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William Andrew "Andy" Rigsby


Have you ever thought about jobs people used to have that no longer exist? Andy Rigsby, my husband's great grandfather, had one of those jobs. In 1910, 1920. 1930. and 1940, he told census takers his occupation was "Sign Painter." I assumed he painted signs that people put in their yards or in store windows.

I was wrong.

Billboards today are vinyl or digital. When I was young, I remember seeing men working high up on a platform installing advertisements. The process looked like putting up wallpaper.

Billboards in the early 1900s were made from several wooden panels. These were painted in a studio and then put into place later. The artist would do any touch-up work on site.

Andy also painted signs on buildings. We sometimes see faded remnants of these advertisements, but most of them are gone now. My dad said people used to pack a picnic and watch the sign painters. Now we have television, which is good and bad I suppose.

Lucky for me, Andy took pictures of some of his work. I hope to pinpoint the locations and dates, but for now I can enjoy the pictures. Look closely at things surrounding the billboards - cars, buildings, people. Things were so different 100 years ago. If anyone knows what "Milk Bread" is, please let me know!

In case you're wondering, I used MyHeritage to colorize the photo of Andy shown above.

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