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Sign for Carter’s Inn

Sign for Carter’s Inn  Killingworth, about 1823Killingworth, about 1823
Collection of Morgan B. Brainard, Gift of Maxwell L. Brainard, Charles E. Brainard, Mrs. Edward M. Brainard, Mrs. Morgan B. Brainard, Jr., and Mrs. H.S. Robinson, Jr. (Constance Brainard), 1971.30.1

Between 1750 and 1850, more than 50,000 inn and tavern signs were produced by American painters, creating a distinct visual language and offering a glimpse into tavern life, travel, and patriotic ideals in early America. Only a fraction of these signs survive. The Connecticut Historical Society’s collection—numbering more than 60 signs—is by far the largest and most spectacular in the nation.

The term “resort” was still new when Jared Carter first advertised his establishment in 1823. It implied a destination rather than just necessary accommodations. A series of resorts sprung up along the coast of Connecticut, offering salt air and seafood as alternatives to the mineral waters popular at inland resort areas like Saratoga. This sign was clearly designed to attract an elegant, wealthy clientele, like the officer and well-dressed gentleman, “strangers” before enjoying a meal together at Carter’s resort.