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The roadside sign has become an American icon: a glowing neon symbol of the
golden age of the open road. Yet signs are complex pieces of design, serving
not only as physical markers but also as cultural, political, and economic
ones. In American Signs , Lisa Mahar traces the evolution of motel signs on
Route 66 in a distinctive visual approach that combines text, images, and
American Signs reveals the rich vernacular traditions of motel sign-making in
five eras, spanning from the late 1930s through the 1970s. The motel signs of
the early 1940s, for instance, reflect vernacular traditions dating back at
least a century, while examples from the later years of the decade reveal a
culture newly obsessed with themes. America's fascination with newness and
technological progress is manifested in 1950s motel signs. Finally, in the
1960s, a turn toward simplicity and the use of new, modular technologies
allowed motel signs to address the needs of a mass society and the beginnings
of a national, rather than regional, aesthetic for motel signs.