Thursday Trivia (on Friday!): Street Signs

Yellow 1924-1954 stop sign. Mounting height is...

A really, really old stop sign. (Image via Wikipedia.)

Stop signs have seemed to always have a place in American society; what is the main example for an octagon that elementary school teachers use? A stop sign, of course. However, the stop sign has only been around since 1915 – and they’ve only been red since the 1950s! Originally, they were white with black writing, then in 1924 became yellow with black writing; it was only in 1954 that stop signs became red with white writing, making red a universal color for halting.

Four more facts about street signs after the jump!

  • The stop sign’s younger, oft-forgotten cousin, the yield sign was created in 1950 by Tulsa police officer Clinton Riggs. According to this downright fantastic post on street signs by Ethan Trex over on mental_floss, Riggs thought that having a sign commanding people to stop was silly, and that a sign telling people to yield the right of way would work better. The then keystone-shaped sign made one Tulsa intersection go from the most dangerous intersection to the seventh-most.
  • The advent of the yield sign came in between two of the major street sign standardizations; first, in 1935 with the US government’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, and then in 1968 with the UN’s Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals, which made standard the size, shape, and placement of signs in the nation and the world, respectively.
  • While not exactly a street sign, the New York City Transit Authority first standardized their signs in 1967 with the opening of the Chrystie Street Connection. At first, they used the Standard font in black for their white signs, before inverting things in 1979, and finally began their iconic (though virtually indistinguishable from Standard) use of Helvetica in 1980, with full changeover to Helvetica in 1984. (For lots more info, go to this long article from the organization formerly known as the American Institute for Graphic Arts – now operating under the pseudo-nitialism AIGA – here)
  • While red light cameras seem to be a newfangled concept, the actual product goes back to 1965 in the Netherlands, and to 1905 as a concept, when the idea was published in Popular Mechanics.
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