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About the Photos

Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

© 2018 SHORPY INC.

[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Reflections on a Stop Sign: 1936

Reflections on a Stop Sign: 1936

March 1936. Washington, D.C. "No caption (man with stop sign)." Our second look in as many days at traffic sign history. Harris & Ewing photo. View full size.

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Reflector buttons

Modern stop signs also use spherical reflectors, but they are now teeny-tiny glass balls embedded into an adhesive tape, made by 3M.


"And by simple letter substitution, the sign can urge the motorist to shop!"

Shapes, Colors and Buttons

The color of this sign is likely yellow. While the octagon shape was adopted fairly early, making it red was optional in the absence of a durable inexpensive red paint. The need to reflect headlights for night use led to extensive use of small round "button" reflectors inside the text. This sign may have been testing letter coloring and reflectivity.

Sliding tile game?

Hey, boss, look at all the different words we can make if the letters can be swapped!


Don't stop me, I'm on a roll here.

Upon close inspection

it seems the sign was a grade eight woodworking class project.

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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