May I Buy a Vowel?: Porcelain Enamel Metal Letters, ca. 1940s

These porcelain metal letters were dug up recently in Nebraska and you can almost feel the weight and quality of these from the pictures alone.

There’s been a solid trend in recent years towards decorative letters and you don’t have to look far to find newly manufactured, industrial-looking letters sold by larger chain stores. In some cases these copies actually look pretty good and are generally about the same price as vintage ones.

The difference becomes clear though when you pick up a heavy-gauge steel letter with a porcelain or enamel skin. Aside from the weight, these older letters and signs also sit rigid with no flexing of the metal. They spelled out a business name and were manufactured to be fastened to the outside of a building so they needed to be able to withstand all weather conditions without rusting.

Older porcelain letters and signs have yet another remarkable attribute in that despite the decades of hostile weather they may have endured, they polish up to a high gloss without much effort.

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