Traffic Signs

30’s to 40’s
With the intention of creating signs for my layout I realize that I had little idea of what such signs looked like in the late 30’s and early 40’s. Let’s see what we can find out then.
Stop Sign
This photo I found on Shorpy. Titled “Southington: 1942” – “May 1942. Offices of the Southington News in Southington, Connecticut. 3×4 Kodachrome transparency by Fenno Jacobs for the OWI. View full size. After researching this post we find that stop signs in the U.S. were yellow until 1954.

I hadn’t thought about it but .. that’s not the sheet metal sign I suppose I expected but something thick. Wood perhaps? That is probably at least an inch thick.

A couple of pics of yellow Stop Signs.
In 1935 the Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices published the first Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways. It defined a stop sign as a 24×24 octagon with red or black letters on a yellow background. In 1954, the MUTCD made a major change – the background color was changed to red and the lettering was made white. This, then is the stop sign as we know it today.
Late 1940’s yellow and black enameled single-sided chicago traffic sign – streets & sanitation department – The octagonal-shaped traffic sign shows surface wear consistent with age. stop signs originated in michigan in 1915. the first ones had black letters on a white background and were 2424 inches, somewhat smaller than the current sign. as stop signs became more widespread, a committee supported by the american association of state highway officials met in 1922 to standardize them, and selected the octagonal shape that has been used in the united states ever since. the unique eight-sided shape of the sign allows drivers facing the back of the sign to identify that oncoming drivers have a stop sign and prevent confusion with other traffic signs. it was also chosen so that it could be identified easily at night, since the original signs were not reflective. stop sign specifications were altered eight times between 1935 and 1971, mostly dealing with its reflectorization and its mounting height. from 1924 to 1954, stop signs were made with a black “stop” legend on a yellow field. in 1954, the sign gained its current white legend/red field color configuration. red signifies stop on traffic signals, so this specification unified red as a stop signal whether indicated by sign or by light.
Route Sign
This one hasn’t changed that much .. at least it doesn’t seem to. I will have to compare them.

“March 1943. “Raceland, Louisiana. U.S. Highway 90.” View full size. Medium format nitrate negative by John Vachon for the Office of War Information.”

Late 1920′s – Mid 1940′s: In “American Highways” April 1927, Vol. VI No. 2, the sign approved for the US numbered highway system was described thusly: “The design adopted is the commonly known United States shield outline, and this shield carries the route number, as well as the State name through which the road passes.” The chosen size for the US highway shields was approximately 18″ x 18″. US Markers in the early days were made of 16 gauge heavy embossed steel (although some states did use very heavy cast iron in place of the steel). This sign featured the state name on the top cavity, and “US” and the highway number on the bottom.

Early US signs were supposed to be all in block letters, but some curves snuck in, like the ‘S’ in the old US 66 signs. The first US shields posted in 1926 and 1927 indicated left and right turns in the numbered route by R’s and L’s in smaller US shields. Many states kept to a similar practice into the 1930′s,.

“City” U.S. Highway Shields: There was a second type of early US shield, approved for ‘city’ use. It was smaller, at around eleven inches high and wide. The smaller city-use signs dropped the state name, and only placed US in the banner area that was formerly reserved for the state name. Bannered US routes started coming into wide usage after the September 1934 AASHO meeting. Prior to that, a suffix of T had been used to denote Temporary routes, a designation that continues to be acceptable to this day as TEMP. Auxillary banner signs for road types did not come into wide use until the 1960′s.”

Speed Limit
c. 1940’s deeply embossed heavy gauge steel city of chicago speed limit traffic sign – city of chicago, streets & sanitation – comprised of heavy gauge steel with deeply embossed lettering. retains the original black and white enameled finish. originally mounted against a sign pole on the streets of chicago.

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