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Honest Edwardianism Hand Painted Signs in the 21st Century
Honest Edwardianism
Hand Painted Signs in the 21st Century

In the 1960's businessman Ed Mirvish began to buy up the period warehouses on King Street West that surrounded his Royal Alexandra Theatre. The Edwardian warehouses were all painted white and so was coined the term, "Honest Edwardianism". That style was particular to Ed Mirvish, so was Honest Ed's, his department store on Bloor and Bathurst. Through a barrage of loud neon signs, witty slogans on hand-painted signs, corney jokes, often at his own expense. That was his shtick, he drew people into the store through old fashioned salesmanship,

Ed's shtick. That shtyle, that way of doing things, was particular to Ed and it was passed on to merchandising, from the neon signs outside his various restaurants and store, to the interior signs that advertised and sold his wares.

Honest Ed’s Department Store sign shop is abuzz with activity, Doug Kerr and Wayne Reuben are at the helm, doing what they do best, creating hand-painted signs for the thousands of products that go on sale at Honest Ed’s every week.

The signs have been going strong for more than fifty years. Generations of Canadians recognise these simple and enduring signs found everywhere in the store. Honest Edwardianism is chaotic, busy and fast. Get in. Get out!

Honest Ed signs are produced at break-neck speed on a production line of just two sign painters who are so adept at it, it thrills to watch.

The style of the signs developed over time and passed on through apprentices over the years like Wayne Reuben who started there in 1967. The style was already formed, Reuben was taught well by the old masters, but making it his own and then throwing in his notable nom de plume; a star symbol that finishes all his creations.

That provenance is what makes it singular. Through the passage of time the signs have remained and retained their own unique look and flavour.

The fonts, primarily serif, with occasional sans serif spell it out clearly. The palette of primaries, blue, yellow and red in the medium of tempera paint. Classic Ed.

Alas, this show was put together to illustrate to the graphic arts community and beyond that honest, straightforward, hand-painted signs, though almost extinct, can still be found alive and well. And so we celebrate this exceptional element in the field of graphic design.

Curators: Robert Chandler, John Martins-Manteiga
Graphic Design: John Pelo
Assistants: Elissa Pane, Sisley Leung