Thursday, October 17, 2013

Fading Ads, recovered history

I grew up in a suburb of Birmingham, Alabama, and spent years traveling in and out of the depressed (and now reemerging) city. During these years I noticed fading ads, painted letters, and random words on various buildings, - they're absolutely everywhere - but I never thought much about them. Oh, I had my favorites, but it didn’t occur to me to ponder their origins.

From its founding and initial growth through its heyday and decline, clues to Birmingham’s history are scattered throughout the city in these ephemera. Local author Charles Buchanan has researched these seemingly unrelated pieces of advertising and woven them together into a colorful tapestry depicting the vibrancy of days gone by. Though it is a history book, the text and photographs bring the past to life, both the commercial aspect and many of the characters that helped build and shape the city. Written in an almost lyrical style, it's clear that Buchanan has a passion for his subject, and he's able to pass that keen interest on to the reader. 

Living nearby I thought I knew the city, but Buchanan’s Fading Ads of Birmingham uncovers quirky, fascinating, and sometimes seedy, aspects that I would never have discovered on my own. I highly recommend this entertaining, informative book to anyone interested in history, the city of Birmingham, or the history of advertising.

Buchanan, Charles. Fading Ads of Birmingham. Charleston: The History Press, 2012.

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