Trudge from the Williamsburg to the Manhattan Bridges in search of aged ads, and sink a cold Pepsi when you’re done.
My home borough, Brooklyn, has its own set of ancient advertising none of which I had ever noticed until recent walks in the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridge areas. I found classic ads that date from the teens through the 1960s. I’ve added ads from other parts of Brooklyn that fit in here.
Hey, I’ve never been a big Pepsi guy. To me, it tastes watery and metallic in comparison with Coca Cola. And, there’s its name. Apparently it was originally marketed as a stomach remedy (like Pepto-Bismol, perhaps? The ancient Greek word peptein means “to digest.”) Despite all that, Pepsi has a couple of doozies as far as NYC ads are concerned.
Here’s an ad that really doesn’t belong where it is on Hicks Street and Kane just in front of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway trench. It belongs in an advertising museum.
In the early 1960s, Pepsi featured print and TV ads featuring young, fresh faced Americans on beaches and back yards quaffing glass bottles of Pepsi that had just enough ice chips on them to make the bottle look inviting, yet allowing the label to be readable. This was way before the aluminum can and plastic bottle.
I’m not sure how long it lasted, but Pepsi’s slogan in those days was “Taste that beats the others cold Pepsi pours it on.” The ad at left shows the serif-type Pepsi logo that succeeded the ornate, Coca Cola like script (that can still be seen on the gigantic Pepsi neon sign in Long Island City). The Helvetica-esque type font marks it as late 60s or perhaps early 70s at most.
Pepsi is the quintessential #2 brand, and always will be.
Bay Ridge weighs in with its own contender in the ancient Pepsi ad sweepstakes. This 1960s era ad is on the door of an ancient bike rental shop on Bay Ridge Avenue and Owls Head Court.
I hesitated adding this one to the page, since it’s nearly completely illegible by now, but this is an ancient Gulf Oil ad, a simple orange circle with the word “Gulf” inside. The circle may or may not make it easier for you to make it out. There may or may not have been a gas station on this site, on South 5th Street next to the Williamsburg Bridge approach.
My friend, fellow ancient advertising enthusiast and Forgotten Fan Frank Jump, whose own excellent ancient advertising site can be found here, pointed this ancient ad out to me (Frank has tipped me off to too many ancient ads to mention here).
The New York Frame Picture Company has some ads scattered in Brooklyn, including this one just north of the Williamsburg Bridge.
Another one, which I haven’t gotten around to photographing just yet, is visible only from the westbound platform of the Nostrand Avenue station of the Long Island Rail Road.
Recent demolition in the vicinity of Court Stret in Cobble Hill has exposed this sign to its first light in 100 years.
I can’t make much of it out but the first line has ‘mantels’, the second line is ‘monuments’ and the third is ‘tombs, &c.’
The ‘&c’ marks this ad as one with some antiquity, since ‘ampersand’ hasn’t been written this way for 100 years, at least.
Some Forgotten Fans who were with me on a 1999 walking tour pass beneath a couple of ancient Kent Avenue businesses. The one on the left, obviously, made burlap and cotton bags. The one on the right is for the Davico Hair & Feather Company and I must confess I’m at something of a loss as to what they were making here, so if anyone can enlighten me on this one…. The Williamsburg Bridge can be seen at the far right.
Forgotten Fan Gayle Woikey has an idea of what “hair feathers” were all about:
Hair (Horse usually) was used for corsets, pillows, coarse fabrics, stuffings, some wigs, depending on which part of the coat was used (long manes for wigs, for instance), some coats, carpets, mattress covers, bustles, and wide underskirts (hoop skirts). Feathers were used for mattress and chair and couch stuffings, and for pillows, some mattresses, and quilted comforters. The company you featured would gather and prepare such commodities and serve as brokers for companies which manufactured the items mentioned above.
Two for the price of one. At Metropolitan and Union Avenues, right in front of the IND/BMT transfer subway station, you’ll find ads for both Harry’s Department Store, which was on Graham Avenue a bit further down Metropolitan. Right next to it is Aufrecht’s Real Estate, also on Graham.
Switching over to DUMBO (Down Under The Manhattan Bridge Overpass) we find a few ads that date at least to the 1930s.
This Peerless Paint ad on Plymouth Street doesn’t look particularly old, but in my opinion the arrow “Office” sign is a dead giveaway that this is circa 1940 or maybe a little earlier than that.
Why does this ad for “smoking pipes” on Anchorage Place in DUMBO face the Manhattan Bridge approach? What good would it do there? No one could see it, right?
In the good old days, the pedestrian walkways on both sides of the bridge were actually open to the public, and this sign was in a very advantageous spot indeed, in plain view of bridge strollers.
These days, the walkway is closed, and Stern’s Pipes are probably long gone.
The Charles William Stores and the Manhattan Bridge.
Now, why the heck would they build “stores” here? This place is pretty much deserted, especially on weekends. During the week, it’s almost 100% indistrial.
Well, there are stores and there are stores. Around these parts, stores mean warehouses. More famous stores, Empire Stores, are nearby, and a local developer is threatening to make them into overpriced condominiums … as well as stores, the kind where suburbanites drop a few stock option-earned bucks before getting back into their air conditioned Subaru Foresters for the trip back to Pleasant Valley Sunday.
Returning to Williamsburg…
When was the last time paint was a buck a gallon? If you know that, you know how old this ad on South 6th Street is. All colors!
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