talent to the Cause

So, we built the storefronts, and we're installing our signs from yesteryear, but something was missing on Main Street. You know, those details that would bring a streetscape to life. One phone call to friends David and Suzie Butler, and they were on it. Now, as I'm writing this, a team of 27 veteran sign painters - most of them longtime friends - from across the U.S. and Canada are here for the week and busy filling in the blank spaces that will make all the difference in your Signs on Main Street Experience.

Project leaders each took on a particular storefront or wall and had their designs ready when they arrived so they could hit the ground running Monday morning. But anticipation was high, and most went straight to the museum from the airport on Saturday! And everyone was on hand to get started first thing Sunday!

For our Facebook fans, here an image of the Dulaney's storefront design.

Watching them work is a truly a sight to behold, and as soon as we have some breathing room, we plan to post more info and images for all to see. Here are just a few images to show the breadth of talent (we're estimating the team represents about 1,000 YEARS experience) these folks bring. And this is just 3 days' worth! Much more to come!



Again, this is just a sampling of the last few days, with much more to come. Hope to see you when we open in June!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

New Home Update

More old friends are arriving at the new site every day
It's been two months since we've begun moving in earnest. Life hasn't exactly been on hold, and given the small crew and rig we've been working with, we've made incredible progress. THANK YOU ALBERTO AND OSCAR! We now have EVERYTHING out of the formal museum space and are moving the signs from the sign garden. More old friends are arriving at the new site every day! The goal right now is to get everything completely out of the Essex Studios space; getting everything installed in the new space is another matter...

Alberto and Oscar bring the Bernie's sign into place

Sean Druley ponders ROHS Hardware

Meanwhile, craftsman Sean Druley is putting the finishing touches on the Main Street storefronts before beginning work on the lobby area.

He has completed the facades, and is now working on cabinets for the storefront windows that will hold smaller displays.

And one by one, signs are being installed and lit.

We're really excited to have a team of veteran sign painters coming the week of March 19th to 'authenticate' the walls and storefronts as only they can do. Here are some mockups of what they have in mind. With their plans for storefront windows and ghost signs on the brick walls, Main Street will really come to life!

We've sent 100+ inscriptions to the vendor for our engraved pavers that will be installed in the walkway leading up to the museum entrance as soon as we're sure of the weather. If you haven't gotten your paver yet, there's still room. Learn more and purchase a paver at our website.

Given the extensive work still to be done and scheduling conflicts, we are now planning a June Grand Opening. Details to follow...

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Bringing Artists, Signmakers, and Business Owners Together

Late last year, we began talking with community leaders about a possible grant that would fund bringing together local sign fabricators, artists, and businesses to help design and install signage in three Cincinnati area neighborhoods undergoing various stages of rebirth. Our proposal was one of 127 selected from among 2,200 applicants. We've submitted the full application and are now awaiting a decision, due later this year. This is what the American Sign Museum is all about! Below is the document prepared for a press release. Keep your fingers crossed!

The Creative Intersection of
Artist, Signmaker, and Neighborhood Business

The American Sign Museum is applying for a grant from ArtPlace ( to fund the CoSign initiative. CoSign will enhance economic activity in three artistic Greater Cincinnati neighborhood business districts by pairing artists, small businesses, and professional sign fabricators to design and install unique handcrafted signage for local retailers; and in the process, create an infrastructure to train the next generation of local signmakers.

Description of the Work
Over-the-Rhine revitalization at work
CoSign will design and install a critical mass of new business signage in three active business districts in communities experiencing significant redevelopment and reinvestment - Over-the-Rhine and Northside in Cincinnati, and Covington, KY.
The signage will be created by a unique partnership of a visual artist, a small business owner, and a professional sign fabricator, all coordinated through the leadership and expertise of the American Sign Museum.
The year-long project will commence with a two-day public workshop. Day 1 will educate business owners and artists on the economic value of signage and permitting requirements. Day 2 will feature presentations by noted sign designers and demonstrations of fabrication and installation techniques. Following the workshop, a screening process will match small businesses with visual artists and sign professionals. The artists will meet with the business owners to collaborate on designs that meets the business' needs. The artists will then partner with sign companies to fabricate and install the signage. In some cases an existing historic sign may be restored. The cost of each sign will be split between the business owner and the ArtPlace grant funds. In addition to providing program oversight, the American Sign Museum staff, exhibits, and library will serve as a resource for sign history research and design inspiration. The Museum will also provide a venue for seminars, meetings, and fabrication workspace as its location is less than three miles from the three business districts.
CoSign builds on three neighborhoods' embrace of arts-oriented development, local identities, and local businesses. Over-the-Rhine hosts storied and emerging arts institutions, 3CDC has renewed neighborhood commercial corridors, and the ArtPlace-funded SpringBoard artisan entrepreneurship program in is full operation. In 2010, the Northside Business Association voted to make chain stores a conditional use in their business district to retain its unique local character. The City of Covington, Kentucky, offers a robust package of arts district incentives and in 2007 opened their Artisan Enterprise Center. Lead organizations in each neighborhood will be full partners in this proposal.

Anticipated Impact
The impact of this program will be fourfold: (1) Three business districts will strengthen their respective identities and increase their economic activity with the immediate visual impact resulting from new signage for local businesses; (2) As the appreciation for high-quality handcrafted signage increases, local artists will be trained to become the next generation of local signmakers; (3) The American Sign Museum will leverage its history and expertise to benefit its community directly and economically; and (4) After a pilot phase, this program will be replicated in other neighborhoods and other regions.

Project Status
The CoSign proposal was selected as one of 127 finalists from among 2,200 applicants. A full application was submitted to ArtPlace on February 15, 2012. If the grant is awarded, the initial year-long project will take place between the fall of 2012 and fall of 2013.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Now the Fun Really Begins. Want to Help?

Close the current site with a flourish. Check.
This past Saturday was our last day open at Essex Studios. We finished our seven-year run there with an Open House that was a great success thanks to our Board members, staff, and volunteers. And especially thanks to our faithful supporters and to our new friends who came to the museum for the first time as a result of hearing about the event through the local media - particularly a great spread in the Cincinnati Enquirer, thanks to reporter Brent Coleman. Here are some picures of the event.
Board member Chris Danforth
calls upon his popcorn making skills
learned when he was a movie
theater employee.
Volunteer Gary Young creating
cotton candy masterpieces.

Folks of all ages came to see us.
Even Kahnie the Pig
came to help celebrate! 

Let's not forget, it's all about the signs

Get Certificate of Occupancy for the new site. Check!
There are still some details to finish with the rehab of the building, but we now have our certificate of occupancy. Now we can really start to play. The storefronts are coming along and are looking great. The Speedee and HoJo signs are in place, and the folks at NeonWorks are busy bringing them back to life. All of our smaller items that have been stored elsewhere have been moved to the new site, and now we can begin dismantling the Essex exhibits and moving them as well. Here are some pictures of our progress.

Create a Posse of Volunteers and New/Continuing Supporters.
Here's where you come in. There are a lot of ways you can help:
Lenny Diaspro is a volunteer
docent at the museum

Volunteer to help us move. We can't say exactly when at this time, but if you are willing, we've got a job for you! And if you have a truck or van you would be willing to use to help us move, all the better. Contact us at

Volunteer at the new site. This is a ways out, but we will be looking for greeters, tour guides, and more to be a part of the museum experience once we open. And we'll want you to be ready to go well before we actually open our doors. Contact us at 

Samples of small items
Donate a small item for a storefront. Salesman's kit, samples, early materials... we're open to suggestion. If you have something that might be of interest, send us a photo and the pertinent information at

Become a part of the museum
through a financial donation you will be able to see at work: 

Adopt a Sign - contribute to the restoration of a sign. Your efforts will be recognized alongside the sign.

Purchase a Paver - get in on the ground floor, literally, by purchasing a paver engraved with your personal message on it.

Sample panel
Paint a panel - are you a sign painter? Purchase a panel you can paint with your own message, logo, whatever, and see it on display in our lobby.

Sponsor a storefront or exhibit area. For this, you'll need to contact us directly.

Become a member. This tried and true method of support is always needed to support general operations.

There are lots of fun ways to get in on the action. Join us!

Monday, November 7, 2011

It's the Little Things...

The greatly expanded new home of the museum has created the opportunity for many more specialized displays of sign-related items. Construction has been proceeding full-speed ahead at our new home since it began back in mid-August,and by mid-December, we should have occupancy. There’s still plenty of work to do in refining the exhibits and displays, but the biggest task will begin in January, when we start to move the contents of our original home over to the new building. 

I’m often asked if we have enough signs to fill the new home. My usual response is, “More than enough." What we still are searching for, however, are the smaller items which will accompany the signs on display.

We’re also greatly expanding the number of storefronts whose windows become our themed display cases. The Camp Washington site will have 14 storefronts spread out along the Signs on Main Street area. The various themed areas—signpainting, goldleaf, lightbulb signs, etc. will also have featured displays with themes like smalts, opal glass letters, etc. 

You can help.

If you know me, you know I am particularly fond of salesman samples. These are the items you may have in your back closets, under your work benches or maybe on some forgotten back wall that once served as a sales room. They can be free-standing or wall-mounted, in a display case or loose in your bottom drawer. Whatever form they might take, we’re looking for such donations.

We recently acquired two such salesman’s samples. One was gift of the museum’s go-to expert on vintage point-of-purchase signs—Dave Greene of Cincinnati.  He usually exhibits at the bi-annual Antique Advertising Show at the Indianapolis Fairgrounds, so he’s wheeling and dealing with the other dealers even before the show opens to the public.
When he saw the woodgrained porcelain enamel sample (see photo), he snatched it up right away, saying, “This one’s for the museum.”  When I walked into the show that Saturday morning, he walked up and presented it to me.  “Thought you’d like this,” he said. Indeed, I do, and it’ll find a prominent place in our porcelain enamel area. 

He wasn’t finished. He next pulled out an original Zippo lighter box. “Here, I found this, too. It’ll look good in the museum as well.”  In the palm of his hand was a Neon Products engraved lighter with the copy, “30th anniversary.”  Very cool. 

The other new salesman sample acquisition was purchased from Wayne Woodrum of Wayne’s Neon Clocks, who often shares a booth with Dave. It's a pre-WWII salesman sample Glo-Dial clock in its original salesman “suitcase.”  The clock face is porcelain with a uranium glass border tube and two tubes encased in the bezel of the clock—one clear red, the other clear blue.  These internal tubes can be turned on and off with an independent switch. It’s a killer piece and will be a great addition to our exhibit of neon clocks.

We’re always looking for more salesman samples—whether they’re from sign product manufacturers or custom-made samples from sign companies.  Ad specialty items such as lighters, yardsticks, paperweights, match packs, pens, etc. are also wanted.
Remember, it's the little things. So before you toss it out, call Tod at the American Sign Museum @ 513-258-4020 or e-mail with a photo: . You, too, can be a part of your industry’s very own museum.