Billboards and Roadside Improvement

April 30, 1931

Report Outline
Demand for Elimination of Roadside Abuses
Organized Outdoor Advertising: Investment and Extent
Legal Obstacles Impeding Billboard Regulation
Methods of Restricting Outdoor Advertising
Other Aspects of Highway Betterment Problem

Extensive development of improved highways in almost every part of the United States has been accompanied by a corresponding growth in the number of filling stations, wayside stands and tourist camps, and in the extent of billboard and poster advertising, These commercial and advertising ventures are designed to serve the needs and attract the attention of the habitual users of the highways and of the more than 40,000,000 persons who make up the annual army of motor tourists.

This large business has developed in more or less sporadic and unregulated fashion, the various promoters and advertisers vying with one another to obtain the most strategic locations and otherwise to attract the eye of passing motorists. The natural result has been that scant attention has been paid to so-called “amenities of the roadside”; giant billboards often obstruct a view of the landscape; hideous signs and garish color schemes at filling stations or hot-dog stands frequently mar the beauty of the countryside; and untidy, ramshackle structures are common along the highway borders.

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Demand for Elimination of Roadside Abuses

An increasingly active demand for regulation and restriction of these highway businesses and for definite action toward improvement and beautification of the roadsides is evidenced by the widespread and well-supported activities of numerous civic organizations, many of them national in scope, and by the rapidly expanding body of state legislation on the question, especially with respect to billboard and other highway advertising. In this effort various difficulties of a legal nature have been encountered, regulatory laws having frequently been the subject of litigation. Definite progress toward amelioration of conditions along the highways has been made, however, and there is promise that ways can be found to continue and extend this progress in response to the growing public demand.

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