Stop Signs
Early in the days of traffic regulations, some intersections were manned with stop and go signs that were turned by hand.
Stop signs: A brief history

A common sight on your daily drive, it may surprise you how relatively new the red and white octagonal stop sign is to our automotive history.

The first stop sign was conceived by William Phelps Eno (who, because of this and other innovative safety measures, has gone down in history as “the father of traffic control”) and debuted in Detroit, Michigan in 1915. As this was still a handful of years before federal agencies began regulating the size, shape and color of traffic signs, Eno’s stop sign was black and white, crafted out of sheet metal, and square.

Almost ten years later, in 1923, the Mississippi Valley Association of State Highway Department (MVASHD) developed a set of standards for traffic signs based on the relationship between the number of sides a sign had and the measure of importance it carries or danger it conveys. The octagonal stop sign we know today denotes the second highest level of importance, second only to the round railroad crossing sign. Cost was also a factor in developing the shape of the sign in relation to its message. Circular or octagonal signs produced more scrap metal waste, so those shapes were reserved for only the highest priority signs.

In 1924, the American Association of Highway Officials (predecessor to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials) adopted the MVASHD recommendations, and drivers across the country began seeing octagonal stop signs. Still not the familiar red and white we know today, these earlier versions were yellow with black lettering.

By the early 1930s, the octagonal stop sign had become a common sight on American roadways. While some rarer versions of this early sign (regarded by some as highly valuable collectors’ items) were coated in colored porcelain with embossed or catseye marble lettering, most were simply fashioned out of painted steel, which was coated in zinc to prevent rust.

The first reflective stop signs were made with glass beads attached by a strong adhesive, developed in 1937 by the company we know today as 3M. By 1939, 3M had developed commercially-available reflective sheeting, which drastically improved sign visibility. It was 3M™ Scotchlite™ Reflective Sheeting that revolutionized the traffic sign.

After the US entered World War II in 1941, shortages in both steel and aluminum, used in the production of wartime goods from canteens to replica watches naval crafts, resulted in signs that were made of plywood, with painted rather than embossed lettering. Until the Japanese surrendered in 1945 and US steel production returned to pre-war levels, the plywood signs were simply periodically repainted to further conserve for the war effort.

In 1954, the stop sign finally underwent the redesign that we now recognize. The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, which had been first published in 1935 and subsequently underwent several revisions, called for a red sign with white lettering. The reason for the Swiss Rolex Replica Watches change is attributed to a desire to have the stop sign correspond to the red traffic light in color as well as in purpose.

Today, standard stop signs are a minimum of 24 square inches (maximum regulation size is 48x48) have a white border and lettering on a red background. They aremade from aluminum, making for a lighter more durable sign that, unlike its steel ancestor, is immune to rust.

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