~It’s a Good Sign~

Selections from the Marshall County Historical Society Advertising Collection

Advertising signs date back to the ancient world. Archaeologists have discovered signs that used symbols to indicate certain types of businesses, since most people could not read. Later, owners hung tools outside to describe their businesses. In 14th century England, a law was passed requiring taverns to hang a sign, and by the 18th century, most businesses had adopted the practice. These signs were usually made of painted wood and many were quite artistic. In the 19th century, lighted signs were developed, first using gas, and then electricity.

While wooden signs were still used in the 1800s, metal ones were becoming more common. The era also saw increasing consumerism and literacy, giving rise to the growth of brand advertising. Soon mass-produced metal signs were hanging both inside and outside businesses. The 1920s brought neon signs, but by the 1950s, plastic and vinyl signs became the norm. Towards the end of the 20th century, digital signs, beginning with scrolling marquees, entered the market. Today’s signs often make use of Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) technology and Augmented Reality, a combination of words and video.

What will the signs of the future be like? Industry experts predict they will be interactive, perhaps featuring holograms! But the basic purpose of advertising signs remains the same – to attract and inform. Look at the featured signs. Can you guess their era? Clues include sign materials and lettering style. Take a walk by the museum’s windows to see some of the signs in-person. Or, when the museum reopens, join us inside for more information on the history of Marshall County businesses and organizations.


Bosworth’s, a Plymouth department store, first sold dry goods in the 1890s at the corner of LaPorte and Center. It later moved to Michigan Street. Sold in 1982.


C.R. Leonard

C.R. Leonard was a Plymouth undertaker and furniture dealer located on Michigan Street, circa 1912.


Camp Fire

Camp Fire was founded in 1910 to provide girls with outdoor learning experiences. This not-for-profit was American’s first multiracial, multicultural, non-sectarian organization for young women.


Candy Bungalow

Candy Bungalow, a very popular shop, was located on East Jefferson Street in Plymouth, selling hand-made candies in the 1950s and ‘60s.


Railway Express Agency

Railway Express Agency was founded in 1918. Located in most train depots, REA was the FedEx of its day, shipping packages until the 1970s. Modern UPS trucks are based on their REA forerunners.


Hoosier Old Wheels

Hoosier Old Wheels, founded in 1971, is a Plymouth-based club that encourages acquisition, preservation, restoration and exhibition of classic cars. They host many activities, including a car show during the annual Blueberry Festival, which funds a local scholarship.


Henry’s Serv-U

Henry’s Serv-U advertised being “the only store of its kind in Marshall County.” This circa 1949 Plymouth grocery store was located on Michigan Street and featured a soda fountain and lunch bar. Henry’s open hours included Sundays and evenings. 



Lauer’s, a men’s clothing store, opened on Michigan Street in Plymouth during the 1870s. In 1910, the Lauer brothers built a new building for their store (pictured below). This building is now the home of the Marshall County Museum. 


Pertics Fruit Market

Pertics Fruit Market was founded in LaPaz by the Pertics family in 1935. Sons Emil and Ernie took over the business in 1950 and by the 1970s, they had one of Indiana’s largest blueberry plantations. They also patented a blueberry picking machine.


Pretty Lake Resort

Pretty Lake Resort was built in the mid-1940s. Its summer rental cabins came complete with rowboats and electricity, but they had no running water. (The ‘necessary’ was out back!) At the height of its popularity in the ’50s and ’60s, the dock could accommodate 30 rowboats.



Schlosser’s began as a Bremen dairy, making butter in the 1880s, and went on to become one of the state’s largest manufacturers/distributors of dairy products. Sold in the 1950s.


Shatford Shoe Repair

Shatford Shoe Repair was located on LaPorte Street in Plymouth. Lighted signs were introduced in the mid-1800s, but by the 1930s, neon signs like this one were the industry standard.


Slayter and Hess

Slayter and Hess was a circa 1900 hardware store located on Michigan Street in Argos. This sign touts the store’s harvesting machinery, which had revolutionized farming beginning in the 1850s.  


Diet Rite Cola

Diet Rite Cola was introduced in 1958, then marketed in the 1960s as a “healthful” sugar-free beverage. However, Diet Rite contained cyclamate, an artificial sweetener that was banned in 1969. Today, the reformulated brand is owned by Keurig Dr Pepper.


The Lunch Box

The Lunch Box was a hamburger stand, part of the Pretty Lake Resort west of Plymouth. The circa 1950 restaurant offered sandwiches, pop, ice cream and cigarettes.



Up-Town Laundromat

Up-Town Laundromat opened on the corner of Center and West Laporte in Plymouth during the late 1950s. Open 24-hours, the laundry was completely coin-operated and offered dry cleaning machines in addition to washers and dryers.


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123 N Michigan St.
Plymouth, IN 46563

(574) 936-2306

Tuesday – Saturday: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Closed Sundays, Mondays
& County Holidays

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Marshall County Historical Society, Museum & Crossroads Center is handicap accessible.