Just as ghost signs are often lost to building updates and new construction, sometimes they are uncovered for the first time in decades. These old signs are frequently preserved underneath modern signs, protected from destructive elements like sun and rain. As a new business moves in, or the building is renovated, these remaining signs can be exposed. More often than not, this is only a temporary phenomenon during new construction or demolition. However, every once in a while, ghost signs that were once hidden are preserved in a more permanent fashion, providing a window into the city’s past.
This was the case for the Wm. H. Reichert & Co. sign at 4412 Main Street in Manayunk. For many years the black-painted ghost sign with white lettering was covered by a modern sign bolted into the building’s brick facade. The newer sign was for Kershaw & Esposito, a real estate and property management company that occupied office space inside. According to Google Street View searches, the newer sign was removed some time between July 2012 and August 2014, revealing the ghost sign underneath.
William H. Reichert was a printer and publisher operating in Manayunk in the late 19th century. One source notes that he was the editor and publisher of The Standard, a newspaper founded in 1870. The publication was circulated on Thursdays and a subscription cost $1.25. The newspaper was eight pages measuring 17 x 24 inches each. It is possible that Reichert’s early printing endeavors were done at another address not far from Main Street. A directory from 1900 has Reichert listed as a printer at 4444 Cresson Street.
Other sources have Reichert at 4412-16 Main Street as early as 1890. That address is comprised of three individual buildings, each of which were likely used by the publisher in different ways. The ghost sign reads “OFFICE OF Wm. H. Reichert & Co.” and is found on 4412 Main Street, the smallest of the three buildings. This indicates that, for a period at least, Reichert may have only used this building as his office. It is likely that printing was done elsewhere before expanding into the buildings next to his office.
What makes this ghost sign most intriguing is that it is layered. On the righthand side, within the word “PRINTERS,” lettering spelling out “Manayunk Review” can be seen in the same lower-case font as the words “Wm. H. Reichert & Co.” The Manayunk Review was a newspaper first published on January 4, 1900 and was printed by William Reichert at 4412-4414 Main Street. The newspaper was published weekly on Wednesdays, and an individual copy cost just one cent. The Manayunk Review claimed at one time to have 40,000 readers with 10,000 papers circulated weekly.
A directory from 1920 shows Reichert & Co. still at 4412 Main Street with a total of five employees. Another source from 1923 shows the newspaper at the same address, but under the control of the Review Publishing Company, which was established in 1904. By that time, the cost of a subscription was $1.50.
The Manayunk Review was a relatively standard local newspaper. Columns included news, sports, real estate, information on political elections, want ads, and obituaries. Local news was sectioned out into “Notes” or “Jots” and included neighborhood sections for Manayunk, Roxborough, Wissahickon, and later a “Special Correspondence” from the “Falls of Schuylkill” aka East Falls. The “Pleasure Notes” section listed upcoming community events, shows and recitals, dances and balls, lectures, bake sales, and charity events. The sports section typically reported on local schools and athletic leagues, including football, baseball, basketball, boxing, track and field, bowling, and target shooting. Want ads in the newspaper usually advertised local jobs and gig work. Locals listed a broad assortment of items for sale and for rent. There was a small section for lost and found items. Short death notifications and longer obituaries were featured on the newspaper’s back page.
Much of The Manayunk Review’s space was dedicated to local advertising. The newspaper’s own advertising stated that “Everybody reads The Review. That’s why it pays to advertise in this paper” and “When you advertise, put your ad where you know it will be seen.” In 1909, The Manayunk Review charged a standard 25 cents per inch, and 50 cents per inch for the front page, for advertising space. Businesses in and around Manayunk, Roxborough, East Falls, and Germantown advertised in the newspaper, including local clothing stores, grocers, banks and financial lenders, dentists and doctors, theaters, and much more.
Some of the most consistent advertisers were the Dixie Rose Theatre, which was, according to its tagline, “Manayunk’s only real vaudeville theatre” and the Manayunk Finance Company located at 4217 Main Street, which advertised “Money to loan” at “Reasonable rates.” Some of the largest and most consistent ads came from the Propper Bros. & Co., “Manayunk’s Busiest Store” at 4366-72 Cresson Street, and the Forster Brothers at 4356-68 Main Street. Their tagline was “The Big Store Near Home.” Forster Brothers sold an assortment of men’s and women’s clothing, often advertising full-page ads in The Manayunk Review with images of the store’s offerings.
Printing of the newspaper continued until its press was moved to Roxborough in 1948. The name of the newspaper changed to The Review, and it is still in publication today. In recent years, a local nonprofit known as The Review Archives has been collecting, digitizing, and preserving several iterations of the newspaper. Much of the collection was donated by longtime Roxborough and neighboring residents. The Review Archives are kept on the 3rd floor of Roxborough Memorial Hospital Nursing School. The collection includes digitized newspapers from The Manayunk Review dated January 5, 1909 to January 3, 1912.
As the ghost sign indicates, after The Manayunk Review moved to Roxborough, William Reichert kept his printing business. Reichert painted over the words “Manayunk Review” with the all capital lettering “PRINTERS.” Directories from 1976 and 1984 show Wm. H. Reichert still at the 4412 Main Street address. It is unclear exactly when the company went out of business. More recently, the buildings have been used as office space for a real estate company, a grocer, a café, and a battery supply store.
Love this. I am a Realtor and often sell homes that have been there since 1920 and some of the things I find are rare or collectible. Reminds me of these ghost signs.
Applaud your great work in preserving history
As a fellow Temple alum and Montco native, I extend kudos to you on connecting us to our Philly roots, through ghost signs, in this instance. Well done!