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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.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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There Is a Happy Land: 1939

There Is a Happy Land: 1939

May 1939. "Signboard along highway in Alabama." Medium format negative by Marion Post Wolcott; Buick ad by Montgomery Melbourne. View full size.

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Beautiful sign

Here is an example of a well executed hand painted billboard. Usually a journeyman painter would do the pictorial and an apprentice would letter the text. Typically the design would be created by some ad agency who would contract with the billboard owner (Parker) to execute the project.

Looks like this was painted indoors on tin panels which were then nailed to the background of the board.

[These are pre-printed paper panels glued to the board. - Dave]

True origin of the song

Composed as a hymn by Andrew Young in 1838:

There is a happy land, far, far away,
Where saints in glory stand, bright, bright as day;
Oh, how they sweetly sing, worthy is our Savior King,
Loud let His praises ring, praise, praise for aye.

Come to that happy land, come, come away;
Why will you doubting stand, why still delay?
Oh, we shall happy be, when from sin and sorrow free,
Lord, we shall live with Thee, blest, blest for aye.

Bright, in that happy land, beams every eye;
Kept by a Father’s hand, love cannot die;
Oh, then to glory run; be a crown and kingdom won;
And, bright, above the sun, we reign for aye.

Adapted as a popular tune by Leonard P. Breedlove in 1850.

Then, in 1928, recorded as a snappy dance tune by the Nat Shilkret Victor Orchestra:

Not So Happy After All

The 1939 model year fell well short of being a happy one for Buick in light of its decision to economize by using a shortened chassis for the division's Special and Century models, which led to structural failures in the rear of the cars' bodies. No doubt a few engineers and execs were cashiered to career Happy Land over that one.

"There is a ... "

The second line of the hymn "There is a Happy Land" is "far far away," so this billboard was a play on its words. But it was not nearly as clever as one 19th-century parody of it, which Mark Twain, among others, was urged by his children to sing.

Twain's papers reflect that it went like this:

There is a boarding house, far, far away,
Where they give ham & eggs three times a day.
O how them boarders yell,
When they hear the dinner bell,
They give the landlord hell,
Three times a day.

SHORPY OLD 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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