American Sign Museum (Cincinnati)

In Cincinnati’s Camp Washington neighborhood stands a 20-foot tall genie at the entrance to a nostalgic trip through time via roadside signs.  Founded by Tod Swormstedt- a former editor and publisher of Signs of the Times (a trade magazine for the sign manufacturing industry)- the museum opened in 2005 at a smaller location but with plans to move to a bigger home and on June 23, 2012, the museum opened a much bigger location on Monmouth St.  It is home to 19,000 square feet of exhibit space showing signs from 1900s on.  And there’s still 20,000 square feet of exhibit space that can still be developed.  The big improvement with the new space was having 28-foot ceilings which fit the old McDonald’s Speedee signs from the early days, among others.

American Sign Museum founder Tod Swormstedt conducts a tour of the museum on 5/25/14.
American Sign Museum founder Tod Swormstedt conducts a tour of the museum on 5/25/14.

It’s an interesting, fun tour and you don’t need to be in the advertising business to appreciate it but if you are, I’m sure that makes it even better.  I had never given much thought to how signs have changed over the years but you learn about that here, especially if you take the guided tour which I recommend.  The museum is truly one of a kind.  Every type of sign is here: wood, plastic, neon, glass with gold leaf shavings, light bulbs, metal.  And if you’re here just for the nostalgia, it’s interesting because with every sign is a history with it and memories that go with it.  Like a Sohio sign which some might remember was around until being re-branded to BP starting in 1991.

Some signs come from businesses that are gone; others, like this Holiday Inn sign, are still in business but have undergone changes.  This Holiday Inn sign design was used from 1950s-1970s.
Some signs come from businesses that are gone; others, like this Holiday Inn sign, are still in business but have undergone changes. This Holiday Inn sign design was used from 1950s-1970s.

American Sign Museum website:  http://www.americansignmuseum.org

Hours:  Wednesday – Saturday:  10 AM – 4 PM; Sunday:  Noon – 4 PM.

Admission:  Adults:  $15 (children 12 and under Free with accompanying Adult); Seniors (age 65+), Students (with ID), Active Duty Military, Groups of 10 or more are $10 each. Groups of 10+ are asked to call ahead (513-541-6366) and schedule their tour.

Parking:  Free, off-street parking.

American Sign Museum
1330 Monmouth Street
Cincinnati, OH 45225

Frisch's Big Boy at the American Sign Museum.
Frisch’s Big Boy at the American Sign Museum.
Signs of Main St. at the American Sign Museum is a collection of signs that make it look like Main St., USA. A collection of department stores, pizza shops, ice cream stands, etc.
Signs of Main St. at the American Sign Museum is a collection of signs that make it look like Main St., USA. It’s a display of signs from department stores, pizza shops, ice cream stands, restaurants.
No sign museum would be complete without the McDonald's Speedee sign and it is here on Main St.
No sign museum would be complete without the McDonald’s Speedee sign and it is here on Main St.
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