By Chuck Woodbury
I found this Mail Pouch Tobacco barn along Highway 322 in Brickerville, Pennsylvania. You don’t see these signs much anymore. At one time, in the early 1960s, there were still about 20,000 of them in 22 states.
The Bloch Brothers Tobacco Company began painting barns in 1890, paying farmers $1 to $2 a year, which would be about $20 to $40 today. But more important, the paint helped preserve the integrity of the wood, not only on the side of the barn with the advertisement but on other sides as well, which would be painted as part of the deal. Painters would return every few years to repaint.
In 1992, the then-owner of Mail Pouch Tobacco, Swisher International Group, suspended the use of barn advertisements when prolific barn painter Harley Warrick retired. Warrick once estimated he had painted 20,000 barns.
Read about one man’s obsession with photographing surviving Mail Pouch barns.