Signs are a prominent form of advertising. They have carried on this tradition for centuries. The Romans, Greeks and other earlier civilizations denoted the purpose of a place by using signs. This informed the would-be patrons of the purpose of the structure and its contents. Medieval pub inns used signs accordingly. Someone who was skilled in wood and the use of metals produced the occasional sign, but it was not his craft. A sign company, per se, did not emerge until later.

A Brief American History of Signs

Advertising was originally, an outdoor medium. Its purpose was to indicate the point of sale as well as the various goods and products sold. Earlier companies in American followed this path, although advertisements did appear in newspapers. These, however, were not signs and not the product of a sign making industry.

Sign companies were prolific in some towns by at least the mid-19th century. In fact, the United States was home to around 300 small companies that had created signs and bills in the 1870s. The interest in this craft was such, several companies joined together to form the International Bill Posters’ Association of North America in 1872. This was St. Louis, but it was in Chicago that the Associated Bill Posters’ Association of the US and Canada came together in 1891. This same city also saw the beginnings of the electric lighting of outdoor signage or billboards.

The company formed in 1900 to produce electric signs was Federal Electric Company (today Federal Sign, Division of Federal Signal Corp.). This offshoot of Commonwealth Edison Company, moved from renting out arc lights to manufacturing electric signage. This was the latest wave for sign companies to adopt and endorse. Whether they chose to provide arc lamps or positioned electric lights by their signs, it was all about promotion. Neon lights were to take the use of lit signage a step further.

Although the invention of neon lights had preceded World War I, it was not until after it that the system began to have a major impact on advertising. It was one that advertising agents and sign companies both perceived as a means of improving their ability to get the message out there for their clients. In the end, it was to be a boom for many sign company, advertising business and commercial enterprise. It was the beginning of a new era in the industry.

A Sign Company Today

Today, the industry that provides Americans with high quality signage has grown considerably. The country hosts more than 3,000 sign companies of various sizes. The methods of production are also a reflection of the advances made in technology. From digital printing to backdrop lighting, the industry is changing to meet the demands of customers. Thanks to technology, a sign company can provide creative designs quickly for an affordable rate ranging from large murals to adorn California mansion walls to small business cards for a working person in Chicago.