WALL DOGS

Art Work on Downtown Buildings

d n english

Unique murals are appearing on buildings all around West Tennessee but this is not a new concept.

Let me tell you about the “Wall Dogs”  this group existed from

1901 to 1950. “Wall Dogs” were a group of individuals that worked as artists or painters  for various large companies. Their job was to go to a community to paint advertisements of the company products. 

An example would be “Yukon Best Flour” they would send salesman to the large grocery wholesalers, such as Edenton

Wholesalers in Jackson Tn.If the company agreed to purchase a rail car of flour Yukon would send the their crew of painters to 

create an advertisement on the side of the building.

The wholesaler could also choose to gift the wall art to a good customer. Companies would ask the salesman to scout barns along the rail lines. Then offer the owner of the barn money to paint their advertisements on the wall or roof. Each year they would send the painters around to freshen up the signs.

In the early 1900’s the companies would give the painters their schedule and supplies, paint ,scaled drawings and the painters prize brushes, and send them by rail to the various communities. As the roads across the country improved the company would furnish the painters trucks. The painters would soon be working on their own, contracting with several companies including tourist sites.Now the painters would be  furnishing their own transportation and supplies.

The brightly colored paints were lead based since the lead based paints would withstand the elements better. When the painters  arrived in a community and finish their assignments they would go around and pick up small jobs. These jobs would include painting signs for cafes, small store fronts etc a lot of these jobs would be in exchange for food or lodging. Soon the painters would  find a favorite community making friends and would arrange their work to return and visit often.

 As nature would have it a romance would occur and the painter would retire to marry his love and become the town

sign painter or just painter.

Many of the “Wall Dogs” enjoyed the gypsy lifestyle so no attachments for them. Gradually the wall dogs were replaced by technology. The signs faded as they just  became  a memory.

Fast forward to 2021 and now the buildings are being covered with art to represent the history of the community or just the imagination of the artists.

How many of you remember the signs on the different buildings? I know I do my grandfather’s store was gifted one these signs by R C Cola.

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