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Romantic Landscapes

In 1906, at the dawn of automobile travel, a "See America First" booster campaign hit the nation, urging Americans to get in their cars and explore the wonders of their natural landscape. The 1920s were the heyday of both civic and national boosterism. Billboards were used to promote tourism of cities and towns and the natural environment. The signs played up the romanticism of the untouched landscape and displayed large, artistic panoramas with few words. Many signs even displayed directional maps to local attractions. Companies, especially automobile manufacturers and oil companies, also incorporated romantic landscapes into their advertisements, capitalizing on the American love for travel. In the 1920s and 1930s, history also became an important advertising tool. In addition to scenic wonders, signs directed tourists to historic sites.

The images below illustrate the use of landscape paintings in roadside advertising. The advertisements below are all for oil companies. Although the oil companies are not directly marketing scenic wonders, they are marketing the American love for the open road; gasoline and motor oil became an important necessity for the traveler.

Romantic Landscape Billboard

Romantic Landscape Billboard

Romantic Landscape Billboard

Romantic Landscape Billboards: Image courtesy of Catherine Gudis, Buyways: Billboards, Automobiles, and the American Landscape, 2004.

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