In the mid-1910s, a major change came to the roads of New York City. This, obviously, was the introduction of the car. Since self-propelled vehicles could travel at much higher speeds down the streets of New York, a need to redesign the city’s road signs soon presented itself. The existing signs were excessively troublesome to read from an automobile. Consequently, New York County (which contained both Manhattan and The Bronx at the time) began to install a new style of road sign in the mid-1910s.
This newly-introduced sign design is now known as the “humpback” style, due to its distinctive shape. These hand-painted signs showed the road names in white text on a dark blue field. The name of the road the sign was parallel to (facing traffic on the intersecting road) was painted in large letters on the main body of the sign. The name of the road the sign faced was displayed in smaller text in the “hump” at the top of the sign. This feature made it so drivers could easily see the name of the road they were on as well. Heavy iron brackets attached these signs to the light posts at every intersection. Two openings cut out of the bracket permitted the text to still be read. From the 1910s to the 1950s, this style of sign served motorists all through Manhattan and the Bronx. Innovations in signage technology in the 1950s made hand-painted signs obsolete. Retroreflective sheeting, along with stricter standards for highway signs, guaranteed that the humpback sign would soon turn into a relic of days gone by. Before long, New York was home to modern signs, much like those in use today.
Broadway is among the most well-known streets in New York City. It extends the length of Manhattan and passes through the Bronx and into Westchester County. What is now Broadway was once a well-worn trail established by the Wecquaesgeek Native Americans, making it the oldest road in New York. It was not until the late 19th century, however, that the entirety of the present-day road carried the name “Broadway”. Near its southern end, Broadway crosses Houston Street. The street is named after Founding Father William Houstoun and is pronounced the same way—HOW-ston, not HYOO-ston like the city in Texas. Houston Street is the southernmost street to extend across Manhattan from east to west.
A classic humpback sign hasn’t stood at the corner of Broadway and Houston Street for decades. That’s why we’ve brought it back to life. Using photos of genuine signs that still circulate on the collector’s market, we’ve accurately reproduced the text style and layout of the old humpback signs. Original signs like these invariably cost a small fortune on the collector’s market. Not only that, it takes a stroke of luck to stumble onto a sign from the specific intersection you’re searching for. Our humpback sign replicas let you save money and avoid the hassle.
Our Broadway and Houston Street humpback sign is flat printed on sturdy 14-gauge steel. It has a glossy, non-reflective finish, similar to that of the original porcelain. We sell it in two sizes: 22 inches long, the same size as the original, and a downsized 16½-inch-long version. Choose between right-facing (mounting holes on the left), left-facing (mounting holes on the right), or two-sided variants. All versions have four mounting holes; two on the edge for the traditional lightpost-style mounting, and two between the lines of text, to hang it on a wall. (Searching for a different humpback road sign? Or perhaps some other style of road sign, from New York or another city? Custom orders are a piece of cake to us! Simply contact Jake today to get everything rolling.)