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The last 1956-63 era California Sign State Route Spade?


Along southbound California State Route 170 (the Hollywood Freeway Extension) approaching the Hollywood Freeway/Ventura Freeway interchange a white California State Route 134 Sign State Route Spade can be observed on guide sign.  These white spades were specifically used during the 1956-63 era and have become increasingly rare.  This blog is intended to serve as a brief history of the Sign State Route Spade.  We also ask you as the reader, is this last 1956-63 era Sign State Route Spade or do you know of others? 


Part 1; the history of the California Sign State Route Spade

Prior to the Sign State Route System, the US Route System and the Auto Trails were the only highways in California signed with reassurance markers.  The creation of the US Route System by the American Association of State Highway Officials during November 1926 brought a system of standardized reassurance shields to major highways in California.  Early efforts to create a Sign State Route System along lesser State Highways was initially spurred by the Auto Clubs.  

Below prototype Sign State Route shields produced by the Auto Club of Southern California (ACSC) can be seen as they were displayed during 1929 (courtesy Robert Tyler of California's Porcelain Enamel Traffic Signs).  The Sign State Route shield prototypes were of varying shapes and sizes, but all featured an iteration of the California Grizzley Bear.  It seems the ACSC was interested in signing the Sign State Routes as they were numbered internally by the Division of Highways.  These internal designations would be codified during 1933 into what were known as "Legislative Route Numbers."  The ACSC also included designs for a County Sign Route shield.








In the August 1934 California Highways & Public Works announced the initial Sign State Route program.  The Sign State Route program was intended to supplement the early US Route System in California by way of signing major highways with miner spade shaped highway shields.  

The initial Sign State Routes were assigned to corridors of travel that were largely considered essential to state-wise transportation.  While most Sign State Routes were applied over State owned Legislative Route Numbers not all were (example: California State Route 180 west over Panoche Pass to California State Routes 25 in Paicines).  

The design of the Sign State Route shield was a borderless miner's spade which referenced the origin of the State of California during the Gold Rush in the years following the Mexican-American War.  The Sign State Route shield was a white background with black numerals supplied by the ACSC and California State Automobile Association (CSAA).  The initial Sign State Route featured the same California Grizzley which could also be found on the State Flag. 



The Ocotber 1934 California Highways and Public Works Guide featured the very first Sign State Route Shield was installed as part of California State Route 1 in Carmel.  The Sign Route shield was installed on September 10, 1934, at the junction of the Carmel, Pacific Grove, and Monterey Highways.  



The initial State Sign Route shield was changed shortly after being introduced to include a black border and an option for reflectors.  The new design of the State Sign Route shield is featured in an April 1937 California Highways & Public Works regarding "Guide" signs.  The black border seems to have been added to the State Sign Route shield to make it easier to see while traveling at speed and further emulate the US Route Shield. 




The Sign State Route shield was changed during 1956 amid the proliferation of freeway projects in California.  The design of the Sign State Route spade was simplified to a white design which omitted the California Grizzly and "State Highway."  The Sign State Route shield was also enlarged to modern sizes to be more easily seen at freeway speeds.  An even simpler Sign State Route spade was also implemented for freeway guide sign use which lacked "California" in the crest.  While the new Sign State Route shield was not explicitly featured in the September/October 1956 California Highways & Public Works the need to standardization/simplification of freeway signage is illustrated. 



The then new green Sign State Route spade was featured on the cover the March/April 1964 California Highways & Public Works.  The green Sign State Route shield is shown replacing a US Route 101A shield along the Malibu Coast as part of the 1964 State Highway Renumbering.  An article in the volume regarding the State Highway Renumbering notes the Sign State Route shield was switched to green due to it faring well in visibility tests in snow and fog.  Blue and gold Sign State Route shields are noted to also have been tested.  





The green Sign State Route shield from 1964 has been retained to modern times.  The more ornate G28-2 shield is intended reassurance marker use whereas the more simplified G28-1 is intended for use on guide signs.  The current Caltrans MUTCD specifications for the G28-1 and G28-2 Sign State Route shields were approved on November 15, 1971. 





Part 2; the last 1956-63 era California Sign State Route Spade? 

As noted in the introduction along southbound California State Route 170 (the Hollywood Freeway Extension) approaching the Hollywood Freeway/Ventura Freeway interchange a white California State Route 134 Sign State Route Spade can be observed on guide sign.  The California State Route 134 shield is a simplified design for freeway use and includes button-copy reflectors. 



This is where we ask you as the reader, are you aware of any additional 1956-63 white Sign State Route spades still in use?  We asked this same question to the AAroads forum on April 1, 2023, which yielded some varying results:


-  Reply #1 by Quillz features a modern historic California State Route 163 shield which emulates the 1956-63 design.
-  Reply #2 by Quillz features a 1956-63 California State Route 118 shield along Foothill Boulevard in northern Los Angeles.  This sign no longer appears in any Google Street View image of 8587 Foothill Boulevard
-  Reply # 5 by Quillz features a 1956-63 California State Route 154 shield in Santa Barbara which has since been removed. 

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