The Smoking Billboard

Camel

I wonder if the smoking Camel billboard would have been in violation of Mayor Bloomberg’s latest law against smoking in public places. You couldn’t be less smokin’ than this.

The billboard, which was up on Broadway between 43 and 44th Sts. until the 1980s, didn’t make me want to smoke, but it made me want to study spectaculars on Times Square. Camel was but one of the most famous Douglas Leigh billboard spectaculars.

Read more about Leigh here:

Mr. Leigh started his business in 1933, with an option on a location at Fordham Road and Crotona Avenue in the Bronx. He persuaded the St. Moritz Hotel to put up a billboard on the site. His pay was $50 a month and a room at the hotel for a year. This gave him only enough to eat at the Automat, he says, but it also provided a Central Park South address for his stationery.

Later in 1933, he came up with the idea for a steaming coffee cup, 15 feet wide, at the southeast corner of 47th Street and Seventh Avenue, and he sold it to A&P to advertise its coffee brands.

Although he had started work in the middle of the Great Depression, Mr. Leigh’s soft-spoken sales ability helped him carve out a very comfortable niche. Within a few years he had thrown switches in Times Square on a blinking penguin for Kool cigarettes, a clown tossing quoits in the shape of the Ballantine ale logo, and an animated cartoon for Old Gold cigarettes.

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