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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
Marshall Cohen—researcher and producer, CNN

Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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BUSINESS SYMBOLS. In the early years of the westward movement, many of the settlers could read very little. Business owners, therefore, developed symbols that could instantly be recognized by people passing along. Three iron balls suspended in the air signified a pawnshop. Other symbols included:

Because of their long association with tobacco, images of Native Americans were used by merchants of tobacco products.
Pharmacists used the symbol still often seen today
Those seeking dental work would have easily identified with this symbol
This symbol would have left little doubt to shoppers.
The razor would have invited customers inside for a shave.
Timepieces needed cleaning and adjustment and this sign showed where such work could be done.