Historic 'Mail Pouch' sign restored in Lisbon
A piece of iconic American history has been restored on a street corner in Lisbon.
Artist Bob Vrabel has finished repainting the Mail Pouch Tobacco sign on the south wall outside the County Prosecutor’s office at South Market Street and West Washington Street.
Mayor Pete Wilson says the work, which took about a week to complete, was funded by the county commissioners.
According to the West Virginia Encyclopedia, Mail Pouch Chewing Tobacco signs on barns, bridges, and buildings are among the early examples of outdoor advertising.
First appearing in the late 19th century, when Bloch Brothers Tobacco Company of Wheeling used painted signs to promote their tobacco, by 1910, signs bearing the slogan, ‘‘Chew Mail Pouch Tobacco, Treat Yourself to the Best,’’ were appearing in what became trademark yellow and white letters on a black background.
Bloch Brothers concentrated its advertising in rural areas where chewing tobacco was popular in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, New York, southern Michigan, and western Maryland.
There are also some signs along the west coast in California, Oregon, and Washington.
The company employed men who would find barns and buildings that could easily be seen by passersby and negotiate a lease for sign space with the farmer or owner.
Contract workers were paid by the square foot to paint the signs.
As many as 4,000 Mail Pouch signs may have appeared on outdoor buildings. The average life of a sign was 30 to 40 years.