Fonts

With our unique fonts created from historic sign painting manuals dating from the 1840s to the 1920s, you can develop signage that will help your business stand out to potential customers. You will also contribute to the sense of place in your neighborhood by having signage that complements the historic building your business is located in.

Our fonts were created specifically for storefronts to engage customers from a time when downtowns featured neighborhoods that were walkable, included mixed-use buildings of residential and commercial enterprise, and saw vehicle traffic that wasn’t moving at high rates of speed. Today, these same features are what contribute to the success of revitalized downtowns.

Each of these fonts are named after a community that is engaging in downtown revitalization through the National Main Street program. This is our way of honoring the successful impact Main Street America has had in sustainable economic development and historic preservation. As our sign font collection grows, we hope to recognize the revitalization work that is happening in your downtown through naming a future font after your community.

These authentic historic fonts are only available through our sign kit packages and the heritage signs that we offer. Explore our growing font collection, through these samples that were painted using our unique sign kit process:

Early 1800s

Our early 1800s fonts were reproduced from an 1840s sign painting manual that was written to explain the art of sign painting to those who did not have opportunities to serve as apprentices. The fonts in the book are a collection of common fonts then in use during the time period, meaning that the fonts pre-date when the book was published. Some of these fonts, or close variations, can be seen in use during the very early 1800s and further research is taking place to confirm their use in the late 1700s. Despite the early use of these fonts, many are seen in historic photographs and artifacts that date to the mid-nineteenth century, and beyond.

Mid to Late 1800s

America grew in the decades following the Civil War, and with it a large number of sign painting manuals were published. The fonts featured in these manuals ranged from variations of traditional fonts, to those that were freshly created on a drafting table. With large scale emigration and immigration during this period, businesses developed new signage strategies to attract potential customers who were not familiar with a community. To engage pedestrian traffic, sandwich boards and show cards grew in popularity. For reaching a population that was increasingly becoming literate, projecting sign boards were frequently seen spanning across sidewalks with only text to identify the products and services sold there. Similar text only signs were seen painted directly onto the false fronts of boom town architecture, and used fonts as a way to stand out from neighboring, and competing, businesses. While the fonts we offer in this grouping were developed in the 1800s, many continued to be used into the early twentieth century in downtowns across America.

Early 1900s

In the first part of the twentieth century, automobiles and streetcars grew in popularity and there was a need to have signage that could attract potential customers who were travelling at a higher rate of speed. Long horizontal signs that were either painted directly on buildings or flush mounted to facades were added to the layers of signage that businesses used to engage customers. During this time period there were also various architectural movements that gained popularity, and influenced sign fonts that had Craftsman or renaissance revival elements. It was during the latter part of this period that downtown signage would evolve into electric signs that featured light bulbs as a way to engage customers and illuminate signs.