Ron Ladouceur – Seeing Through Walls: Ghost Signs as a Window Into History

Recorded June 23, 2021

They haunt us from side streets and alleyways, fragments of our industrial and commercial past, bonded to brick, invisible, until suddenly not, and then popping into existence with a surprising promiscuity. They are ghost signs, a fading but still resonant echo of a riotous and unregulated commercial past. More than mere fragments of brand promotions, familiar and forgotten, when dug into, ghost signs provide a record that, like bits of bone and in the hands of a trained archeologist, can help illuminate everything from the history of typography to the roots of our current cultural conflicts.

On June 23, 2021, SCA board member Ron Ladouceur, an advertising agency veteran and professor of marketing at the University at Albany, described his 5-year journey to find and document surviving ghost signs across the New York, New England, and Pennsylvania.

Ron shared dozens of photos from what he calls his “weekend fishing trips,” along with his techniques for finding ghosts, photographing them, conjuring them into legibility and contextualizing them through research and writing.

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