Boots Bakery and Bull Durham Smoking Tobacco

Ghost Signs of Spokane Tour - Story 17

Don't let this bakery's cheery exterior fool you, Boots Bakery is serious about keeping things local. While renovating the space, the owners partially uncovered what is probably the best preserved ghost sign in Spokane an advertisement for Bull Durham Smoking Tobacco painted by the firm of "Billboard Baron" Thomas Cusack. Step inside and check it out.

Bull Durham was one of the most aggressive advertisers of tobacco one hundred years ago, and many American cities boasted brightly painted advertising signs with the iconic bull. The parent company hired as many four teams of sign painters, who continuously traveled the country with paints and brushes. Combined with magazine and newspaper advertisements, the effort was perhaps the first mass-market advertising campaign in American history.

But why is this bull inside the cafe? The wall you see was originally constructed as the outside wall of a building that stood next store. The sign was painted on the outside of that building. A few years later a new building arose on this site, sharing a wall with the old. The sign was plastered over preserving it for perhaps a century.

If you look behind the bar at Boots you will see another part of the sign, a signature panel for "Thos. Cusack, Chicago." Cusack was the first American to build a fortune from outdoor advertising. By 1920 his army of sign painters worked out of more than 100 offices across the country. In Chicago, a city notorious for labor strikes, Cusack was known for his fair labor practices and friendly relationships with his employees, who never walked off the job. When Cusack retired and sold his business in 1924, his workers earned $10 to $15 a day.

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