These signs were born in the late 1920s and lasted until the beginning of the1960s. The highways and cars were different then, most automobile of that time went about 35 miles an hour, which made it easier to read the signs. In the Twenties roads were improving as were the autos, speed was increasing and people started going greater distances.
They used stencils and a brush to coat the signs, a series of six signs were placed a short distance from one another to make them easier to read. The success of the signs was the light hearted humor, they were a joy to read and never offended anyone, except maybe the competition. Reading the signs out loud became a habit and everyone in the car saying them at the same time was fun. I know when we were kids and out in the car we always looked for the Burma Shave signs.
This is the way it worked to get the signs on different locations, they would send out men to cruise the highways watching for ideal spots to put the signs. The spot had to be a stretch of road visible for a considerable distance, no curves just a straight road. Then they would go about working out a deal with whoever owned the land, the land was rented for a year, and usually the people would sign a contract for next year. There were some people that signed for decades.
The Burma-Vita Company was sold to Philip Morris, Inc., the road signs were growing costlier and less effective. The company was using other means of advertising the product, so the road signs were coming to a halt. Some people of today swear they have seen Burma Shave signs, I know I wish I could see them one more time.
Here are a few sayings from those good old signs. DON'T LOSE/YOUR HEAD/TO GAIN A MINUTE/YOU NEED YOUR HEAD/YOUR BRAINS ARE IN IT/BURMA SHAVE. SLOW DOWN PA/SAKES ALIVE/MA MISSED SIGNS/FOUR/AND FIVE/BURMA SHAVE.
What a sad time in 1963 when Philip Morris bought Burma Shave, it was a part of American history that is remembered only by the older generation and is missed. If you have a memory of the signs let me know.