Roadside History: 5 Little-Known Facts About Coca-Cola 'Ghost Signs' Roadside History: 5 Little-Known Facts About Coca-Cola 'Ghost Signs'

CARTERSVILLE, GA — Last week, our #JourneyxJourney team visited Cartersville, Ga. to check out the very first Coca-Cola wall advertisement. Painstakingly restored in 1989, the mural stands as crisp and vibrant as the day it was painted back in 1894. But though similar murals can be found all across the country, many have faded with time and are now known by enthusiasts as “ghost signs.”

Curious to learn more? Here are five quick facts about Coca-Cola murals and ghost signs!

A classic Coca-Cola mural.jpg

1. According to the story, the Cartersville mural was painted by an enterprising Coca-Cola syrup salesman from Atlanta, who decided to take advantage of the building’s 100-foot-long wall, which also faced the town’s train depot.

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2. After this first wall sign was completed, the practice quickly took off. By 1910, murals accounted for 25 percent of The Coca-ColaCompany’s total advertising budget.

Close-up Coke wall mural.jpg

3. Coca-Cola murals were standardized starting in the 1920s, through the use of detailed playbooks. These manuals, which were distributed to artists across the country, included “pounce patterns” (a type of paper stencil), approved paint colors, and other style guidelines.

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4. Many wall signs might have faded, but sign painters are still at work and dedicated to their craft today! The Cartersville mural was restored in 1989 by sign painters Alison Free and Aggie Ferguson.Coca-Cola Bottling Company Consolidated, a Charlotte, N.C.-based bottler has also hired painters including Jack Fralin, Bill Johnson and Andy Thompson to restore more than two dozen murals across the Southeast.

Lettering artist hand-painting

5. After the Cartersville restoration brought renewed attention to the historic mural, it received an influx of fan mail from around the world — some of it addressed simply to “First Coca-Cola Sign, Cartersville, GA.”

Cartersville plaque