“Sign Painters and Artists,” the new episode of Coney Island Stories, has dropped! Listen and subscribe via Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. Episode 10 shares the stories of Coney Island sign painters as well as artists and designers who’ve been inspired by Coney’s celebrated signage, all taken from the History Project’s Oral History Archive.
The Coney Island style of hand-painted signs was perfected more than a century ago by Wildman and Sons, a shop in the heart of the amusement manufacturing district just off Surf Avenue. Amusement signs were meant to stand out and be instantly readable from a distance on the chaotic streets of Coney Island. Some lettering was illustrative and comical, flowing along slanted or arching baselines that created motion. The wording could be expressionistic, but still adhered to the rule of being readable. And then there are the pictorial signs, the traditional Coney classics, like iconic images of hot buttered corn or mustard-covered hot dogs, signs that don't need text or explanation.
The oral histories in the podcast are with Coney Island sign painter Sam Moses; advertising professional and former sign painter John Rea; artist and School of Visual Arts instructor Stephen Gaffney; and watercolor artist Frederick Brosen. The interviews were conducted by Charles Denson, Samira Tazari, and Tricia Vita between 2010 and 2019. This episode was produced by Charles Denson, Ali Lemer and Tricia Vita.
Listen to previous episodes about Coney Island's legendary roller coasters, beach, bathhouses, and restaurants and other businesses on Mermaid Avenue and in the amusement area via your fave podcast app or the podcast page on the Coney Island History Project's website.
Photo credits: Top right, Watercolor painting by Frederick Brosen, “Surf Avenue,” 2007. Bottom right, Photo of Sam Moses painting at Deno's Wonder Wheel by Charles Denson, 2017. Bottom left, Photo of Paul’s Daughter by Stephen Gaffney, 2016.