Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Lonnie Tettaton Loved Lettering and Signs; Leaves Legacy on the Sides of Buildings

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Lonnie Tettaton Loved Lettering and Signs; Leaves Legacy on the Sides of Buildings

Article excerpt

Signs of Lonnie Tettaton are all over the St. Louis area the Greek architecture mural at Seventh and Locust streets downtown, the dapper man pouring a beer mural on the side of the Lemp Mansion, the logo at J. Buck's restaurant.

Tettaton, the grandfather of St. Louis sign painters and the author of 16 books on lettering and others on St. Louis history, died Sunday (Dec. 7, 2014) of complications of pneumonia. He was 77 and lived in Hazelwood.

Mr. Tettaton attended O'Fallon Technical High School and then Southern Illinois University-Carbondale on a swimming scholarship but did not graduate. After returning from college, he had some door- to-door jobs selling encyclopedias and magazines, but those didn't go well. He knew he always liked art, and got an apprenticeship at Kirn Sign Shop. After three years there, he went into business for himself. He had a shop off of North Broadway in St. Louis.

He loved lettering, he told the Post-Dispatch for a profile that ran in 1983, and designed new alphabets and studied old photographs of the city, carefully inspecting parts of photos with lettering in them. "Letters had character, he always punned to himself," the article said. "The style of lettering a signpainter chose could communicate his message as well as the words themselves; sometimes as well as pictures."

At one point he had at least one sign on every block in downtown St. Louis, he told local writer and blogger William Stage, but that was when there were many more commercial businesses there.

In 2012, Mr. Tettaton told the Post-Dispatch about the more interesting paint jobs he did. "I used to paint the Cutty Sark bottle and the bottle's labeling on the side of a building owned by a liquor distributorship in East St. Louis," he said. "I did a huge mural at a racetrack in Hot Springs, Arkansas. That one was interesting because we painted it so that the horses were in perspective running toward of the middle of the track and then running away on the other side. …

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