County Barns Once Served as Tobacco Ad Billboards
Clearfield County barns were usually built spacious enough to be used for storing baled hay and to house stalls for dairy and beef cattle, as well as horses. Plows, reapers, wagons and later tractors were parked inside.
Farmers sometimes collected a yearly fee from tobacco and other companies that wanted their products promoted by having ads painted on the sides of their barns.
The barn shown in the photo was an advertising landmark along Route 219, in Greenwood Township, near Bells Landing. It has since been removed.
Barn construction in rural Pennsylvania was mostly a simple rectangular design. The older structures in Clearfield County were built of original native white pine wood.
The skeletal frame consisted of solid beams, often squared to be 18 to 24 inches wide. Some barns had top beams of the same width but were 40 to 60 feet long, or longer.
Beams were often fashioned and squared from a single pine tree. Twelve-inch planks were often used for the walls.
As county roads developed from rutted dirt paths, many were eventually taken over by the old Pennsylvania Highway Department (now PennDOT) and steadily paved. Company executives imagined painted barn sides as a way to advertise to passing rural drivers.
The West Virginia-based Bloch Brothers Tobacco Company manufactured Mail Pouch Chewing Tobacco.
Beginning in 1913, the company paid farmers a few dollars per year to paint their red and white ad with the slogan “Treat Yourself to the Very Best” on an estimated 20,000 barns, many of them in Appalachia.
Farmers and barn owners knew a good deal when they saw one come their way. Bloch Brothers paid for having their barns painted.
Likewise, Kentucky Club smoking tobacco was popular for those who would pack pipes or roll their own cigarettes. Its yellow and white logo bragged that, “It Never Tires Your Taste.”
The barn near Bells Landing was angled so that drivers could easily see both ads on the same barn. That was unique.
The ads became historic landmarks of a bygone era when tobacco use hit its peak in the United States. Smoking and chewing tobacco use have plummeted, mostly due to obvious health reasons. The remaining barn side ads are a fast-disappearing part of American tradition.
Barns, used or unused, require money for upkeep. Roof replacements, simply to preserve the building, are very expensive and owners find it more feasible to have barns taken down and sometimes sell the original wood.
Source: Gant Team