A new technology in the early 1910s, the automobile, meant changes needed to come as well to New York City. Because motor vehicles travel at much higher speeds than other possible transportation options at the time, street signs needed a redesign. It was simply too difficult to read the existing signs from a car. Thus, New York County (which included both Manhattan and The Bronx at the time) fashioned a new style of street sign in the early 1910s.
What they came up with is now referred to as the “humpback” style, thanks to its distinctive shape. The original signs were painted by hand, with a dark blue background and white text. The larger text at the bottom of the sign showed the name of the street the sign was posted parallel to (facing traffic on the intersecting street). In the “hump” at the top of the sign was the name of the street the sign faced, allowing travelers to better orient themselves. These signs hung from lampposts all over the city in heavy iron brackets. Each bracket had two large holes in them so the text could be showcased while the sign itself would be secure. These “humpback” signs became a beloved symbol of New York City streets through the 1950s. New, stricter standards for highway signs, as well as advances in technology that brought things like reflective sheeting to the forefront of sign manufacturing, consigned the humpback sign to history. Soon after, these iconic signs disappeared from the streets of New York, replaced with more modern styles, like those seen today.
You won’t find a humpback street sign at the corner of E. 84th Street and 2nd Avenue today. One hasn’t stood there for many years. That’s why we’ve made a precise replica of it for your modern-day enjoyment. We’ve brought it back to life on heavy steel with great gloss that highly resembles the original porcelain. We’ve painstakingly duplicated the text style and layout, using photographs of still-surviving signs as reference. It’s the closest thing you’ll get to the old-school New York experience without a time machine!
We’ve made our 84th and 2nd humpback sign available in two sizes: the original 22-inch-long size, and a 16½-inch version, scaled down for those wanting to save on money or space. A right-facing version, with mounting holes on the left, a left-facing version, with mounting holes on the right, and a double-sided version are all there for you to choose from. No matter the size or style, we’ve include four predrilled mounting holes. Mount it flush against the wall with the two holes in the center, or in the traditional lamppost style with the two on the edge! (We can make any classic street from New York, or any other city you can think of! Just contact Jake to place your custom order.)