Sign Painter's Been Putting Same Advertisement on Barns For 30 Years – He's Done It an Incredible 16,000 Times
See this barn's listing: MPB 13-15-01
By Rod Gibson
National Enquirer, 1976
A legendary sign painter boasts that he can almost do his job blindfolded – because he's painted the same advertisement on an incredible total of more than 16,000 barns in nine states.
In the last 30 years, Harley Warrick has trudged across a wide swath of the nation, painting and retouching the words in white and yellow letters that say: "Chew Mail Pouch/Treat Yourself To The Best."
"I've been doing the signs so long now that I can almost do them blindfolded," chuckled the 51-year-old Warrick, who is an independent contractor for Bloch Bros. Tobacco Co. of Wheeling, W. Va.
Said company president Stuart F. Block: "The sign and the man are part of our legend. Warrick is the only man left who does the job for us – and he's painted and touched up signs on more than 16,000 barns."
In fact, Warrick is a beloved figure among the many farm families he has visited in West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky.
"I try to time my lunch break so I can eat with the family," Warrick said.
Harley Warrick, who has chewed Mail Pouch Tobacco since he was 13-years-old, is pictured near an old barn at Oakland on which he repainted the product's ad. Warrick, who is a commercial artist and sign painter, operates Warrick Signs in Belmont, Ohio. He describes himself as the only painter left doing the ads. At one time there were around 10,000 such paintings - now there are only about 1,000 left.
"I hear their troubles and share their sorrows and joys. It's almost like belonging to hundreds of families." And since he revisits each farm every five years to touch up the advertisement, Warrick sighed that he's seen "kids grow up, families raised and old people retire."
Warrick, a World War 2 paratrooper, has painted the 30-by-20-feet signs in blizzards and subfreezing weather. "You slow down a bit in winter, because the paint thickens with the cold, but it doesn't stop me," he declared.
Warrick works for Block two weeks a month, and spends the rest of the time at his own sign painting business in Belmont, Ohio, where he lives with this wife and four children.
A twinkle in his eye, the ruddy Warrick said he really enjoys the product he advertises. "I chew it myself," he smiled. "It's not a condition of the job. I just like it."