The Pittsburgh Portfolio of the H.H. Seiferth Sign Company

Hand-painted and gilded signs by H.H. Seiferth in early twentieth century Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Plaque-shaped sign with hand-painted words, "Drawing materials, surveying instruments, artists supplies".
Detail of B.K. Elliott sign by H.H. Seiferth in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The H.H. Seiferth Sign Company was a major sign painting operation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They were trading from the end of the nineteenth century until as recently as 2018, representing over 125 years in business.

Man in overalls standing in front of a sign painted on a wall.
A H.H. Seiferth sign painter and a piece for the Syria Arab Patrol. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.

The firm was accomplished in a huge range of work, from price tickets and showcards to gilded windows and wall signs, as evidenced by a remarkable photographic collection of their output from 1900–30. It is also noteworthy that they consistently signed their signs, like Karl Blaschke in Munich, and I wonder if anything survives today given how prolific their output was.

Portion of a sign with different lettering elements visible.
Detail of a painted fascia sign announcing the imminent arrival of the Joseph T. Snyder cigar shop. It is signed by H.H. Seiferth, giving the firm's address as 632 Penn Avenue. They were based there until 1919. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.

Below is an edited selection of the signs in the collection, which can be explored in more depth via the Historic Pittsburgh website. This contains the following brief historical account of the firm:

"The H.H. Seiferth Sign Company was started by H.H. Seiferth in 1890 in an alley between Penn Avenue and Duquesne Way in down town Pittsburgh. The company created signs for Pittsburgh retail businesses, factories, and political campaigns.
"It was located on Fancourt Street from 1919 until around 1950, when it was forced to relocate due to the development of the Point State Project. Following the move, the company had locations [on] Water Street, East Street, and Fort Pitt Boulevard.
"In 1942, H.H. Seiferth passed away, leaving the shop to his daughter, Jane Seiferth Markowitz who became one [of] Pittsburgh's few female business owners at that time."
All photos are courtesy of the Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center, with links to their locations at Historic Pittsburgh given in the captions. I would like to thank Christian Shaknaitis (@brush_and_pounce_signs) for first making me aware of this collection.

In the Office

These photos are from inside the Pittsburgh office of the H.H. Seiferth Sign Company. This was presumably a customer-facing part of the business, with the shop and operations located elsewhere, but perhaps in the same building.

Still Smoking

The H.H. Seiferth Sign Company worked for a number of cigar retailers. Their signage included privileges for cigar and tobacco brands, alongside the regular shop signs.

Pittsburgh Cigar Co.

Archival image of a cigar and tobacco shop with various signage elements and a window display visible.
The Pittsburgh Cigar Co. on 6th Street, with various privileges adorning the shopfront. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.
Detail of painted and gilded glass panels advertising cigar brands above the entrance and window of a shop.
Privileges gilded on glass above the Pittsburgh Cigar Co. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.

Joseph T. Snyder

This firm had multiple premises and H.H. Seiferth was responsible for regular signage in addition to new store opening announcements. They also produced a variety of window display signage, including showcards and price tickets.

Shopfront with entrances left and right flanking a central window which has a display.
The Joseph T. Snyder 'segar store de luxe'. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.
Hand-painted showcards taped to the inside of a window, advertising offerings from the cigar retailer.
H.H. Seiferth showcards in the window of the Joseph T. Snyder cigar shop. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.
Floor-level signage and window display with products, price tickets, and showcards all present.
Window display at the Joseph T. Snyder cigar shop with showcards and price tickets by H.H. Seiferth. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.

Russell's Cigar Store

This tobacco shop was housed in an impressive building, with signage incorporated into some of its architectural features.

Letters saying "Cigars-Pipes" mounted on an architectural arch, and then signage advertising cigarettes set within the central semi-circle.
Signage for the Russell's Cigar Store positioned within the architecture of the shop's impressive building. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.
Side door for a shop with small window displays and large cigarette advertisements either side.
This image is listed as unidentified in the main archive, but given the Helmar and Murad panels, and the stonework, it is almost certainly another entrance to the Russell's Cigar Store. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.

Afco Cigar Company

For this customer, the H.H. Seiferth firm employed almost all of their capabilities, including what appears to be some illuminated signage.

Cigar shop with a medley of signage, including a painted wall, fascia, illuminated piece, window displays and more.
Signs galore for the Afco Cigar Co. by H.H. Seiferth. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.

Open, Shut, and Clearing Out

In addition to painting signs to announce store openings, H.H. Seiferth also produced work for stock clearance and closing down sales. These were often at an extraordinary scale, sometimes straddling entire frontages.

The Surprise Store

Painted banner signs straddling the full width of a shop called The Surprise Store" with smaller pieces below also promoting a winding up sale.
Signs of anticipation for the "slaughter sale". Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.



Hand-painted banner with a tartan-esque border and text within that reads "Sale Stock, Simpson-Crawford, at about 1/2 and less".
Detail of a piece of promotional signage that hung over the entrance to the Kaufman department story. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.

Hilton Clothes

Large retail premises on a corner with huge pieces of signage adorning the building, and a crowd of people in period dress standing waiting outside.
Queues for the grand opening of the Hilton clothes shop in Pittsburgh. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.
Close up of people standing in front of a painted sign announcing the opening of a new shop "in the spirit of greater Pittsburgh".
Street-level signage with claims from the Hilton clothing company ahead of expanding their operations to Pittsburgh. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.

Great Britain Rainproof Co.

B. White Company / Rosenbaum Co.

Large corner shop draped in various banners above and below advertising a massive stock clearance sale.
The Rosenbaum company carrying out the clearance sale on behalf of the B. White Company. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.

Rosenbaum Co.

Grand building with a huge banner mounted on the front advertising the arrival of a huge department store on the site.
The Roenbaum Company claiming to be opening "the tallest department store on earth" on this enormous temporary banner. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.
Wagon with wooden wheels and space for storing large glass panels on the rear.
Detail from the above photo showing a vehicle of the Pittsburgh Plate and Glass Company, now PPG, owner of 1 Shot Paints. The company was involved in the 'glass wars' discussed in this earlier article at online.

Deals on Wheels

Some of the sales above were also trailed on moving vehicles, which represent a point of transition between horse-drawn and motorised transport.


Man sat in the driver's seat of a vintage commercial vehicle adorned with temporary sale signage.
The Kaufmann's campaign powered by petrol. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.
Drivers and a horse-drawn wagon adorned with temporary signage in front of a large commercial building.
Horse-drawn carriage and drivers posing in front of their employer's warehouse store. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.

B. White Company / Rosenbaum Co.

Horse-drawn wagon with driver in the snow. The horse and the wagon are adorned with signage advertising a stock clearance sale.
Even the horse's jacket is used to help advertise Rosenbaum Co.'s B. White Co. sale, while the carriage is adorned with a temporary banner covering the regular livery signage. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.
Man sat in the driver's seat of a vintage commercial vehicle adorned with temporary sale signage.
Another temporary banner on this motor vehicle. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.

Dressing Up

Many of the big retailers above sold clothing, but there were also a number of smaller businesses that sought out the H.H. Seiferth touch for their signs.

Economy Shoe Shop

Two-story building with the ground floor housing a shoe shop and it's myriad pieces of window signage.
A larger branch of the Economy Shoe Shop. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.
Shoe shop with window displays and numerous pieces of promotional signage above and below these.
Practical panels, with one reminding us that it's always "safety first, then style, fit, comfort". Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.


Archival image of people, shops, and signs, dominated by the corner building which houses the Goodyear Waterproof Co.
Another branch of the Goodyear Waterproof Co. in Pittsburgh. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.

Suits You, Sir

Shop entrance set back from the street and flanked by window displays of suits and signage advertising their prices.
An unidentified suit seller. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.

F.C. Doeschner

Decorated glass panel with Art Nouveau decoration surrounding lettering that reads "F.C. Doeschner Furs".
Art Nouveau in gold on glass for F.C. Doeschner's furs. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.

Frank & Seder

Hand-painted window with a simple decorative border and lettering advertising the Frank & Seder Men's Clothing Department.
Keeping it simple for a window for Frank & Seder. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.

Smit-Lewis Company

Ornate glass panel sitting between window displays of women's clothing. The piece combines lettering, pictoral and decorative elements.
Ornate pictorial and decorative work on this vertical glass panel for Smit-Lewis. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.

Gold on Glass

The H.H. Seiferth firm had reverse-glass gilding work firmly within their repertoire.

Pennsylvania Rubber Co.


Shop front with a fascia sign, and hand-painted and gilded pieces of signage in the window and transoms.
The Schroeder's piano shop. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.

Rosenbaum Co.

View through a shop window at a dresser with "The Rosenbaum Co." in gilded cursive lettering on the glass.
More work for this repeat customer. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.

B.K. Elliott Co.

McCulloch Drug Co.

Large shop dominating a street corner with window displays and ornate signage positioned above these.
The McCulloch Drug Co. dominated this corner in Pittsburgh with its impressive array of signage and window displays. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.
The corner of a shop showing signage above the entrance which is positioned behind a pillar which is also adorned with signage.
Zooming in on the corner and window display. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.

J.C. Hazelbaker

Volkwein Brothers

The Sweet Stuff

These showcards and menu board were for an unidentified soda shop. We can only imagine what colours would have been used across this impressive diversity of layout and lettering combinations.

A closer look at the menu board in three parts.

The top of a menu board with the word "Menu" in overlapping Art Nouveau lettering and items including sundaes and sandwiches below that.
Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.
Portion of a menu set in white block lettering on a black background and showing "long cooling drinks" and "hot drinks".
Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.
Portion of a menu board encouraging customers to "try our rector sandwiches".
Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.

Pain Free Dentistry

After all those sundaes, a trip to the dentist is in order, and at Franklin's it's sure to be a painless experience.

Fascia sign and numerous pieces of window signage advertising the "Painless Dentists".
The signage is on the first floor (second floor for USA readers), above another shop in what may once have been a branch of the Thompson's restaurant. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.

Loose Ends

Here are five more signs in the collection for your enjoyment.

Henry's / Victor

Shop front reading "Henry's" above a gilded and hand-painted glass panel for "Victor Talking Machines".
Another one of H.H. Seiferth's musical clients, in this case Henry's and a privilege for the Victor Talking Machine Company. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.

The collection also features this rendering of a proposed location for a Victrola 'His Master's Voice' advertisement. Victrola was a Victor Talking Machine Company product.

Photo of a tall industrial building with a hand-drawn circle at the top containing a dog listening to a gramophone.
The building in this rendering is unidentified. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.

Reliance Life Insurance

Banner with tassels and lettering suspended from a pole with balls at either end.
A 1911 banner further demonstrating the range of H.H. Seiferth's output. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.

Tampa Cuba Cigars

Glass sign set within a wooden frame with branding and lettering for Tampa-Cuba Cigars.
This is a privilege panel below a window display at Peter G. Walter drug store. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.
Window display with framed glass signage underneath and a painted wall sign to the side.
The shop also features a Coca-Cola privilege on the wall. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.

Freehold Real Estate Co.

Exhibition display selling a vision of home ownership with an idealised scene of a house set within its own grounds.
"We furnish the money" on this display piece. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.


Shop window with two hand-painted decorative panels advertising a variety of food products available within.
Window dressing for McCann's. Photo: Historic Pittsburgh.

All the above photos are courtesy of the Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center, with links to their locations at Historic Pittsburgh given in the captions. Thank you once again to Christian Shaknaitis (@brush_and_pounce_signs) for first making me aware of this collection.

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