Burma-Shave signs

If you went on car trips in the 1950s, you may recall them. More than 40,000 small signs promoted a brand of shaving cream along America's roads. It was Allan Odell's idea.

Allan was the son of Burma-Shave founder Clinton Odell. Allan's job was to promote the brushless shaving cream. He started by placing a series of signs every 100 feet along a road near Minneapolis in 1925. The cars' occupants would see the message one sign at a time as they sped past. The first signs didn't rhyme.

But soon, 600 rhymes and many more signs were delighting drivers across the nation. A typical sign sequence read: "This cream/ makes the gardener's daughter/ plant her tu-lips/ where she oughter./ Burma-Shave." A car traveling 35 m.p.h. would pass the message in 18 seconds or so.

In 1963, faster cars, bigger billboards, and more competition forced the sale of Burma-Shave. Today the right to the name belongs to the American Safety Razor Co., which is still investigating what to do with the brand.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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