This page is a collection of old signs and other nifty non-signal items found on, or collected from, the streets of New Jersey. A separate gallery of collected NJ highway shields is here.
Vintage NJ Sign Photos
The detail above from a 1926 photograph in Kingston shows a mind-blowing array of cool road furniture of the time: From left to right: A flashing beacon (manufacturer unknown) with instructions to call for repair, a wooden guidepost sign with distances to New Brunswick, Elizabeth, Newark, Rocky Hill, Somerville and Morristown, a first-generation NJ State Route 13 shield (which would soon be renumbered as NJ Route 27) on the bottom, and last, but not least, a Lincoln Highway marker.
Changing of the guard… The above photo, taken in December 1952 at the Milltown Circle in North Brunswick, shows signs in transition immediately before the state’s highway renumbering, which took effect in January 1953. Drivers here are being familiarized with the new designations of US Routes 130 and 1, which are replacing the old NJ Routes 25 and 26, respectively. The new US 1 and US 130 shields are using the 1948 federal specification of black print on white squares.
Greenies! By 1958, New Jersey started using reflective white vinyl on painted green cutout signs. The US route shields were badge-shaped, and the state route shields were circular. The newspaper photo above from Millville was published April 14, 1958. The green signs only lasted into the early 1960s before the familiar black and white square (1961 federal spec) signs started replacing them. I’m very pleased to have one of these rare birds in my collection.
A cast metal SLOW DANGEROUS INTERSECTION sign is being painted in a NJ DOT archive photo on the left. Note the stacks of reflectors – Ed Tapanes has one of these in his collection. On the right, the same sign can be seen in service in Flemington in 1938.
Survivors in the Wild
(i.e., old signs that made it to the internet age)
This awesome cast iron sign with cateye reflectors is rusting away on Allwood Road in Clifton. The photo was sent to me by retired Clifton PD officer Bob Bracken, who is trying to have it publicly preserved by the city.
You simply can’t document cool old signage in New Jersey without help from Steve Alpert. His Alp’s Roads site is quite a trip! The photos above are just the tip of a huge iceberg of coolness he has personally photographed in NJ (and beyond) over the years. All of the above signs have since been retired.
At top, we have attained porcelain nirvana in Essex County. The next three photos show cast iron guideposts in Union County – one being similar to my own from elsewhere in the county. Note that the last digit in the cast ROUTE 22 banners are actually touched up to change the original number from “29” to “22”, which occurred with the 1953 NJ highway renumbering.
As I have noted elsewhere, Union and Salem counties seemed to favor these cast iron signs with the sharp corners.
(i.e., old sign photos that have made their way to the internet)
Paul Havemann sent me photos of a couple of county line markers that he took over the years. The cast iron sign on the left was on the border of Pequannock and Wayne until 2005. The newer (but still old) sign on the right stood on NJ route 23 near Smoke Rise into the late 1990s.
Ben Kranefeld has also photographed a number of these county line markers.
Another photo sent by Paul Havemann, these “box” shaped guidepost signs were once a Passaic County thing. By my time, these were all pretty faded, like you see here. They were somewhat confusing at first glance, but I think they indicated what town you were in (on top), followed by towns you were heading toward if you continued straight, and the principal town in the direction of the arrow at bottom. The ones in this photo are extra cool in that they were mounted on concrete posts similar to those once used for mailboxes in Jersey.
I had assumed these “box” signs only went back to about 1950, but I was wrong. The very cropped image above shows the same (or very similar) signs posted at Belmont & West Broadway in Paterson in 1931.
Collected Sign Gems
I remember seeing these beautiful porcelain Essex County Highway System guidepost signs at various intersections well into the 1990s. Two photos of these signs in service can be seen in further up this page. This one was a 2018 eBay near-miss… it was sold in the town next-door to mine (ARGH!). I did eventually meet the seller, when he sold me my NJ Route 18 shield.
Fifty-fifty…either way, it’s cool. Ben Kranefeld has NJ Route 50 shields from two periods. On the left is a 1940s-spec 18″ cast aluminum shield, and on the right is a more familiar 24″ circle-in-square shield adhering to the 1961 federal specification.
Although not Ben Kranefeld’s, this is a fantastic, very old cast STOP sign that he spotted in the front yard of a South Jerseyan during one of his road trips.
The photo on the left was grabbed from eBay many years ago, showing what was, for a long time, the only example I had ever seen of the original Garden State Parkway shield design from 1954. (Scroll down for the new find!) An ultra-rare piece that I’d love to have in my collection. I used to own one of the more familiar GSP shields.
On the right is one of the original Crouse-Hinds Type DT signals that were used at the GSP toll booth exits, with the THANK YOU stencil on the green lens. I forgot if any verbiage was on the red. These CH heads, along with neon arrows directing the drivers to the coin baskets, were still used at the toll booths in the 1980s when I started driving.
An incredible find in Virginia!
In July 2021, Virginia collector Scott Hubbard sent me photos of this gorgeous and rare (second one I’ve ever seen) original 1950s Garden State Parkway shield. The 18″ shield has green silk-screen over reflective yellow.
Brothers Pizza on NJ Route 33 in Hamilton has a beautiful 18″ NJ Route 33 shield (1940s spec) on the wall in their dining area. A visitor to this site named David kindly sent me this photo.
This traffic light in South Orange goes back to about 1950, but the gas lamp behind it dates back to the late 19th century. When I lived in South Orange in the early 90s, the town still maintained about 1,400 of them throughout the town.
Many New Jerseyans my age and older ought to remember these quaint little mail boxes on concrete posts, which went extinct probably over 30 years ago. I have seen a couple of the box-less posts still hanging around. This box was photographed at Monument Square in New Brunswick during the 1958 holiday season.
Banner photo: The cover of the Oct 19, 1958 issue of the Sunday Newark News Magazine, showing signage of the day.