Old New York In Photos #43

Giant Times Square Advertising Billboards Of The Past

New York's Times Square at night 60 Years ago, 1954 photo: Charles Shaw

New York’s Times Square at night 60 Years ago, 1954 photo: Charles Shaw

The New York Times article about the new eight story high, block long, LED illuminated billboard that will be put into use on Tuesday night, November 18, 2014, made me think about some of the classic advertising signs that were in place during the 1940’s and 1950’s at the crossroads of the world.

Bond Clothiers sign, 1948, Times Square looking north

Bond Clothiers sign, 1948, Times Square looking north

Chief among these ads was the dramatic Bond Clothiers sign taking up the entire Broadway block between 44th and 45th Streets. The 200 foot wide, 50 foot high billboard was brightly lit up at night and had a waterfall cascading between the two large scantily clad statues flanking it. The figures appeared nude during by day and had electric lights draped around them which produced a quasi-covering effect on the statues when the lights went on.

With two miles of neon, it was a colorful spectacle to behold in person, especially at nigTimes Square 1948 Bond Clothiers at night billboardht. The sign was only up from 1948-1954.

We previously showed what the area looked like at night in our story about the giant New York snowstorm of 1948.

The Bond sign replaced an earlier sign for Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum that also was breathtaking with its neon aquatic design. Designed by Dorothy Shepard, it occupied the site from about 1936 to 1948.

Times Square Wrigleys Billboard sign Ad postcardThe other billboard that attracted a lot of attention in Times Square was the Camel cigarette advertisement sign located between 43rd and 44th Streets.

Times Square Camel billboard sign Broadway 47th St 10 11 1955 photo International News

Times Square Camel advertising sign Broadway looking south from 44th Street

The Camel ad blew giant simulated smoke rings. It was designed by Douglas Leigh who had also came up with the Bond sign. It remained in place from 1941 – 1966.  In 1999 all cigarette billboard advertising was banned.

Finally, in the 1950’s at the northern end of Times Square (Duffy Square) on 47th Street, stood three outstanding billboards: Pepsi-Cola, Admiral Television and Appliances, and Canadian Club Imported Whisky.

Times Square Pepsi Admiral and Canadian Club advertising billboard signs in color 1954

What was appealing about all these old billboard ads is that they were dazzling. You knew what was being advertised and it was conveyed simply with a sparsity of words and an abundance of neon.

Today Times Square’s advertising is an overwhelming mish-mash of distraction.

The new giant digital billboard will have Google as the debut, exclusive advertiser from November 24 until the New Year 2015.  A digital art exhibition by Universal Everything studio collective will kick off the billboard’s first week starting November 18. From the test photo below it seems like it will be an incredibly bright and eye-catching display.

Testing the new Times Square giant digital billboard photo Richard Perry The New York Times

Testing the new Times Square giant digital billboard photo Richard Perry The New York Times

Who knows, maybe I’ll be impressed with this modern marvel of big screen technology. But probably not.

If the recent past of the area is any indication of the future, the ads themselves will be like every other billboard designed for gawking tourists: flashy, fast moving, lots of cuts with more irrelevant content added to the already gaudy Times Square.

For a color photo essay look back at Times Square in 1954 click here.

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4 thoughts on “Old New York In Photos #43

  1. Triggerhappy Ranch

    My grandpa worked ’til the 50s in a pawn shop across Broadway from the Camel sign. We would watch the Macy’s floats be inflated there on Thanksgiving. I’m looking for a photo of the pawn shop.

  2. Dave Price

    When was the new narrower sign display at the north end of TS installed? When were the old signs (I think Sony, Midori, Coke and 42nd St were the last such in the mid 1980s) taken down?

    Thanks- dp


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