Austin Signs | A Brief History of Signs

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Can you imagine a time without signs?  Well, that would be hard to do considering humans have been making signs of some sort since our inception.  Early humans used rocks and various other materials to mark dwellings and food storage.

The word sign comes from the Latin word Signum, which means mark or token.  Romans began to build stone signs to designate shops of different trades’ people; this is also where we get the word trademark.

During the Middle Ages King Richard the III of England made a decree that all establishments selling ale needed to have a sign showing they sold ale.  This allowed inspectors and tax collectors to find the various ale houses.  By the 16th and 17th centuries signs became prevalent in most urban areas.  In Paris and London signs became so abundant codes were needed to enforce sign safety.  Using materials like wrought iron and engraved wood craftsmen made very elaborate signs.  Some of the signs from the 16th & 17th century are still in use today.

The 20th century brought us two major advancements in sign technology, electricity and neon.  Signs now could be illuminated at all times, display color and elicit people’s attention.  This is where we start to see signs move from markers to advertising tools.  The first use of neon signs were car dealerships in the 1930’s.

Today neon is fading and LED’s are becoming more prevalent.  While the materials have changed the general purpose of signs still remain.  At 360 Signs we can make monument signs out of stone like the Romans and we can add LED’s to the rock’s façade if you are looking to blend new and old.

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