Orient Band Sign, courtesy of Oysterponds Historical Society
June 5, 2014
PRESS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
“Historic Signs to be Exhibited in Southold”
SOUTHOLD, NY. The Southold Historical Society is pleased to announce it is hosting an exhibition of historic signs that were created on Long Island between 1830 and 1930 over the summer at the Society’s Ann Currie-Bell House - Mayne Memorial Gallery. This exhibit of original signs will be on display from July 5 through October 12, 2014 in the gallery, which is located at 55200 Main Road, Southold, NY.
The use of signs goes back to ancient times, and the ancient Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans were known to use them. As early as 1389, King Richard II of England compelled landlords engaged in selling ale to erect signs outside their premises. The legislation stated "Whosoever shall brew ale in the town with intention of selling it must hang out a sign, otherwise he shall forfeit his ale." Englishmen who settled America arrived with a background of using signs to sell their wares, instilling the tradition in what would one day become the United States.
Unlike many other regions of the northeast, surviving period signs from Long Island are unusual. It appears that once no longer useful, signs on Long Island were more regularly stripped and re-used for other purposes than in other regions. This has made them less apt to survive. This exhibition will feature signs dating from 1830 to 1930. The majority are from eastern Suffolk County, though a few come from elsewhere on the island. The featured signs come from the Society’s collection, other local museum collections, as well as those loaned by private owners.
Among those that will be featured in the exhibit is a sign that may be the very first to call this part of Long Island ‘The East End’ that was made for the firm of Reeve & Bartlett, which started as a real estate company in Greenport during the early 1880s. They hired Greenport sign maker, George Nelson Flack (1858-1943), to make the sign to advertise their business to the public. Though worn from years of use, the sign still is quite readable, and includes the lines: “THE EAST END – Choicest Part of Long Island – OCEAN, SOUND, AND BAY – Fertile Farms and Villa Sites – FOR SALE BY – REEVE & BARTLETT – GREENPORT, L. I.”
Another rare survival is a sign from the early American whaling ship, the Henry of Sag Harbor. The Henry was launched at Sag Harbor in 1828 under the command of Sylvester Griffing. Over the next 22 years, the ship traveled along the coast of Brazil, through the south Atlantic Ocean into the Pacific and on to New Zealand, and in its final years, worked off the northwest coast. In the autumn of 1850, she returned to Sag Harbor, was removed from service, and was offered at auction. A local newspaper noted “immediately after the sale of the ship, the whaling apparatus, oil casks, &c, &c, will be disposed of.”
Other signs included in the exhibition are from various business concerns, including real estate companies, fraternal groups, as well as a sign from a local doctor’s office who had to flee the village of Orient suddenly in 1898.
The exhibit will be on display at the Society’s Ann Currie-Bell House - Mayne Memorial Gallery, located at 55200 Main Road, Southold, NY from July 5 through October 12, 2014, Saturday, Sunday, and Wednesdays, 1-4pm.
For more information on this exhibit or other Society programs, please contact the Southold Historical Society at (631) 765-5500.