This 16″ cast aluminum NJ State Highway 27 shield could be as old as the late 1920s. It came to me in really nice condition, with no need for restoration. It’s amazing to think that these little shields were ever the standard on NJ state highways. Route 27 used to extend from Newark to Trenton, but its southern terminus is now in Princeton.
The back of the shield was originally painted white, and was painted over in black sometime after being installed on the road. The white backs must have been considered enough of a distraction to warrant the black-repaint. The photo below from Cranford in the 1930s shows several interesting signs, including cast aluminum NJ-28 and US-22 highway shields with their original white backs near the center of the photo (a front-facing pair is on the far right). US Route 22 was re-routed north of Cranford in 1941.
A comparison two shields from the same style period shows that different block sizes were used for the numerals. I had assumed that the smaller numerals (on left) were older, and were enlarged at some point in time for better legibility. However, historic sign expert Jake Bear informed me that several states used different numeric fonts seemingly interchangeably, and therefore, the block size may not indicate which sign is older.