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Fading Ads of New York City Hardcover – November 21, 2011
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Advertising murals painted by hand on blank brick side walls in the 1800s and 1900s were supposed to have disappeared by now. Color slides were supposed to have disappeared by now. Books were supposed to have disappeared by now.
For that matter, Frank H. Jump was supposed to have disappeared by now. He learned he had H.I.V. in 1986, when he was 26 years old and AIDS was a death sentence.
They all survived longer than expected. That happy confluence has yielded "Fading Ads of New York City," a new 224-page book from the History Press. It showcases Mr. Jump's loving record of hand-painted ghost signs that lasted long enough to go from eyesore to historical asset.
Underscoring the metaphorical nature of the signs, Mr. Jump has organized the book in chapters that "tell the story of the human body," beginning with "Snake Oils, Elixirs, Tonics, Cure-Alls and Laxatives." (Syrup of figs was not a dessert topping.) Throughout the book, Mr. Jump alternates between the gas-lit, horse-drawn era of the ghost signs and his own experience, which includes permanent hearing loss and tinnitus from Cisplatin, a drug used in the chemotherapy regimen he underwent after developing rectal cancer. --New York Times
The oldest still-standing advertisement in New York City--there for more than a century--is hidden in, of all places, Times Square.
"J.A. Keal's Carriage Manufactory Repairing"--at 47th and Broadway--was painted on the side of a brick building in 1874, back when horses galloped through Gotham.
The billboard, now hidden at the southwest corner of Broadway that has Roxy Delicatessen on its ground floor, is featured in Brooklyn elementary-school teacher Frank Jump's new book, "Fading Ads of New York City"...
Jump photographed the "ghost sign," as many of the old ads are called, when it was briefly exposed in 1998....
The city's oldest still-visible ad is in Chelsea, the book says. Painted in white on a red-brick building at 109 W. 17th St. around 1900, the ad sells "Carriages, Coupes and Hansoms."
Jump...has documented 5,000 ads since 1997. Only a third are still standing.
--Susannah Cahalan <New York Post
"It is a book that anyone interested in the archaeology of urban America will want to have, and that those interested in historic signs and the products they advertised (e.g. Reckitt's Blue,"The Purest and the Best") will treasure." --BeyondChron.com
About the Author
Frank H. Jump is a New York City artist and educator. A native of Queens, New York, Jump has lived in Brooklyn with his husband, Vincenzo Aiosa, since 1989. Jump’s first major photo
exhibition ran at the New-York Historical Society from August to November 1998. After launching the Fading Ad Campaign website in February 1999, the debut of vintage hand painted advertising on the Internet had a noticeable effect on popular culture, as
evidenced by the subsequent proliferation of similar websites and blogs and the use of vintage advertising in television commercials, films and modern hand-painted ads. In the mid-2000s, Jump and Aiosa opened the Fading Ad Gallery in Brooklyn, where Jump’s photography was
on display for nearly two years, as well as having their curatorial debut with several shows featuring other HIV-positive visual artists and local Brooklyn artists of various media. Jump continues his documentation of these remnants of early advertising with the acclaimed Fading Ad Blog, a daily photo blog featuring images he and Aiosa have taken of ads worldwide, as well as the work of other fellow urban archaeologists. Jump teaches instructional technology, guitar, digital photography and other interdisciplinary studies at an elementary school in Flatbush, where he also resides.
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First and foremost is the quality of photography and the specimens that Frank has captured in his daring escapades around New York. 72 examples are beautifully documented which, although representing just a fraction of his collection, offer up some of the best examples to be found in this city of signs. Two of my favourites are his first ever photograph, the four-storey Omega Oil, and the colourfully illustrated sign for M. Rappoport's Music Store. The selection is diverse, providing excellent examples of many components of the painted form: scale; lettering; illustration; characters; slogans.
Accompanying each sign in the book is a well researched account of the history of the company advertised. This is then set within the context of the wider industry and its connection to New York. In this sense, the book is an historical account of the commercial history of the city and the districts within it. There are parallels to Ben Passikoff's The Writing On The Wall, although Frank uses individual signs as his springboard into the wider historical context.
Perhaps the most striking difference between Frank's book and others in the growing catalogue of Ghostsigns titles is the personal dimension that he brings to his work. The connections between his documentation of New York's Fading Ads and his fight against HIV/AIDS are inescapable. He uses the unintended survival of the signs as a metaphor for his own survival against the odds, and is very candid in his account of his own story. In this respect, the book is part history, part autobiography, and I learned about more than just Ghostsigns from reading it.
Adding another layer of depth to the book are a series of written pieces by various figures including historians, academics, and fellow Fading Ad enthusiasts. There are nine in total including an introduction from Ghostsigns pioneer William Stage (author of the original Ghost Signs book) and an extended essay considering the meaning of these signs in terms of time and place from Dr Andrew Irving of the University of Manchester. It is clear from these accompanying texts that Frank's life and work has touched many people in a positive way. In fact, my own account of the encouragement he offered me in the early stages of my interest in hand painted advertising is one such contribution. (To what extent it adds any depth you can judge for yourself...)
This book is a fantastic addition to the published material available on the topic and I learned a lot from it. I hope that the publishers will commission a sequel so that even more of Frank's photography can find its way onto the printed page.