Ghost Signs

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 28 Nov 2019

Member Reviews

The wannabe archaeologist/historian in me absolutely loved this book!  Mastropolo uses what he refers to as ghost signs, faded ads and business signage on brick buildings in lower Manhattan, to take the reader back to a time when  immigrants to Manhattan set up shop and advertised in a 19th century manner.  
Pop up ads in the late 1800's and early 1900's  were painted with a long lasting lead paint or cut in stone and although the businesses themselves are gone their memory is not forgotten.  Often times, new businesses allowed the paint to remain and although sometimes covered with neon signs the originals can still be deciphered.  
The author includes pictures to go along with historical facts about the neighborhoods, businesses and the entrepreneurs who owned them making the book come to life. Fascinating factoids are quite interesting and pertain to companies in still in existence today.
With Mastropolo as my inspiration, I'll pay closer attention to older buildings in my city and wonder about their historical significance  with clues left behind by those who came before.
Thank you NetGalley, the author and publisher for advanced copy of the e-book in exchange for a honest review.
On sale in November, 2019
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This book looks at the ghost signs in downtown Manhattan .  Ghost signs are not just those painted on the sides of buildings by "walldogs", but also the moulded insignia's you may see, those painted on wood or ones made from steel.

The book is split into six main chapters looking at ghost signs including: Shopping, Working, Meeting, Discoveries, Make-Believe and Almost gone.

Each photograph of the ghost sign comes with a little history to its origin, location and it's current situation.  There are even ones that you thought genuine but were actually put there for a film backdrop.

It's a book for the coffee table that's for sure and would certainly encourage you to go hunting for your own or trying to spot the ones in this book if you are a New Yorker or visitor.

I love the idea of ghost signs sitting on the side of a building, showing its history for the world to see.  Around where I live there are not many, but I always check to see if the ones I know are still there as it would be such a shame for it to disappear.  I hadn't considered the moulded insignia's as a ghost sign, but I certainly will be looking for those too from now on in my town.  I'd recently seen a newsagent sign come down and behind was an old name painted on the wood, it made me wonder at it's history.

I received this book from Netgalley in return for a honest review.
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Thanks to Netgalley and Schiffer Pubslishing for providing this ARC in return for an honest review.

Ghost Signs by Frank Mastropolo is a trip through Manhattan signage, some painted on buildings as a ghostly reminder of businesses that are now long gone. There are also old signs in metals, neon, and plastics, the materials that caused such change in the signage business and lead to the painted signs falling out of favor.

The reason so many of the signs painted on buildings still lingers is because leaded paint was used. The painters called themselves "walldogs" because they worked like dogs, suspended on scaffolding, sometimes for days at a time to complete the signage. All the while, they were unknowingly being affected by the lead paint.

It is a fascinating trip along with Frank. Not only are there loads of photos of the signs, but there are stories about the people that ran the businesses, sometimes going back generations. There's even a section in the book about fake ghosts signs, leftovers from scenes or sets of films like The Godfather.

 Ghosts Signs is nostalgic and comforting, and makes me miss the old days of more independent businesses and the diversity of the people who started them.
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This absolutely delightful book showcases signs of closed businesses that linger on throughout Manhattan. From painted signs several stories to neon to signs carved into the buildings themselves, this book is a delightful window into the past.

And once you see theses, you'll start looking for them in your own town.
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Congratulations to Mr. Mastropolo on this amazing book. He obviously has a talent for viewing history through the weathered and worn signs that were left behind.

I am a lover of all things urban and especially get a kick out of social artifacts that are hidden in plain view. I can easily picture myself strolling down a business-filled street of Manhattan in the 20s and 30s when the lead paint was still wet.

I am very impressed by the amount of research, both written and photographed, that went into the making if this book. I highly recommend this book to any city explorer or purveyor of unusual history.
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Ghost Signs are the bits of white lead paint, forgotten signs, and other pieces of advertising from a bygone era. Frank Mastropolo takes readers on a historical tour of New York, showing us the evidence of stores and gathering places that are no longer in business. The historical aspect of this book was phenomenal. Ghost Signs is a quick read and a must have for New Yorkers or those interested in older advertising.
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I really enjoyed this book as a shallow dive into the neighborhoods' and industries' histories as well as that of the signs. I never knew it was the lead paint that allows some of the signage elements to linger. 

Focusing mainly on the Lower East Side/East Village, Little Italy and Chinatown, the West Village, SoHo and Tribeca, the book explores the manufacturing, retail and dining histories that leave behind these relics of living history in their signs. While I am familiar with some, others I walk past regularly or recently (Beauty & Essex), yet I never noticed them. I was only slightly disappointed that he didn't include my favorite Dumbo dentist in Chinatown. I'm so glad some businesses keep these signs even though they're not required to.

To be honest, this book would probably be better as a coffee table or other hard copy book. Kindle format & layout can make it hard to truly appreciate these signs.
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This book is about a curious feature of most large cities that have kept their older buildings, that if a sign is painted into a wall in a certain way, the sign remnants remain, long after the original business has left the face of the earth.

The book is divided into different types of signs, as well as signs that were put up for movies shot int he area, and then kept despite the filming being over.

Some signs are more visible than others, and, as the author points out, sometimes they are just painted over. 







It is an interesting voyage around New York, with little tidbits about each sign.

Thanks to Netgalley for makng this book available for an honest review.
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Not only a great photography book, GHOST SIGNS is also really informative about the history of the "ghost signs" in and around New York City.  I have found in the past that photography books struggle with the writing when they attempt to do both, but that was not the case with this book.  If you know a history buff or photography buff who loves NYC, this is a great book as a gift.  It made me want to wander the streets looking for these relics.
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This book contains an intriguing collection of old signs - known as ghost signs - in New York City. These are the weathered signs painted on the side of buildings, the rusted signs for inoperable fallout shelters, and many more. 

The author infuses these signs with a lot of interesting facts about NYC’s history. You’ll gain a basic overview of various neighborhoods and which groups of immigrants moved to them. You’ll also learn about these old businesses and their owners. 

Anyone who is interested in this type of history should enjoy Ghost Signs. Keep in mind that this is going to be much better as a print book or for the Kindle Fire. The black & white rendering of the Paperwhite makes it difficult to see why these signs are such a special piece of NYC’s history. 

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing an ARC. This review contains my honest, unbiased opinion.
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An interesting book encouraging us all to look for ghost sings of years gone by. I read this on a Kindle Oasis which is only in greyscale. I think it would be better read on a Kindle Fire or as a paper book to get the full sense of the colour schemes.
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Ghost Signs is a wonderful tour of New York City, as told from old business signs (most painted and now fading on the side of walls, but also plaques, marks, scrollwork, etc.).  Each sign's business/original owner is nicely researched, giving great perspective into the location as well as the changing landscape of the City's neighborhoods. Since the focus of the book is ghost signs, most signs are pre 1940s (when neon and plastic replaced painted walls and storefront entrances.

The book has six sections:  Chapter One has signs for shops. Chapter two has signs for industry. Chapter three has signs for hotels, bathhouses, YMCAs, etc. Chapter four has signs that were uncovered during renovations or demolitions. Chapter five has signs that were made for movies/filming but still remain, and chapter six has signs for business that are still in business.

The introduction has some perspective on the various NYC neighborhoods - from the origin of Wall street's name, the changing East Village, Tribeca's more modern roots, and more.  As well, the making of the painted signs and various madiums are briefly discussed. It makes for a quick read that puts the various signs into better perspective.

Each sign has one photograph (a few have two) and text describing the date of the sign, the purpose, and what happened to the owner (bankruptcy, moves, business transfers, etc.).  Signs as early as the 1840 and as contemporary as the 1980s are covered, and for all materials: tin, wood, paint, etching, cornices, etc.  The author researched quite a bit of the sign's owners and gives a bit of background on why that owner's business flourished or failed in the eras during and after the signs were created.

There are some very interesting revelations to be found.  For example, that signs/signage are not protected by the city's Landmarks Preservation Committee (painted signs are not considered a significant architectural feature).  So for many signs, they remain/exist long after the original business/owner left as a result of the current owner protecting and preserving that aspect of the city's history.  As well, the strong immigrant history (from Chinatown's to Little Germany) all contributed interesting aspects to the City through their businesses or business needs.

If I had a wish, it would be that there were more photos.  We are told of the dates the building was created with architectural details - but never get to see any of them beyond the sign's coverage.  The photographs for the book are all, for the most part, close ups of just the sign itself.  I found myself having/wanting to google several of the buildings to see what they looked like and where the sign was in relation to the rest of the building.

In all, I greatly enjoyed Ghost Signs.  It was a lovely journey through historical New York with interesting tidbits of such a dynamic city.  Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.
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