Posted 5/15/12

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c1905 Bowling and Billiards


54 Inches wide by 18 inches tall

Made by Ingram-Richardson, Beaver Falls, PA

 Found at 2012 Old West Antiques Show, Grass Valley CA. 



This last weekend I attended the once a year the Old West Antiques Show in Grass Valley CA and found this Bowling and Billiards sign. It’s cobalt blue porcelain, 54” wide x 18” tall. I’ve been attending this show for about ten years and this is one of the best pieces I’ve picked up there. The show is known for having great quality, one of the last great shows going. I had to give serious money but now that I’ve had time to digest it I’m very glad I pulled the trigger! A lot of both Bowling and Billiards were played in Europe in the 19th and early 20th century….But this sign in pure 100% American, prominently marked Federal Electric Co. Chicago Patn’d!!!! 


As far as American Bowling Billiard signs go, I can’t imagine a better one! To understand this sign and it's importance, it would be side 2 modified.jpg (47831 bytes)necessary to understand that any sports related signs from the turn of the century are rare. Porcelain ones however hardly exsist. That's why even though it was way more than I wanted to spend that day, intuition compelled me not to leave without it. That same morning I had won a rare polo bronze by A. Guiet on eBay and was hoping to not spend more than $300.00 - $400.00 at the show. You can see a very rare Spalding sign at the end of this feature...and I believe I've seen maybe just a couple other porcelain sports signs over twenty five years collecting. However I believe this may be the largest sports related porcelain sign known!

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On table as found at show 


When I first saw it on the sellers table it had another sign in front of it and I didn’t recognize what it said…I could only see the word billiards partially and I initially dismissed it as some kind of sign for a lawyer or something named “Billard”….then as I moved the other sign out of the way to see it I still didn’t quite get what it said right away…it had some funky plastic wrap on the ends that were holding together that aluminum frame and it just threw me off….then when I stepped back and realized what it was I got the full impact and went on full alert….For me it was pretty much the best thing I saw at the show….I really didn’t want to spend the money but I knew it was the best Bowling Billiards sign I’d probably ever see so…the ball started rolling and after a little walking around I went back to negotiate the price…The guy said he initially was asking $ ______ but that he would take $_______ ….then within a minute he dropped it $50.00….then as I kept looking at it he dropped it to $______ I said…well…if you’re in the mood to bargain how about $_______ He immediately shot back $50.00 over my offer….and he pretty much had me…..then again without even asking he goes….tell ya what…make it cash and I’ll go your $______... done deal I gave him $100.00 cash and told him I was going to the bank and would be back shortly with the balance…he goes…here take it with you…so I took it out to my car and quickly learned it wouldn’t fit in my trunk by only a few inches….which meant sticking up out my convertible….which I latter ended up having to put up the top on the way home…

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Carlton outside Old West Show 


Once home I got that funky home spun aluminum frame off and it bowed a little.…I guess the seller had the frame on to keep it straight but the little bit of bow doesn’t bother me at all. Funny thing is I drove three hours to get to the show and bought the sign from a dealer I see once a month at Alameda. He’s a very serious San Francisco collector…I think it was about a year or so ago he sold an extremely rare 19th century San Francisco baseball scene photo for $10,000.00. He must have already spent the money cause he said the only reason he was selling this sign was he was buying some rare cdv of an Indian, or gold prospector, or some kind of old west image……he had me pay the money directly to the guy he was buying it from!...a win-win for everybody!

A guy there at the show that has collected porcelain signs many years, Pete Keim, told me he thought it was from about 1905-1910 and that there were only two companies in the country that made porcelain signs then…Baltimore Enamel and Novelty…and…. Ingram-Richardson from Beaver Falls PA….Pete also told me as much, that since my sign is marked Federal Electric Co. Chicago, most certainly Federal Electric jobbed out the making of the sign to either Baltimore Enamel of Ingram-Richardson…but then after I got it home I noticed the marking at the right bottom corner BS CI 52 STATE ST CIII BEAVER FALLS PA….So I would assume since Ingram-Richardson was in Beaver Falls, they made the sign. Pete also said as much that though there wasn’t holes in the sign for lighting…the Federal Electric marking likely indicates the sign was somehow lighted.


It’s a mystery how it was originally displayed and mounted. All six holes are jagged on the back side, not drilled clean. It appears the holes are not original and there never were any originally....and that someone pounded thru some nails to mount to a wall at some point after it was retired....Like maybe after the building was demolished, it was salvaged by some collector in the 1940’s-50’s and they nailed it to the side of a barn or something...without a lot of regard to value. So if correct there were never mounting holes I would think it would have had to have been framed in some fashion...maybe in a simple metal frame, mounted to a wall and lit with an over head outdoor light....I say lit because of the Federal Electric marking. 

Since the message is so basic and doesn’t reference the specific name of the bowling alley/billiard parlor...perhaps it was a stock sign that could have been ordered out of a catalog. But then again...since it’s marked Federal Electric...maybe that implies it was part of more sophisticated comprehensive design...Perhaps one taken on between architect and contractor at the outset when the building was originally designed....which could imply substantial capital investment...which could imply the enterprise was a high volume venue which would have likely been located on prime real estate....which could imply was in a major city....If these scenarios were true there would have likely been a primary sign referencing the enterprise name...and this would have been a secondary sign that perhaps flanked the main sign...maybe high above street level over a window. Since Federal Electric was in Chicago...perhaps we could anticipate the location of the building was within about a 500 mile radius of Chicago...200 miles to Indianapolis, 300 mile to Cincinnati, 100 miles to Milwaukee, etc..It’s all speculation but if records could be found from Ingram-Richardson...!!!

I went on line and found a place in South Carolina that restores porcelain signs Van Kannel Sign Restoration….I was looking at their examples of before and after and found the porcelain Spalding sign below….




I think I’ve come to the conclusion if I get the sign restored it will look brand new which I don’t want. I don’t think it looks that bad in its present condition…any worse and I might have had to get it restored. If I don’t restore it at least anyone who sees it will be able to tell it’s an old original sign. 


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Below, email correspondence with 

Dan Van Kannel of Van Kannel Sign Restoration 


May 16, 2012, at 4:51 AM


Hi, Carlton Hendricks here with if I may....When you repair a porcelain sign do you fill in the chipped part only or do you re-bake the whole sign?...Can you elaborate on the process a little?...

I just got the C1905ish Bowling and Billiards sign seen in the links above...Would it look brand new if you restored it? Is there a way you can fix only the chipped part and leave the rest of the areas as is? Can you give a ball park $figure$ to fix the chips? 
Thanks Kindly,

May 16, 2012 6:46 AM

Hi Carlton 
I'll try and answer your questions best I can.

Porcelain signs can not be re fired. The heat expands the metal underneath and pops the original porcelain off. We use a cold enamel sealed bye an epoxy like clear. This allows us to select areas to be restored and leave the original porcelain alone.

We can fix the larger areas of porcelain loss and leave the edge chipping so the sign doesn't look
new or altered.

Typical cost of this type of restoration will run around $550-$600 

please feel free to ask any other questions you may have.

Thanks!!! Dan.

May 16, 2012, at 2:46 PM

Thanks much....that’s good the rest would stay original. Is it typical for larger porcelain signs to be bowed a little? I would think I would need to build a crate so it couldn’t bend in shipment...I figure if it bends it would put stress cracks in the porcelain. By the way, this is the first porcelain sign I’ve ever owned. Simply because sports related porcelain signs hardly exist.

Well, may have to wait on that $550.00-$ probably $200.00 round trip shipping from it $_________ so that’ll make it about $________....I am tempted to leave as is.

May 21, 2012 5:55AM

Hi Carlton
Sorry about the delay in my response I was out of town.
These larger porcelain signs are typically bowed a little I believe this happens when the signs are fired to melt the porcelain. As for the holes, farmers etc used these larger signs not as decoration but to patch holes in barn roofs etc etc.. I'm sure it was framed and lit somehow with metal or possibly an ornate wooden frame . A little research of early 1900s bar-saloons may give you a better idea on how it was displayed. Id try the photo web site called shorpy they have a huge library of early cityscape photos.

I hope this helped you out a little, please keep me up to date on your findings.

Thanks!!!!!!! Dan.



Below are a few shots I took at the show
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