Ghost Ads New Orleans from magazine article to a full book.


ghost ads new orleans

A. Shwartz ad, 800 block of Canal Street (Infrogmation photo)

Ghost Ads New Orleans

In October, I wrote an article for Preservation in Print, the member magazine for the Preservation Resource Center. The article features “ghost signs” – signs painted on the walls of buildings. These signs and ads fade over time. The original products disappear. The signs are now “ghosts”.

It was a great idea for an October/All Hallow’s Eve theme. It was also fun to research! The article came out wonderfully, mainly because PRC used professional photographers to shoot the ads. My writing was OK.

Magazine to Book

ghost ads new orleans

Jacob’s Candy ad in the Warehouse District (Infrogmation photo)

An editor for a publishing house approached me after the article dropped. They’ve published books on “fading ads” in several cities. The editor inquired about my interest in writing a book for New Orleans. While my immediate reaction was, YES!, the decision wasn’t that simple.

Turning a 1200-word article into a 30K+ word book requires more resources. It wasn’t hard to find a few ads for a fun piece. Finding 100 or so images for a book? A bit more work.

Research and Rabbit Holes

ghost ads new orleans

Trianon Theater Ad, 1917 (Mugnier photo)

Most photo archives don’t tag images as “ghost ads”. The ads appear in photos of buildings and streets. They appear as a streetcar passes by, and someone took a photo of the streetcar. It’s in the background of a selfie. A book project requires a universe of photos about three times the number to be published. So, for the Krauss book, I assembled about 400 images and published about 100. I’ll need a similar number for this book.

The process involves rabbit holes. Start with a neighborhood. Then, maybe a street. Look for buildings that are mismatched in height. For example, a four-story building next to a one- or two-story. That exposed wall offers a canvas for the sign painter. Now, look over 120+ years of photos. It’s fun, but time-consuming.

Send me your ads!

The thing about “fading ads” is that they’re, well, fading/faded. That means they’re easily overlooked. I need to find them! I’m going to be doing some contests. Submit an ad (photo or location), you get entered in a giveaway, maybe a book, maybe a gift card to PJ’s or Wakin Bakin. I’ll think it through this week.

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