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Apothecary's shop sign, Netherlands, 1860-1910

Shaped as an artist’s palette, the top word translates from Dutch as ‘drugstore’; the lower word may be the pharmacist’s or apothecary’s name. The sign would have hung high on a wall to attract the attention of potential customers. Before the numbering of street buildings began to become commonplace towards the end of the 1700s, houses and commercial properties were usually known by their name or by the signs that hung over them. Businesses would often advertise that their products could be bought at, for example, ‘the sign of the dragon’ in a particular street.

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Glossary: shop sign

Use broadly for signs identifying places of business.