In 1997, Frank Jump began photographing fading, painted ad murals on the sides of old New York buildings as part of a project for a documentary photography course he took at Empire State College in Manhattan.
All over the city, ads can still be seen that were first painted in the late 1800s or early 1900s. Often they sell goods that no longer exist (horse carriage repairs) or promote once-famous but extinct brands that recall a simpler time (Uneeda Biscuits).
Jump, 37 at the time he began shooting fading ad murals, felt a kinship with the images because in 1984 he had been diagnosed with HIV, at the very beginning of the AIDS epidemic, when most people with the disease soon died. “I am photographing these images that I never expected to live so long, and I never expected to live so long,” he told us.
Jump is now 52 and awaiting the second print run of his book, Fading Ads of New York City. His collection of Kodachrome 35 millimetre positives now numbers between 5,000 and 10,000, he estimates. He “couldn’t even begin to count” the digital images he has stored.
The ads survive because they were painted on brick. Sometimes new buildings shelter them for years until a demolition reveals them again, keeping the ads in a decades-long cycle of being hidden and revealed. Others are destroyed when brickwork is repainted or when a building becomes unstable.
Since Jump began this project, many of these ads have been obscured anew or destroyed. So he’s starting a new project: The fading ads of Brooklyn.
Carriages, Coupes & Hansoms: Built in 1870, 109 West 17th Street is an example of how New York was once a horse town. Ad circa 1890s.
Baby Ruth Candy of Curtis's Candy of Chicago, circa 1930. Seen at Delancey Street. No longer visible.
Weber & Heilbroner, a men's haberdashery from 1913-1979. The business failed to pay state corporation taxes and entered bankruptcy. Seen at West 35th Street & Broadway. This ad is usually obscured by a newer banner ad.
Omega Oil, a topical analgesic, circa 1910. In Harlem at West 147th Street & Frederick Douglass Blvd. Still visible.
Reckitt's Blue laundry whitener, circa 1890. At 622 Washington Avenue, Brooklyn. Re-obscured in 2004.
Zaccaro Real Estate/Bendix Home Laundry overlay, circa 1940s. At Kenmare & Elizabeth Streets. Still visible.
Diana Coal & Oil Co. The company was incorporated from December 1955 through March 1981. These towers were seen at Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn. The silos were torn down in March 2003 after a bankruptcy and failure to pay state corporation taxes.
Fletcher's Castoria, children's laxative, circa 1910. Market Street & Henry Street, Chinatown. No longer visible.
Seely Shoulder Shapes: Incorporated from November 17, 1953, through December 15, 1959. Ad seen at West 40th Street. The building has since been torn down.
Suzy Perette Dresses/ GiGi Young Originals/ Lombardy Dresses: The Lombardy company incorporated on April 6, 1938, and then became Perette on January 18, 1950. It later renamed itself Suzy Perette from January 31, 1958, to April 14, 1960. Seen at West 37th Street & Broadway. Still visible.
Hams & Capocolli/Wallabout Provisions Co., seen in Brooklyn Navy Yard. Incorporated from July 28, 1925, through October 31, 1933. Ad circa 1920s. No longer visible.
J.A. Keals Carriage Manufactory & Repair at 47th Street and Broadway. Ad circa 1877. No longer visible.
R.H. Macy's Uptown Stables at West 148th Street, Harlem. Ad circa 1900s. Macy's would have used the stables to make delivery orders telegraphed to it from the 34th Street store.
42nd Street/The World's Greatest Movie centre/Bickford's at the Selwyn Office Building, 229 West 42nd Street. Ad circa 1950s.
Oil Heats Best (Costs Less) at White Plains Road near 241st Street, Wakefield, the Bronx. Circa 1950s.
Sweet'n Low—the Perfect Sugar Substitute. Seen in back of the Cumberland Packing Company at Brooklyn Navy Yard. Circa early 1950s.
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