ghost signs

A Halloween Throwback – Revisiting Ghost Signs

Tracey Panek, LS&Co. Historian
Levi Strauss & Co.
October 31, 2019

To get you into the Halloween spirit, we’re revisiting our favorite advertisements of times past – ghost signs.

These lingering building advertisements of yesteryear tend to pop up in the most peculiar places. Think back to those I’ve previously shared, like the one for Levi Strauss & Co. Copper Riveted Overalls discovered behind a wall of a Mexican cantina in Arizona.

As we celebrate All Hallows Eve, here are a few more LS&Co. signs we’ve discovered that serve as ghostly evidence of our company’s early roots:

Jacksonville, Oregon. Discovered by a fan in this historic small town, this ghost sign was one of the innovative ways LS&Co. got the word out about their products at the turn of the 20th century. At that time, LS&Co. began to paint the sides of buildings with the company name and advertising slogans all over the West.

ghost signs

Eureka, Utah. This summer I tracked down a Levi’s® ghost sign while visiting Salt Lake City. The one-hour drive southwest of Utah’s capital to the hilly Tintic Mining District was well worth it.

The area boasts a historic cemetery, an old-time jail, and abandoned mining equipment including a massive 65-foot headframe.

Eureka was settled after silver and other ores were found in the late 1800s. Main Street features an Elks Lodge which doubled as the Golden Rule Store (the original J. C. Penney) where Levi’s® waist overalls were sold. There, on side of the building, is a stunning black and yellow Levi’s® sign dating to the 1920s.

The painted advertisement for Levi’s® waist overalls includes Levi Strauss & Co.’s quality guarantee – a new pair free if they rip.  The sign is remarkably well-preserved and a popular photo stop for bikers who take the highway through Eureka on their trek East from California or Nevada.

Ghost signs

Hoboken, New Jersey. Levi’s® ghost signs aren’t limited to the West. Gary A., a fan from the East Coast, spotted this faded sign for Goodman’s in Hoboken, New Jersey. Established in 1923, the haberdashery sold clothing and sportswear for men and boys. Among their stock? Levi’s® pants as noted in the top right corner.

Livingston, Montana.  This ghost sign can be found within the interior of Gil’s Goods cafe in Livingston, about 50 miles north of Yellowstone National Park. In the late 1800s to early 1900s, Livingston and the surrounding locales were mined heavily and were probably a good market for Levi’s® garments. Don Platek, an LS&Co. employee, just happened to spot the historic ad during a visit. “I have probably been in Gil’s 50 times,” he said, “and had never noticed the wall until I actually sat down waiting for my order and stared at the wall for a few minutes before I realized what I was looking at.”

Steamboat Springs, Colorado. While these aren’t your typical ghost signs, they are evidence of a long-time business, F.M. Light & Sons, which was established in 1905 in Steamboat Springs. Note the misspelling in the one sign (Real Cowboy Wear Levi’s). Today the western wear outfitter shop sells 501s® and other jeans with indoor banners advertising Levi’s overalls. F.M. Light is an example of the type of early retailers LS&Co. worked with when we advertised, “Patronize your home town merchant.” F.M. Light’s motto? “Outfittin’ the West for over 100 Years.”

Stumble upon any LS&Co. ghost signs in your travels you care to share? Feel free to reach out to Tracey on Twitter, @TraceyPanek.