A Mid 20thC Hand Painted “Rifle Range” Fairground Panel Canopy Bracket Sign

Origin: English
Period: Mid Twentieth Century
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1940-60
Width: 42 inches
Height: 32 inches

The large rectangular hand painted fairground sign designed to draw in the crowds at fairgrounds in the mid twentieth century from a fairground hoopla rifle range stall, exclaiming ‘Rifle Range’ with pointed stars painted on a sunshine yellow ground with ruby red border.

Suspended from iron mounting brackets and screws, the panel has paint flaking to several areas and scuffs commensurate with age (it was of course part of a travelling troupe) but structurally it is sound.

The invention of the gun offered a natural progression for the more traditional “knock ‘em down” stall and the Shooting Gallery takes full advantage of a public obsession with firearms. By the mid 19th century fairground shooting games were commonplace and even considered desirable by those looking for a cheap way of training potential soldiers before they’d even been recruited into the military. The concept of taking aim at an enemy was ideally suited for the Shooting Gallery and over time familiar targets for assassination have included the Tzar of Russia, the Kaiser and our old friend, Adolf Hitler. The idea was also well suited to the British colonial view of the world. The problem with tube shooters was that only a couple of people could play at the same time. The more familiar Shooting Galleries, on the other hand, could easily accommodate several people at once.Buffalo Bill was to change all this. Following his influential British tours cowboy fever spread quickly and showfolk began buying Winchester repeater rifles that enabled them to rename their attractions “Winchester Rifle Ranges”. The Wild West remains a common fairground theme to this day, although arcade “shoot up” games offer stiff competition.

Many people are fascinated by fairground art and by the gorgeously painted and carved creatures that enchanted us from a young age. The world's finest collection of fairground art was amassed in the 1960s and 1970s by Lord and Lady Bangor when it was generally undervalued and underpriced. When Christie's auctioned their collection at Wookey Hole, Somerset in 1997, the sale attracted huge interest and massive sale results. Collectors flocked not just because of the finery of the collection, but because it is now quite rare to find or be able to purchase fairground art in the open market.

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