Roadside Classics: Signs of America in the ’70s,’80s and 90s – By John Margolies at the Library of Congress

St. Joseph Auto and Furniture Fabric slipcover sign; St, Joseph, Missouri (1988)

(first posted 8/16/2017)       John Margolies was an American photographer who in the 1970s began traveling secondary US highways to document quirky signage and striking roadside eye-catchers. He authored slick, heavy coffee-table books on programmatic architecture and visual essays on novelty subjects like miniature golf courses, movie theaters, Eastern resorts, and road maps. Margolies unflaggingly continued to shoot until his eyes began to fail in the early 2000s. His collection at the Library of Congress goes on into the thousands upon thousands of images. Margolies died in 2016. The accompanying shots are some of those most directly related to the automobile itself.

More Skinny Used Car sign; Santa Fe Avenue, Pueblo, Colorado (1991)

McKay Lincoln Mercury; Westlake & Mercer, Seattle, Washington (1977)

Compton Car Wash; Rosecrans Boulevard, Compton, California (1981)

Earl Scheib Auto Painting sign; Olympic Boulevard, Beverly Hills, California (1991)

Ideal Used Car sign; 1990 South State Street, Salt Lake City, Utah (1981)

Delaware Auto Court sign; State Road, Rehoboth Beach, Delaware (1984)

Betts Truckstop sign; Route 19, Chiefland, Florida (1980)

Champion Springs Service sign, Henderson Street; Fort Worth, Texas (1994)

Weld County Garage (and gas station), Routes 85 & 34; Greeley, Colorado (1980)

Texaco gas pumps; Milford, Illinois (1977)

Yellow Cab Co. sign with clock, South 7th Street; St. Joseph, Missouri (1994)

Uniroyal factory, Telegraph Road; Commerce, California (1977)

25 Cent Car Wash, Main Street & Ocean Park Boulevard; Santa Monica, California (1979)

Lonnie’s Auto Trim sign; Knoxville, Tennessee (1984)


Photos and captions reside in the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Online Catalog. Many images are part of the John Margolies Roadside America photograph archive.