Classic Brookline Street Signs
An Historic Legacy from Brookline’s DPW
Brookline’s 1930s black and silver cast aluminum street signs

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Together with a national survey of
The nature, status, and extent of sets of historic street name signs

As well as new “historic” appearing signs used in historic districts
and other signs deemed of local significance

Dennis De Witt, Vice Chair, Brookline Preservation Commission

DRAFT 8/14/06
(download this as a MSWord document)

SECTION I – Summary

Brookline’s Cast Aluminum Street name and related signs appear to be of historic significance on both the state and national level. They appear to be unique in the US, in having been designed to be made of cast aluminum. And they appear to be one of only two such extensive sets of cast metal signs in the US that pre-date WWII (or even that are more than a decade old). They are probably the only such set specifically already classified as eligible for individual listing on the National Register, as contributing resources in an Historic District, which is functionally the equivalent of being listed.

The only other set of historic street name signs in Massachusetts may be the wood signs used on Nantucket.

There may be from a couple of dozen to several dozen other locations throughout the country that have non-MUTCD consistent street name signs which are old, individually or as an aggregation taking into account continuity of design, and which are deemed at least locally to be historic and/or contributory to the unique character and ambiance of their municipality, locality, or district. These include, signs made of concrete, wood, steel or other materials.

There are also many localities that have installed new “historic” street name signs in historic districts which do not conform to the MUTCD guidelines in various respects and often in most respects, although the great majority are retroreflective to some degree (sometimes bordering on the pro forma), even if not MUTCD consistent in any other respect.

Up to now, it appears that no one has ever attempted to look at the issue of historic street signs nationally nor to establish links between any of the localities which are attempting to maintain historic signs. It is likely that a “don’t ask, don’t tell” ethos is one reason for this, as well as a sense on the part of each individual locality that it is facing this issue alone. There are also apparently some localities for which, thus far, it has not become an issue at all (e.g. Nantucket).

About 500 of Brookline’s historic street name and related cast aluminum signs survive in situ, representing perhaps 10% to 20% of the original number. At any given intersection there may be from one to four street name signs. The number of intersections with at least one street name sign is probably closer to 300. However, the survivors are unevenly distributed. In South Brookline there are almost none. In the two oldest Local Historic Districts they may be the majority. There are also 287 street name and related signs in the town barn. It is not clear that any of these are part of the more than 1000 signs that have been removed in the last few years. As many as half clearly are not, as they include signs that appear never to have been installed or signs for streets that disappeared in urban renewal 40 years ago. There are also other cast aluminum signs whose role must be considered.

SECTION II – Research & Terminology

Scope of research to date

The following represents the result of considerable intensive Googling together with following other leads and suggestions from other sources. While it is amazing the amount of information that can be Googled (often to be tediously picked through) the process is very dependent upon the search terms chosen. For instance Googling “street markers” would never have been considered if the term hadn’t appeared in a document. And not all of Lakeshore’s identified customer’s appeared in the many dozens of Google searches. Obviously, Google also has a bias for relatively recent documents. There were also databases which could not be searched because they do not have the correct access tools and whose contents are ignored by Google. Thus, while the reference to street signs as contributing features of the Bend, Ore. HD appeared in its NR nomination form, which was posted on the web, there is no way do a keyword search for street signs on the National Register’s own database, even though it is accessible on-line. This was confirmed by the Keeper of the National Register who said that research into whether or not street name signs were listed on the NR would be dependent on the memories of staff consultants.

In addition to Googling, there have been conversations and contacts (some still incomplete or ongoing) with persons associated with various of the municipalities and Historic Districts listed below, with MHC, the National Trust, the National Park Service, and its National Register office, sign manufacturers, “Historic Roads”, and governmental agencies at the state and local level. Not all of these contacts are reflected below because some contacts have been inconclusive or are incomplete.

We are also inventorying Brookline’s signs and will map and compare that inventory with earlier ones.

Notes about terminology

Technically we are concerned primarily, but not exclusively, with “street name signs.” These are commonly called “street signs“, even though that term is also applied to traffic control signs and advertising. In other parts of the county the term “street markers” is also used, although that term has other unrelated meanings (e.g. metal discs that were once placed in pavement to delineate crosswalks and explanatory historic markers). Brad Smith of Gopher sign (see below) thought some localities might use the “street marker” to evade MUTCD but clearly it is an older established usage.

As applied to street signs, “historic” seems to have three common usages:

  • A tradition of genuinely old signs, like ours or Lower Merion’s or St. Josephs, where a substantial proportion of original set of “period” signs survive, although new matching signs may continue to be produced.
  • A tradition of old wood signs which are produced according to code or tradition but which, because of their material, are not necessarily presumed to be old.
  • Signs which, due to design and/or typography and/or colors and/or type of construction, are deemed suitable for an HD — and are seen as distinctive from ordinary MUTCD type signs. These usually incorporate a logo or HD name.

SECTION III – Types of Signs


Cast iron street name signs may always have been rare. Such 19th C. examples as there were (there are a few surviving in NYC), may have succumbed to the scrap drives of both world wars. They also were brittle (and, unlike aluminum, could not be welded), and because they rusted, required occasional re-painting. (Cast iron rusts much less than steel and needn’t be painted often.) It is no coincidence that Brookline and Lower Merion’s signs are made of aluminum, which does not rust, can stand bending better than cast iron, and can be welded. (Of about 100 clearly US street name signs on e-bay at one given moment there was one cast “South St.” sign from Brookline (@ $80 asked). All the others were flat or stamped steel. None were cast iron.)

Lakeshore Industries has made signs for Lower Merion since the 1950s. They have also been making cast aluminum signs for many other locations in the past 10 years or so. They do not seem to have any long established competitors. They say Lower Merion is their only long time customer.

Neither Buzz Pierce of Lyle Sign nor Brad Smith of Gopher (See below re both) had ever heard of cast aluminum street signs.

Brookline’s Signs

Cast aluminum signs

Brookline’s black and silver street name signs and other related signs began to be produced in 1937 in a town operated foundry to replace existing wood signs. It is reasonable to assume that most of them were produced by the end of 1941 when production would have ceased for the duration of the war and that the entire original set had been produced by 1955. Town production of replacements etc. continued into the 1960s or early 1970s. There was very limited production by an outside vendor at the end of that period. With the exception of one memorial sq. sign dated 1990, production ended in the 1970s. Beginning in the early 1970s flat signs of a somewhat similar appearance came into use.

Other matching black and silver signs

A few of the surviving street name signs, mostly along Beacon St., have top mounted attachments indicating the address numbers for that block. In addition, there are also other types of cast aluminum signs with the same graphic appearance. These include town line signs, private way signs, path signs, veterans memorial signs, signs with arrows pointing the way to various institutions and locations, one way arrows, and miscellaneous other signs, all sharing a common design, typography, and black and silver color scheme. There is a pointed silver cap for posts with only side mounted signs. The posts are black.

With a handful of exceptions, all of these signs are two sided.


The top-mounted signs sit atop the pole on mounts cast integrally with the sign. Side mounted signs are attached to separate mounts by rivets. There are two types of side mounts designed so that their interleaving bands around the post permit a pair of signs to be mounted together. The use of a combination of top and side mounted signs together is common but inconsistently distributed among the surviving location, in some areas, such as Cottage Farm, pairs of side-mounted signs are typically used. The town line signs are all top mounted, the one way arrows are all side mounted, most of the other signs may be of one type or the other.

Condition of the black and silver signs

The condition of most of these black and silver signs is remarkably good. Quite a few (perhaps 10-20%) show evidence of having been broken and welded in the past. With one observed exception, the quality of such repairs is quite high and not detrimental in terms of appearance or function. Typically such breaks are at the mounting-bases of top mounted signs or near the holders of side mounted signs. A few of the signs are a little bent and one has been significantly bent by an adjacent tree. A few in the DPW inventory appear to have been straightened. Thus, these cast aluminum signs are less brittle than cast iron would have been and more repairable.

Paint condition

Generally the condition of their painted surfaces is quite good. According to DPW personnel, before the budget cuts of the early 1980s the DPW had full time sign painters who repainted the signs in the town barn. However much or most of their work may have been on the town’s other signs (see below). In any case, most of the black and silver signs have not been painted in at least 20 years. Signs examined do not appear to have had many coats of paint. The signs were first painted silver overall and then the flat raised surfaces of the letters and outlines were painted with a flat felt pad rather than a brush.

It has been suggested by a paint expert that raw aluminum requires a special etching type primer and that, given the condition of the surfaces of these signs, they might have been painted with a baked-on enamel, like an auto body type paint.

Presumably the silver colored aluminum signs were painted silver because raw aluminum will darken in the weather if unprotected.

Casting “patterns” and workmanship

Each of the signs naming a specific street, institution, or location had its own handmade wooden casting pattern with, presumably die cast or stamped, metal letters affixed to it. These casting patterns were used to press into the “green sand” split casting mold the void into which the molten aluminum would be poured. As an indication of the extremely high quality of the sand casting achieved in the town’s foundry, on some of the signs the small heads of the tacks that held the letters to the wood board are discernable and in a few instances the grain of the wood panel can be read. Overall the quality of the workmanship of both the patternmaking and the casting is of a very high order. Among the unused signs in the DPW garage are a few unpainted ones of a very poor quality where the sand grains from the casting are very evident. These may have been among those few signs briefly made by an outside vendor after the town’s foundry closed.

All of the wooden patterns were destroyed in the 1990s. One metal casting pattern, cast from a wooden pattern, for unnamed “private ways” survives.

Single sided regulatory signs

In addition to the characteristically identifiable silver and black two-sided signs there are several hundred single-sided cast regulatory signs (“No Parking”, etc.), still in use. The typography of these signs does not particularly match that of the black and silver signs. The few examples in the town garage all appear to be aluminum. Because they appear more generic, it had been assumed that they might have been cast iron. However, it is logical for them to have been aluminum and made by the town. Once all of the town’s pre-1937 wood street name signs had been replaced the foundry would have been of little use without the presumably steady demand for the numerous regulatory signs. These signs would have been made from metal patterns, which may have been purchased rather than made by the town. Possibly commercially available cast iron versions of such signs might even have been adapted for use as patterns. “Brookline” is cast into these signs in small letters.

Condition of the single sided signs

For whatever reason, unlike the black and silver signs, the paint surfaces of the single-sided signs is often very deteriorated after 20 years without repainting.

Unique signs

One side-mounted street name sign has a block number attachment below the street name panel rather than on top (unlike all the other example with attachments, which have them on top) and has a serifed type face. It is unknown if there might have been other examples with that typeface. It most likely is a very early example when the town was still experimenting with the typography.

One other nearby sign is unique both in that it combines a street name sign, with a block number attachment on top and is itself attached to the top of a directional sign, pointing towards the “So. Shore” and other locations. More important, it is made from sheet steel with attached metal serifed typeface letters and arrows. The letters may be similar to those used on the patterns. Possibly this sign may be an “ancestor” to all the town’s aluminum signs.

Web site

An MIT traffic engineering student found Brookline’s signs significant enough to have made a web page of them. See:

Lower Merion Township, Penna

Initially Cast Iron dating back to 1900 & then Cast Aluminum — since after WWII purchased from Lakeshore Industries. Apparently, as cast in aluminum, Brookline’s pre-WWII signs may be older.

  • Designed by Mary Cassat’s father who was President of Pa. RR.
  • Yellow on green
  • Approximately than 4″ lettering
  • Round pipe poles
  • newer replacements may have retroreflective lettering
  • Used throughout township — extensive area of Philadelphia’s “Main Line” suburbs including Bryn Mawr

Being retained except on state highways. Subject to some pressure from Pa. DoT but have legislative supporters.

Andrea Campisia, planning dept
acampisi AT

Web site

A volunteer for the Lower Merion Historical Society has taken many photographs of these signs. See:


The term “enameled” is sometimes used to indicate a better quality of paint. However there were some vitreous enameled metal signs fabricated in a manner similar to the enameled signs still seen in Europe. NYC had them. This far, we have not identified any surviving sets in use.


These date back to the ’20s and were once ubiquitous. Some were painted and some may have been enameled. Save for a few odd individual survivors, most seen on internet appeared to be in showing their age to varying degrees. They seem to have mostly rusted away and probably were supplanted by silk-screened signs after WWII.

However, per Gopher Sign Co. (see below) there is still a base of users for them, even though that was not evident from Googling.

Bend, Ore.
Original stamped metal signs surviving because of extremely dry climate
Specifically mentioned on NR nom. / two HDs
New Harmony, Ind.
Appears to use its old stamped signs as part of its advertised ambiance.


Most of these seem to be produced by Lakeshore Industries, which has been producing Lower Merion’s signs for 50 years.

New London, Conn.
Cast Alum signs first installed ca. 2000 — purchase from Lakeshore Ind.

  • less than 6″ lettering
  • neighborhood logo on top
  • newer ones may have retroreflective lettering
  • Not limited to Hist Dists

Barbara Dixon, Neighborhood Coordinator

Ludlow, Mass.
Cast Alum signs first installed ca. 2003 — purchase from Lakeshore Ind.

  • 4.3″ lettering retroreflective lettering
  • Round pipe poles

Town’s position is that as long as it is a town road, all they need is RR lettering
Paul Dzubek, Town Engineer

Holland, Mich
Cast Alum signs — purchase from Lakeshore Ind.
DPW has no objections
Karen Padnos, HC staff
616-355-1330 (1362)
Indianapolis, Ind.
Program of new “old” signs not conforming to MUTCD in most respects
— negotiated this year with DPW.
Signs for LHDs conform to MUTCD only re retroreflectivity
— otherwise 4″ letters, round pipe posts, & color is brown & white
Comment on seeing our signs “Those are worth fighting for.”
David Baker Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission
Senoia, Ga
New Lakeshore cast signs with 4″ lettering replacing old metal signs on wood posts
Richard Ferry
Lakeshore’s largest class of customers is probably new subdivisions. They were reluctant to give out HD customer names, presumably for fear of information going to a competitor. While they do make signs with 6″ lettering, most of what they sell is 4″and they do not make sign mounts for anything other than 2″ & 2-1/2″ pipe size (2-3/8″ & 2-7/8″ outside diameter) posts.

Lakeshore also makes signs for least one other reseller.


Because they were not directly germane to the issue of genuinely historic signs, they are not individually listed here. However, there are numerous examples. They are most typically made with retroreflective sheet metal technology but with seriffed 4″ letters in “historic” colors, with logos either in the panel or on a (separate or attached) crowning element, and mounted on a round pole.


They were still widely use up to WWII. Brookline’s signs were wood until 1937. While the examples cited below are mostly in the east and south, there are additional references out west but they are not easily verified.

There were also reference to a couple of locations with wood post or obelisk type signs but I could not verify them.

Wood signs — specifications in LHD guidelines (metal signs and posts specifically prohibited)
Cream on grey
Attached to posts, fences, and buildings
Loudoun County, Va.
County sign regulations, which otherwise follow MUTCD, include a special Historic District sign standard
6″ high black on white signs boards with painted 4″ Cap./lower case seriffed lettering of a specific type face
Affixed to 2″ sq. steel tube post with wrought iron steel brackets.
Santa Clara County, Calif.
Weathered or simulated weathered wood w/ routed painted lettering “visible at night”
University Park, Md.
“Colonial” style signs hanging from wooden arms on a wooden post
They seem to be part of the town’s identity and are mentioned and illustrated in newspaper articles
Rose Valley, Pa.
Signs decorated with paintings of flowers
Arden, Del.
Said to be similar in appearance to Rose Valley
Waterville Valley
Made by professional sign company
Routed out with retroreflective paint in letters
Pittman Center, Tenn.
Small crafts-oriented town near the Smokey Mt. NP
Sign Details unknown


Grand Lake Stream, Me.
Signs shaped like canoes
Grand Lake Stream is famous for its traditional canvas canoes


These were widespread at one time with many references to surviving examples in the Midwest and south and may have been widely used and made even after WWII in some areas. Then examples below are all masonry but there are a few references to wooden ones as well.

Ledyard, Conn
Obelisk concrete posts with lettering stenciled on vertically
Being replaced along state roads but retained elsewhere
Steve Marsalin, DPW director
smasa AT
Windermere, Fla
Street names stenciled on approximately four foot high concrete posts. New ones clearly still being installed.
Clearly part of “image” of town (along with elaborately carved town line signs)
Houston, Tex.
Proctor Plaza HD
Posts w/cast in letters
Houston’s guidelines for establishing HDs specifically mention the need to document these types of posts which are said to survive in several areas, as well as blue & white tile street name markers in sidewalks.
Towns of Glen Ellyn & Park Ridge, Ill.
Concrete posts 7 ft high made by CCC in 1930s in two neighboring Chicago pre-war suburbs.
Were painted white with black lettering, now having white on green vertical RR panels attached
Madison, Ga.
Obelisks with painted on letters
Part of “image of HD” (appears to be a LOL’s bus tour town)
St. Joseph, Mo.
Still making new concrete posts w/ cast-in letters
Said to “conform to MUTCD”
DeQuincy, LA
Current discussion about retaining 60 year old concrete “street markers” as historic.
Badin, NC
Old posts being renewed with retroreflective lettering
Macon, Ga.
Beals Hill (no mention of NRHD)
Posts w/cast in letters
St. Charles, La. and nearby towns
Listed on Calcaseu Preservation Soc. “Most endangered” web page
Mobile, Ala
There are references to traditional concrete posts but no specific mention of protection or replacement
(To meet 911 requirements, Mobile is installing three new sign & post combinations on a neighborhood option basis. They are either white on green with channel post @$150 ea or reflective white on non-reflective backgrounds of different colors on either a round pipe post @$300 ea. or on a cast aluminum post @ $450 ea. In ea. case the lettering is MUTCD 6″ caps with 4.5″ LC letters.)


Coral Gables, Fla.
low L-shaped white concrete markers about 12″ high with street names stenciled on two faces in 3″ black letters
Considered historic. Used throughout town. Strongly supported by mayor.
Conventional street signs also used together with them along state roads & downtown
Hist. Comm.
Palm Beach County
Similar signs used in part of Palm Beach County
Nothing more know at present (based on report from Coral Gables)


Of historical interest only. None being maintained as the sole signs.

Knoxville, Tenn.
Brass Sidewalk signs, used in conjunction with conventional signs
Kansas City, Kans.
Blue letters in white tile along blvds.
Not clear if being protected
Blue & white tile street name markers — see Houston entry under “posts” above.
Fort Worth
Pre-1925 street name carved in curbing
Blue & white mosaic street name markers set in curbing used from 1925-37.

SECTION IV – Location & Specification Issues

Which roads

  • In general for those of the above localities which have an active policy of maintaining their historic or historic-looking signs, there is a sense that MUTCD only applies on designated state highways and that in neighborhood streets it is not an issue.
  • Per Lakeside Industries, in Pa. 6″ lettering is only required (or enforced) for state routes, although there is some local concern about the Lower Merion signs in the preservation community.
  • Coral Gables — a different situation because they are at grade — also has MUTCD signs in its commercial area.

Colors (and contrast between colors)

  • At one time white on green was required by MUTCD. It is now optional. The only color requirement is “contrast” (At one time an outline was also required but that requirement was dropped.)
  • It is clear from many examples of nominally MUTCD signs, whether “historic” or not, both from Mass. and elsewhere, that the white on green is very widely ignored (although certainly the by far most common).
  • Many towns seem to adopt white on a bright blue or bright red. However, there are examples ranging from white on grey (e.g. new 6″ MUTCD signs in Middleborough) to relatively dark letters on a darker background, or relatively similar tones of two more mid-range colors, which are popular for new “historic” signs.
  • Brookline’s black-on-silver (and the short lived silver-on-black) signs have ignored the MUTCD color standard.
  • Austin TX has just instituted “historic” white on black signs.
  • The signs being sold by Gopher Sign are reportedly mostly black on white.

Retroreflectivity (RR)

  • This seems highly variable among the non-MUTCD signs. There are examples of all types (except the flat sheet) with and without RR and/or with only the letters or the background RR.
  • Lakeshore only will make the raised portions RR. But even that is an option and not standard.
  • RR paint is used on some wood and obelisk type signs but not on all.
  • Even conventional MUTCD signs are often made by painting or applying adhesive plastic letters or background over a sheet of RR plastic material so that only the non-covered portion, which might be lettering or background, is RR. The adhesive backed material is retroreflective but less so than the background material.
  • Mobile, Ala. uses signs with reflective letters on non-reflective backgrounds.
  • With respect to non-historic town or county standards, there are several published specifications for white lettering on a black background — wherein most of the sign surface would be not meaningfully reflective even if made from an RR black material. However, the black portion may only just be paint. Austin, Tex. is one recent example.
  • The black portion of the white-on-black signs briefly mounted in Brookline Village was apparently black paint, so that those signs were 80% non-RR.
  • All of the signs still being sold by Gopher Signs are not RR. Gopher believes non-RR black on white is just as visible at night as RR white on green.

Letter heights

  • The MUTCD originally specified all caps lettering in both 4″ and 6″ heights. It may have assumed that signs with 6″ lettering would be 50% longer than 4″ signs. However, typically (perhaps in a majority of cases) condensed, and often highly condensed, typefaces, which are not nearly as legible, have been used instead — thus defeating the advertised greater legibility of the 6″ letters. The 6″ typeface recommendation has now been modified to permit Cap/LC, with the LC letters being 4.5″ high. As non-condensed caps are more clearly legible at a given distance than LC letters of the same height, it is not at all clear that the allowed 4.5″ LC letters are any more legible than 4″ caps.
  • Most of the above examples, including perhaps most of the new “historic” signs, seem to have 4″ letters (some smaller) — but many are Cap./lower case (CLC) faces with 4″ capital heights. Therefore most of the letters (the lower case letters) on those signs are less than 3″.
  • A few are all caps but with larger initial letters, similar ours.
  • Among the existing flat faced concrete obelisks, some of the lettering may be being repainted with 6″ letters — that isn’t always clear. On all of them the lettering is vertical, which is contrary to MUTCD.
  • The wood Waterville valley signs may have been 6″ — it is hard to tell. If so, these may have been the only wood examples seen with 6″ letters.


As with color, it appears that even among otherwise nominally-MUTCD type flat metal signs, there is often no concern about abandoning the MUTCD-specified sans-serif typefaces. As with the dark color schemes, seriffed fonts are typically used for new cast and flat signs in HDs as a way of making them appear distinctive or “historic.”

Breakaway posts

While others probably exist, there was only one identifiable example of an historic or historic-appearing sign seen on a breakaway metal post — and it was a wood sign.


  • Lakeshore only makes fittings for round posts
  • Even “historic” appearing new sheet metal signs appeared typically to be on round posts (e.g. Historic Edgefield in Nashville)
  • Obviously concrete obelisks are not breakaway
  • MUTCD signs together with historic signs at one intersection

    Except for the grade level and sidewalk embedded signs noted above, there is no evidence for this being done in any locality identified.

    Aesthetics and local identity

    Leaving aside considerations of historic identity, it appears that many localities find the standard white on green sans-serif MUTCD design unappealing, industrial, and destructive of local identity. Therefore, both the color and typeface guidelines seem to be routinely ignored by a significant minority of localities for reasons which have nothing to do with historic districts or historic identity.

    SECTION V – Information from street name sign companies

    Lyle sign co. history

    (from its web site with additional information [in brackets] supplied by Buzz Pierce, grandson of the founder)

    In 1912, two engineers with the Culvert Company, in Minneapolis, the Fraser brothers, designed, developed and patented some sign making machines — hence the birth of Lyle Sign Division of the Lyle Culvert Company. The machines were built on the pantograph principle with messages routed approximately 1/16″ deep in heavy (12 gauge) steel. [the routed out depression was painted] For the next 21 years, traffic, park, parkway and street name signs were produced by this carved-in-process. [the process was also produced in France after WWI]

    In 1928, Lyle Signs, Incorporated was established as a separate corporation in Minneapolis, MN.

    Embossed Signs

    In 1933, Lyle Signs, Inc., bought its first embossing press, designed and developed male and female dies to emboss complete sign messages and strengthen borders on 14, 16 and 18 gauge metal, all in one operation. Carved-in process signs were still produced because of their extreme longevity, but as years passed, costs of labor (carving one letter at a time) made prices prohibitive. There are, however, carved-in process street name signs still in use in many cities, after 40 or 50 years of service, with only minimum refinishing maintenance costs involved.

    The demand for embossed message signs gain popularity from 1933 to the start of World War II.

    Reflective Signs

    The first reflective traffic control signs were of the reflector button type where holes were punched in the legend and/or border of the signs and reflector buttons were inserted into the holes. Reflector buttons were either front entry type, held in place by spring and washer attachments; or rear entry type, designed with prong type springs on the back. Partial or full housings (covering the reflectorized portion of the sign) were attached to the back of the sign by tamper proof bolts and nuts.

    The use of reflective sheeting and reflective beads for background and/or message reflectorization started around 1939 and gained considerable popularity in the years after World War II (1945 and thereafter). Reflective beads were used long before that, but never in Lyle’s plant because the type of binder and beads available at that time did not hold up for any length of time.

    Reflective Sheeting manufactured by 3M Company and offered for sale in 1939 was (and still is) called Scotchlite. Lyle was the first sign company working with 3M Company in the use and sale of Scotchlite reflectorized signs.

    Gopher Sign Co

    Information from Brad Smith Sr. owner, who clearly had been in the business for a long time. They have been making signs and license plates (now mostly for Indian tribes) since 1922 using pressed steel technology.

    Embossed signs only

    They do not make any RR signs. Still have an active customer base buying pressed steel signs and resisting conversion to MUTCD. Factors may include cost and sense of identity. Customer base may be mostly smaller Midwestern localities. Some of Gophers customers are rural townships buying signs for the first time in response to the rural 911 signage requirements.

    Gopher has made some custom arch top and other special designs for customers trying to maintain sets of signs with a distinctive appearance. He mentioned such a customer in California.

    Smith said his customers thought black on white painted was just as visible at white on green RR.

    He believed that the MUTCD RR specs and 6″ specs, which doubled sign area, were written by 3M (Minnesota seems to be a center of the sign industry.) and that the 3M products were very expensive.

    He had never heard of cast aluminum signs and thinks he would have if it had ever been common. He did wonder if the Metropolitan Signs Co. of NY (long out of business) had possibly made cast signs of some sort in the ’20s, although he said that by the ’30s they were making stamped signs exclusively. He was vague about this and signs that early of cast aluminum seems unlikely.

    SECTION VI – Notes related to MassHighway

    2006 Mass. state road design guidelines

    While one of the main innovations in these new guidelines is on encouraging trees (which do not have breakaway posts) and other natural landscaping features, there is a preamble emphasizing that one intention of these regulations is that exemptions based on local condition will be easier to obtain. It does include the following specifically with reference to signs. Information Signs
    Information signs are necessary to guide people unfamiliar with the local area. Local zoning regulations are valuable in controlling the appearance, size and location of signs. Signs should be visible and conveniently located, but should not interfere with vehicular or pedestrian circulation. Less signage is better than excessive signage, which creates clutter and tends to be ignored.

    The appended “Communities First Policy” statement says, in part:
    “Local residents are most familiar with the unique qualities that make their communities special. We will make every effort to empower them in the decisions that directly impact their everyday lives.”

    The “HDM Vision and Goals” statement says in part that the guidelines are intended:
    “To ensure that the overarching principles of Context Sensitive Design (a collaborative, interdisciplinary approach that involves all stakeholders to develop a transportation facility that fits its physical setting and preserves scenic, aesthetic, historic and environmental resources, while maintaining safety and mobility for all users) are incorporated throughout project development, design and construction.”


    Per John E. Rempelakis of the environmental services section, who approved the Beacon St. contract

    • MassHighway does not get involved in signage with local communities on a blanket basis
    • only on a project by project basis but he is not at all sure that they would sign off on a letter saying that.
    • MassHighway would not step down into a local issue like our signs
    • confirmed that they do look to local values as much as possible per the 2006 guidelines, one objective of which is to get that input at the 25% stage of the project because it tends to get lost if left too late.
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