Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Vintage Bull Durham Signs

I didn’t realize it until recently, but brands have always been significant to me, and (who knows?) maybe that interested me to go from law school to marketing places. In fact, one of the first brands I was exposed to is literally a brand. It is still registered in Idaho.

A few years ago, I got a copy of that page of the brand registry. We used HB (with the H and the B sharing the same horizontal bar). Hyrum Bowman is the name of both my great-great- and great-grandfathers. There were other brands like Winchester 30-30, Jeep, Oliver, Farmall, Case, Quarter Horse, Henry’s Fork, Belgian, Hereford, Percheron, Island Park, Morgan, Black Angus, Appaloosa, IGA, Monkey Wards and many more.

Bull Durham may have put Durham on the map. It did with me as a kid growing up in Northeast-Eastern Idaho. My Uncle Lewis, who had a place several miles closer to town, was a “rock star,” because he had one of the few John Deere Model M tractors making the distinctive sound of a two-cycle engine. He also carried a Bull Durham tobacco pouch in his shirt pocket. He could also spit further than anybody I’ve ever known, an ability impressive to little boys everywhere.

When I was drawn to Durham nearly two decades ago, I knew Bull Durham as a movie, but I quickly became familiar with the history of the company and the brand. The Old Bull Building is a national historic landmark, and the company gave Durham its first legacy brand tagline and one of my favorites, “The Bull City.” And after Lord Tennyson was introduced to Bull Durham, the company added the tagline “The Town Renowned the World Around.”

I also learned that signs had been hand-painted on walls, rooftops and other locations all over the world. Mark Twain is said to have complained that he could hardly see the pyramids in Egypt for the Bull Durham signs.

You can still see them on a brick wall in Downtown Durham and in Rochester, NY, and… my friend Jane Goodridge was recently traveling through New Mexico, and in a small, two-road town called Socorro, 60 miles south of Albuquerque, she snapped this photo of a Bull Durham sign, painted in the 1950s, a resident told her.

There are a lot of reasons Durham is a good fit for me, but maybe it all began with Bull Durham on that pouch in my uncle’s shirt pocket.

1 comment:

eynaw31526 said...

I have old cardboard BULL DURHAM BLACK MEMBERAILAY SIGN. 25 IN. BY 19 in. black mama smoking pipe and little girl eating watermelon and boy watching bull in pasture. reading on sign MY! It Shure am Sweet Tastan" out of old tavern over 50 yrs. old appraised at $1000 will sell for less.