History of Sandwich Board Signs

Overview of Sandwich Board Signs

Of all the signs used for business advertising, the sandwich board sign is the most unique. The design of a sandwich board sign is most probably inspired from what a sandwich fundamentally looks like.

A sandwich board sign has two boards – one in the front and the other at the back. It forms a triangular shape. What’s interesting is that one version of the sandwich board can be carried by a person while most of these signs are placed within the walking distance of an establishment. Today, you’ll see a lot of these sign boards in shopping markets and malls.


History of Sandwich Board Signs

When and where did the sandwich board sign originate? This triangle-shaped sign is not a recent invention.


Quite popular in the 19th century, sandwich boards have a history which is more interesting than its look. It is believed that the use of this sign was first seen in the town of Sandwich, England. And the owner of a small cafe at Number 10 Board Street invented it in 1221. Every morning, he put up a sandwich board in front of his cafe to let passersby know about his lunch specials. In this way, he managed to attract a lot of customers.


After the cafe owner closed his cafe due to stiff competition, he kept the idea of sandwich boards in his mind. In his old age, as a way to earn a living, he began making sandwich boards for other businesses. Since a sandwich board looked attractive and was quite effective at drawing in passersby, he could barely keep up with the high volumes of orders. So, he hired a young man to help him complete and deliver the orders on time.


In the 19th century, sandwich boards were frequently seen all around as traders and merchants used these signs to advertise their business. These boards were usually carried by men up and down the streets, as a means to advertise the products and services of an establishment. Often, the wearers of this sign would also shout slogans to attract customer’s attention. It is said that Charles Dickens, a famous English writer and social critic, was the person who first coined the term ‘sandwich men’ to refer to sandwich board wearers. The popularity of sandwich boards began to fade towards early 20th century. But when the Great Depression hit the world, businesses started to look for cost-effective means of advertising and that’s when the popularity of sandwich board signs started to rise once again, all across the world.


In the last couple of years, many unemployed men have resorted to use sandwich board advertising method to attract employer’s attention. In May 2012, as the story was carried by multiple news publications, a man who could not find a job after applying at hundreds of companies, decided to wear a sandwich board and roamed around with the message ‘Hire Me, Please!’. There are many more cases like these that keep coming up.

Even today, sandwich board signs offer an affordable means for businesses to advertise products, services and special offers. These boards are easily noticeable and guarantee great results.

Still interested in signs? Check out our post on banner signs here.






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Ryan is the CEO of National Neon Signs and has been supplying quality commercial signage solutions in Canada for over 20 years.

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