SHORPY Historic Photo Archive & Fine-Art Prints
The Shorpy Archive
6000+ fine-art prints suitable for framing. Desk-size to sofa-size and larger, on archival paper or canvas.
Join and Share

Social Shorpy

Syndicate content
Syndicate content
Syndicate content
Daily e-mail updates:


Member Photos

Photos submitted by Shorpy members.

Colorized Photos

Colorized photos submitted by members.

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]

JUMP TO PAGE   100  >  200  >  300  >  400  >  500  >  600

Is Your Child Healthy?

Is Your Child Healthy?

November 28, 1923. Washington, D.C. "Children's Bureau." An intriguing apposition. National Photo Company Collection glass negative. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5


My father too was a hand-letter sign painter. He worked into the 90's until he passed at 89. There are still places around my hometown with examples of his hand-lettered signs and cards.


It looks as though she has used one of the largest Speedball nibs, though I'm not sure what was available back then in the way of lettering tools.

I've done a fair bit of calligraphy & lettering, myself, but my own handwriting is generally not very good, unless I take two or three times as long as I usually do.

Computer Glitch?

The spacing on the fourth line really stands out to me. All of the words are very well spaced, but then there is an oversized gap between the two words of the fourth line, indicating perhaps, a glitch in her placement computation. I am a very symmetrical person when it comes to design, so assymetry drives me nuts!

Another skill goes by the wayside...

I've always admired the work of signpainters and hate thinking about the downside of our migration to digital being the more-or-less demise of signpainting and letterpress printing.

Me, I learned to letter in Drafting class, and I once bought all those Speedball pens and learned some rudimental signpainting skills--just enough to appreciate the work of the true craftspersons.

Here are some photos to peek at at Flickr:

A Lost Art

My father owned a sign business and often did hand-lettering up through the 1960s. It's a shame people now must rely on the impersonal perfection of computers. It should be noted that while my father's commercial lettering was lovely, his personal handwriting was pretty near illegible. Go figure!

A lost skill

When I was a beginning typesetter in the mid-1980s, our shop was next to an old-school signpainter who was incredibly skilled in hand lettering. He did all the signs in our building, and I wish I still had some samples of his work, because you'll never see such a thing again. At the time, we sent him a fair amount of work because he could work in much larger formats than we could with our phototypesetting equipment, which was limited to (I think) 12" in width. To blow it up on film or velox was a big additional cost and also size-limited. If you wanted a sizeable sign, the signpainter was the only way to go.

Today's Shorpy Vocabulary Word


Faint lines

To keep height of letters even, she has clearly drawn faint lines to guide her. I still admire her skill, though. I've had teachers in the past who could do this on the blackboard but I think writing, itself, is a lost art.

A real in-house graphic designer caught on camera!

beautiful hand lettering... the chart in back also looks pretty amazing.


A very important skill in those days. Nowadays such a poster would always be composed on a computer: the text would be typed in and automatically come out even. She is able, no doubt from long practise, to produce letters which are all exactly the same size, lie on a perfectly horizontal line, and are even aligned to the centre, entirely by hand.

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.

Syndicate content RSS | Contact Us | Privacy Policy | Photo Use | © 2018 Shorpy Inc.