Hicks Street, a long street in Brooklyn runs through the neighborhoods of Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, and Red Hook (it technically reaches the edge of DUMBO to the north, so it is present in five neighborhoods). Both its Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens sections are bisected by the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, separating them from the Columbia Street Waterfront District and leaving only a few crossings connecting each half, including the Summit Street Bridge. Prior to the Summit Street Bridge (walking toward Red Hook), there are two street-level crossings over the Expressway at Sackett Street and Union Street respectively, Between these crossings is a vacant lot (see map of area). On the side of one of the residential buildings visible from the sidewalk on the Columbia Street Waterfront District side of Hicks Street is a large rapidly fading painted advertisement for American Beauty Pasta (both photos taken with my Teracube 2e).
That is a nice, high quality, advertisement of a type visible throughout the city on the walls of older buildings. Sadly, it is not being well-taken care of, and I have noticed it gradually fading over just the last couple of years. Moreover, like much of New York City post-June 2020, the building on which the sign is painted is falling victim to graffiti, as are many of the other lightly-maintained structures in the area.
I discovered a cautionary American Beauty advertisement sign story through my research. On October 21, 2005, The Denver Post reported that an American Beauty advertisement mural had been vandalized see image:
They had not had a chance to protect the mural, a hand-painted advertisement for American Beauty Macaroni, estimated to be more than 50 years old, before it was ruined. In vibrant colors, the hand-painted ad said, “100 percent pure food.”
The Denver sign is still vulnerable beneath the vandalism in the Denver Post photo. The logo and colors are different than the sign I came across in Carroll Gardens. The Carroll Garden mural closely resembles the current American Beauty Pasta logo, albeit with some more text-based flourishes. While I have no idea when the Carroll Gardens mural was painted, I will venture that it came some time after the Denver mural, which was apparently painted in the 1940s or 50s.
The Denver story serves as a warning for the preservation of the Carroll Gardens American Beauty mural. It has been spared from graffiti in part because it is a decent height off the ground, but it has nevertheless been battered by the elements. A failure to attend to an area invites vandals and graffiti, and the presence of graffiti attracts more vandals and graffiti. It is only a matter of time before the American Beauty mural in Carroll Gardens meets the same depressing fate as its Denver counterpart.
When I saw the sign, I had not recalled ever buying or having heard of American Beauty pasta. This is not for lack of going to the grocery store – I go once or twice per week. For this reason, I did not know what to expect when I ran a search for the company. However, I discovered that American Beauty Pasta is alive, well, and readily available from Amazon, WalMart, and other major retailers. I navigated to their website to learn about the history of the brand. From its About Page:
In 1916, the Kansas City Macaroni and Importing Co. merged with the Denver Macaroni Company which used the AMERICAN BEAUTY brand name. In 1947, the company changed its name to American Beauty Macaroni Co. From there, the company’s founder and part-time owner began laying the foundation for what would become one of the country’s leading pasta brands.
Although I found the American Beauty Pasta sign in Brooklyn, New York City, the company’s origins are in the midwest and American west. However, the company’s About Page touts that it had “the single-largest distribution of any American pasta brand during the Great Depression,” which commenced not too long after American Beauty Pasta was born from the merger of Kansas City Macaroni and Importing Co and the Denver Macaroni Company.
It sounds like the company has a good history, and I credit it for some aesthetic advertisement murals. I hope that the one in Carroll Gardens is preserved. I want to try a bag of American Beauty pasta now, so I suppose that it is still an effective advertisement.