Photographic and Historical Record of Detroit’s Dissolving Outdoor Advertisements

Detroit outdoor advertising wall signs are nearly gone.

Most of the architectural canvas is gone too.

Uneeda Biscuit was incredibly successful on the East Coast with the original idea of wall advertising. Uneeda Biscuit was the first product of the National Biscuit Company (NBC, now Nabisco).


Absalom Backus came to Detroit in 1867, from unknown parts, and started a woven box/basket company with his brother and sons joining later.  Backus baskets were noted for shipping dogs.

Black Beauty Triple Sticthed  Shirts, copyright 1914, stood as an excellent wall advertising on Hamilton Ave. Detroit.  You may learn more here about this wall and the loss of the images.

In 1902, Buster Brown was developed as a comic strip for the New York Herald News Paper by Richard F. Outcault. Images of Buster Brown and his Dog Tige were licensed to Brown Shoe Company. Look up Buster Brown Shoes and see all the wonderful artwork.  Licensing later covered over 200 products, including bread by General Baking Company.

Champion Spark Plugs (later AC Spark Plugs of Toledo) wall sign was painted over by a muralist Hubert Massey depicting  neighborhood development at 7 Mile and Woodward, Detroit.

Under the motto “Honest value for an honest dollar,” the Carhartt bib overall was created and rapidly evolved into the standard for quality workwear.

Carhartt, started in Detroit in 1889, and is now based in Dearborn, Michigan. Carhartt owns and operates manufacturing and finishing facilities in Mexico, and European headquarters is in  Amsterdam. In all, more than 5,300  employees worldwide.

Quality Floor Covering  Grand River Ave. This location just blazes with color.  I look forward to Plastic Wall Tile.

Faygo Cola started in Detroit, Michigan, in 1907 as Feigenson Brothers Bottling Works.

Headline: “Greyhound Bus Lines Opens $3,000,000 modern “hospital” for buses.”

Learn more at this newspaper page.

Hartz Vitamins and Surgical Appliances building (1529 Broadway) went up in 1902  with multiple tenants. A fourth floor was added in 1926/27.

Henkel, Flour Mills.

Henkel Flour Mills had a large plant which sat on the Detroit River at Woodward and Jefferson,  with a roof top advertising sign.  (Photo archive Walter Reuther Library, Wayne State University.) Founded in 1928, the business changed its name to Robin Hood Flour and remained  part of the industrial river front landscape of large silos and warehouses. It was demolished in 1972 making way for the Renaissance Center project which changed the Detroit Riverfront dramatically forever.

Honor Bright boys apparel were made by Reliance Manufacturing Co. based in Chicago, IL. Circa 1914, this wall advertising was painted over. “”Honor Bright”was a division of the Reliance Manufacturing Company that made kids’ clothes and advertised in Boy’s Life Magazine. The term “honor bright” itself is an anachronism that meant something along the lines of “it’s the truth!” or “Scout’s honor!””

Editor : Suzy Sherman

You may read more Detroit Dissolving Blog stories at:


Tagged ,

Share This Page

Facebook LinkedIn

9 thoughts on “Photographic and Historical Record of Detroit’s Dissolving Outdoor Advertisements

  1. Love the Detroit history you educate you you’d with you. You have so much knowledge and you are so generous in sharing it with all, The photos are grand, of course, but their stories make them live. Would love to see a book of a lot of them in the future! Right now they are delightful surprises. Love, Jeanie

  2. Wonderful photos David! I never knew Buster Brown was more than just shoes. The Faygo Orange sign makes thirsty for a bottle.

  3. Well done, as always David. You are an artist.

  4. Great work as always David!

  5. Really great and valuable work, David. Well done!

  6. I wonder if any current paints would survive so long. I could see an extended project using the internet to discover sites. At what point does oxidation, flaking and time transform a commercial signpainter’s craft into art? A lot to explore here. Postcards? My first thought re the guy dancing by the Honor Bright sign is that all or none should have figures- in this case, one can’t help noticing the race aspect. As, always, thanks, glad you are on it, David

  7. Really nice collection with fine photography. Would you consider including the locations?

  8. Thank you David, I appreciate your efforts and the work!

  9. I really enjoy the pictures and their stories. it’s unknown history that makes them so interesting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *