The American Sign Museum in Cincinnati is a must-see experience for roadside America enthusiasts.
Some of the best museum experiences I’ve ever had were in places that reflected the life’s work and vision of one individual. The American Sign Museum is one of those unique places, created by one man’s lifelong fascination with signs, from elaborate neon roadside colossi to tiny storefront displays. We were lucky enough to be in Cincinnati for the museum’s grand opening in its new location during the summer of 2012. The museum director, Tod Swormstedt, personally greeted us and gave us a behind-the-scenes tour. Turns out his family owned the trade journal, “Signs of the Times,” for several generations, and it was his own work for this publication that inspired his collecting and museum ambitions. He designed all of the exhibits himself, incorporating vibrant street scenes that showcase the diversity of signs brilliantly.
A walk through the museum is a trip thorough America’s commercial and pop culture history, from a brick wall painted with Gold Medal Flour to a mammoth neon Howard Johnson’s showstopper. The visual displays are stunning, and you’ll leave with a healthy appreciation for the genius of American commercial artists. As a bonus, the Camp Washington Chili Parlor is just down the street. Nothing tops a day of neon Americana like a plate of 3-way chili!