A Photographic and Historical Record of the City’s Vanishing Advertisements
As the great city of New York moves, changes, and evolves every day, the few remnants of its past go unnoticed. New York City’s “ghost signs” —advertisements painted across the facades of buildings that date back to the 19th century—are often invisible to the busy New Yorker, but defiantly conspicuous if only we turn our eyes and look upwards. These faded representations of the city’s rich economic and social history are slowly disappearing before our eyes, but not before they were captured by this photographer’s lens.
At the tender age of sixteen, Ben Passikoff roamed around Manhattan with his camera to document these fascinating signs—hand-painted messages written all over the city. This photographic collection features signs painted in the 1800s as well as in the 21st century; signs that advertise funeral homes, meat, and underwear; signs stretched across iconic buildings; and even signs that are no longer legible. Using his photographs as a looking-glass into the past, Passikoff provides insightful commentary on the economic, social, and historical significance of commerce in New York City, and its vanishing ghost signs, now preserved in this photographic record.
SubtitleRediscovering New York City's "Ghost Signs"
AuthorBy Ben Passikoff, Foreword by James Trager
Published19 September 2017
Dimensions8.50 x 9.50in.
Illustrations333 color photos.
—George Lois, legendary ad man and designer for Esquire
“A quiet unassuming gem of a book that…offers up a procession of memories floating on the surface of the present.”
—Benno Schmidt, chairman of the board of CUNY and former president of Yale University
"Ben Passikoff has created an important record of the cultural, social, and commercial development of New York City in the 20th century."
—Gerald Protheroe, Ph.D., chairman of the history department at The Browning School
"A pleasure to flip through and a valuable historical document. . . . Will not disappoint NYC enthusiasts."
"[Passikoff] is documenting fading glimpses of New York’s past. The Writing on the Wall contains over one hundred examples of the city’s disappearing advertisements, along with historical context about the companies that commissioned them. . . . Their brightly painted outlines used to shout to New York pedestrians; now, they’re the haunting reminders of a bygone commercial era."