Jewelry store trade sign
Ohio Life

Ohio Finds: Jewelry Store Trade Sign

This example of a unique form of advertising during the late 19th and early 20th centuries was once installed outside a Factory Street business in Canal Dover.

Illiteracy and language barriers gave rise to trade signs in the United States during the country’s earliest days, and their use continued into the early 20th century. Patrons searching for a particular business needed look no further than the two- or three-dimensional sign depicting a trade, such as a pair of eyeglasses for an optometrist or a molar for a dentist.

Trade signs played a vital role in large cities, where America’s melting pot brought together people who spoke little or no English, but even small towns found value in the form of advertising. In Canal Dover, J. Ricksecker had established a jewelry store by the 1840s and was still a prominent retailer 50 years later. He listed himself as a dealer in watches, clocks, jewelry, silver and plated ware, cutlery, musical instruments and strings, and fancy goods.

Timepieces were significant to his sales, so he hung a large sign in the form of a pocket watch that was lettered “J. Ricksecker.” It sported a painted gold frame and a face with Roman numerals. Such pieces have become sought after in the folk-art market, where their size and graphics make them appealing to collectors and decorators.  

Sold at Auction: $10,000

Richard Jeffers is the owner of Garth’s Auctioneers & Appraisers in Columbus.