The American Sign Museum in Cincinnati

I say I’m not the biggest fan of advertisements, and sometimes I even mean it. I consider Times Square to be the closest thing we have to hell on Earth, and when I learned that Piccadilly Circus was much the same, I knew what area of town I wouldn’t want to stay in on my trip to London.

I despise all the billboards on the large road nearest my home, and I especially loathe the digital one that blasts blinding light into the low income apartments across the street. (Seriously guys, this is a suburb, not Blade Runner’s Los Angeles, no one needs an advertisement for a weed whacker blazing into their bedroom window at 4am.)

I sent a dude packing who wanted to advertise his business in my front yard with not so much as a “good day, sir”. I listen to a lot of NPR because then I don’t have to hear about my “friend in the diamond business” like I would on other radio stations. I have yet to take money from a single business to put any form of ad in front of your eyeballs, beloved readers*.

But I’m also a shocking hypocrite–stick me in a room with old timey neon lights and I go all doe-eyed with delight. And what the hell is my blog even about if not monuments erected as a form of advertisement? See? Hypocrite. So it’s really no wonder that when I got to Ohio, I shoved my in-laws into a rental car and dragged everyone to Cincinnati to visit the American Sign Museum. 

The American Sign Museum opened in 2005, the brainchild of Tod Swormstedt, of the sign industry magazine baron** Swormstedts. Its purpose is to preserve and display (you guessed it) signs, and they must be doing a bang-up job as they outgrew their first location and moved to this new location in 2012. Even at this new location, they’re only displaying a small percentage of their overall collection, and they’re looking to raise the roof and double the museum’s size in the future. I honestly wish I could tell you more, but there isn’t a ton in the way of context in this museum. I can tell you that while I was there, they blocked off the whole back room for an interview with/photoshoot of a Kroger executive, and part of me really, really wanted to play reporter and ask him what those brown lumps were in my brand new non-expired Kroger Brand heavy cream, but a bigger part of me didn’t want to be dragged off the property. 

All those signs sure are pretty, though.

You can hardly read it here, but that door purports to lead to “funtown”. Not to judge a funtown by its door, but…run, children. Run.

Every single time I see an indoor faux streetscape, I think of House on the Rock. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. 

The fish in the blender is obviously my favorite, because a fish smoothie sounds like a nom or vom in the making.

I’m 99.99999% sure that the person in this photo *is* Sign Industry Magazine Baron Tod Swormstedt. I literally was not even going to include this photo in the post until I did a triple-take whilst perusing their website. If this was a professional-person blog, this caption would read something like “above: Tod Swormstedt working in his shop at Neonworks of Cincinnati”. If it was indeed Tod Swormstedt. And also if they managed to take a photo that didn’t completely obscure his eyes.

That feels less like an ad, and more like a threat, just saying.


*Not for lack of trying, and I did post that one thing one time but those people got weird and I took it down, not just because they got weird but also because they didn’t pay me, which, to me,  feels like a really important part of the whole buying an advertisement scenario.

**I mean, yes, they own Signs of the Times but I honestly just don’t even know what qualifies one for a non-nobility barony honorific