This bl.ag online article is long and will be clipped by most email providers. I recommend opening this direct link to the page, and using a computer or tablet to get the most from these images.
The H.H. Seiferth Sign Company was a major sign painting operation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They were trading from the end of the nineteenth century until as recently as 2018, representing over 125 years in business.
A H.H. Seiferth sign painter and a piece for the Syria Arab Patrol. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.
The firm was accomplished in a huge range of work, from price tickets and showcards to gilded windows and wall signs, as evidenced by a remarkable photographic collection of their output from 1900–30. It is also noteworthy that they consistently signed their signs, like Karl Blaschke in Munich, and I wonder if anything survives today given how prolific their output was.
Detail of a painted fascia sign announcing the imminent arrival of the Joseph T. Snyder cigar shop. It is signed by H.H. Seiferth, giving the firm's address as 632 Penn Avenue. They were based there until 1919. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.
Below is an edited selection of the signs in the collection, which can be explored in more depth via the Historic Pittsburgh website. This contains the following brief historical account of the firm:
"The H.H. Seiferth Sign Company was started by H.H. Seiferth in 1890 in an alley between Penn Avenue and Duquesne Way in down town Pittsburgh. The company created signs for Pittsburgh retail businesses, factories, and political campaigns.
"It was located on Fancourt Street from 1919 until around 1950, when it was forced to relocate due to the development of the Point State Project. Following the move, the company had locations Water Street, East Street, and Fort Pitt Boulevard.
"In 1942, H.H. Seiferth passed away, leaving the shop to his daughter, Jane Seiferth Markowitz who became one Pittsburgh's few female business owners at that time."
In the Office
These photos are from inside the Pittsburgh office of the H.H. Seiferth Sign Company. This was presumably a customer-facing part of the business, with the shop and operations located elsewhere, but perhaps in the same building.
Photos (Left and Right): Historic Pittsburgh.
A closer look at some of the showcards visible in the photos above of the H.H. Seiferth offices.
The H.H. Seiferth Sign Company worked for a number of cigar retailers. Their signage included privileges for cigar and tobacco brands, alongside the regular shop signs.
Pittsburgh Cigar Co.
The Pittsburgh Cigar Co. on 6th Street, with various privileges adorning the shopfront. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.
Joseph T. Snyder
This firm had multiple premises and H.H. Seiferth was responsible for regular signage in addition to new store opening announcements. They also produced a variety of window display signage, including showcards and price tickets.
H.H. Seiferth showcards in the window of the Joseph T. Snyder cigar shop. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh. Window display at the Joseph T. Snyder cigar shop with showcards and price tickets by H.H. Seiferth. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.
Russell's Cigar Store
This tobacco shop was housed in an impressive building, with signage incorporated into some of its architectural features.
Signage for the Russell's Cigar Store positioned within the architecture of the shop's impressive building. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.
Privileges for Turkish cigarette brands, Helmar and Murad, flanking the shopfront of the Russell's Cigar Store. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.
This image is listed as unidentified in the main archive, but given the Helmar and Murad panels, and the stonework, it is almost certainly another entrance to the Russell's Cigar Store. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.
Afco Cigar Company
For this customer, the H.H. Seiferth firm employed almost all of their capabilities, including what appears to be some illuminated signage.
Open, Shut, and Clearing Out
In addition to painting signs to announce store openings, H.H. Seiferth also produced work for stock clearance and closing down sales. These were often at an extraordinary scale, sometimes straddling entire frontages.
The Surprise Store
"Everything sacrificed" and two bits of temporary signage to help it along. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.
Detail of a piece of promotional signage that hung over the entrance to the Kaufman department story. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.
Queues for the grand opening of the Hilton clothes shop in Pittsburgh. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh. Street-level signage with claims from the Hilton clothing company ahead of expanding their operations to Pittsburgh. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.
Great Britain Rainproof Co.
A medley of lettering styles for the "forced sale" at bankrupt Great Britain Rainproof Co. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.
B. White Company / Rosenbaum Co.
The Rosenbaum company carrying out the clearance sale on behalf of the B. White Company. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.
The Roenbaum Company claiming to be opening "the tallest department store on earth" on this enormous temporary banner. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh. Detail from the above photo showing a vehicle of the Pittsburgh Plate and Glass Company, now PPG, owner of 1 Shot Paints. The company was involved in the 'glass wars' discussed in this earlier article at bl.ag online.
Deals on Wheels
Some of the sales above were also trailed on moving vehicles, which represent a point of transition between horse-drawn and motorised transport.
Horse-drawn carriage and drivers posing in front of their employer's warehouse store. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.
B. White Company / Rosenbaum Co.
Even the horse's jacket is used to help advertise Rosenbaum Co.'s B. White Co. sale, while the carriage is adorned with a temporary banner covering the regular livery signage. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.
Many of the big retailers above sold clothing, but there were also a number of smaller businesses that sought out the H.H. Seiferth touch for their signs.
Economy Shoe Shop
The Economy Shoe Shop branch on Beaver Avenue, and its winged boot. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.
Practical panels, with one reminding us that it's always "safety first, then style, fit, comfort". Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.
Suits You, Sir
Frank & Seder
Ornate pictorial and decorative work on this vertical glass panel for Smit-Lewis. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.
Gold on Glass
The H.H. Seiferth firm had reverse-glass gilding work firmly within their repertoire.
Pennsylvania Rubber Co.
Detail of the Schroeder's transom windows, and the fine lettering and musical score pictorial in the window. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.
B.K. Elliott Co.
McCulloch Drug Co.
The McCulloch Drug Co. dominated this corner in Pittsburgh with its impressive array of signage and window displays. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.
Volkwein Bros. was one of a number of music and musical instrument clients retained by the H.H. Seiferth sign firm. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.
The Sweet Stuff
These showcards and menu board were for an unidentified soda shop. We can only imagine what colours would have been used across this impressive diversity of layout and lettering combinations.
Array of soda shop showcards, with some also featured on the menu board. Photos (showcards and menu board): Historic Pittsburgh.
A closer look at the menu board in three parts.
Pain Free Dentistry
After all those sundaes, a trip to the dentist is in order, and at Franklin's its sure to be a painless experience.
The signage is on the first floor (second floor for USA readers), above another shop in what may once have been a branch of the Thompson's restaurant. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.
Here are five more signs in the collection for your enjoyment.
Henry's / Victor
The collection also features this rendering of a proposed location for a Victrola 'His Master's Voice' advertisement. Victrola was a Victor Talking Machine Company product.
Reliance Life Insurance
A 1911 banner further demonstrating the range of H.H. Seiferth's output. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.
Tampa Cuba Cigars
This is a privilege panel below a window display at Peter G. Walter drug store. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.
Freehold Real Estate Co.
Ye Olde Sign Shoppe