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Luce Foundation Center for American Art

Folk Art: Folk Sculpture: Apothecary Shop Trade Sign
Apothecary Shop Trade Sign

Apothecary Shop Trade Sign
about 1880
Unidentified artist
painted metal with wood
30 1/8 x 24 7/8 x 18 3/4 in. (76.5 x 63.3 x 47.7 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Herbert Waide Hemphill, Jr. and museum purchase made possible by Ralph Cross Johnson

In the mid- to late nineteenth century, craftsmen carved signs for a wide variety of businesses. These large, easily recognizable symbols guided people to the service or product needed, from the mortar and pestle of the druggist to the shoe of the cobbler and the fish of the fishmonger. This visual language of figures and objects was especially useful to the large numbers of immigrants, many of whom could not speak English.

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