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The Refurbishment and Installation of the Coppertone Sign

The Insperation

Louis Martin is the son-in-law of the late Charles E. Clowe, who purchased Coppertone from family friend Benjamin Green in the early 1950s. Clowe was a savvy businessman and advertising star who took the product nationally before selling it to the Plough Company (now Schering-Plough) in 1957. Martin simply wants to set the record straight on the origins of the icon.

Although he acknowledges that Cheri Brand was the child model for the final painting used in the Plough Company’s advertising campaign, he says the original advertisements, featuring the little tanned tush, appeared on Miami bus placards a few years before Cheri was born. The original paintings were lost in a fire, so Joyce Ballantyne Brand, Cheri’s mother, was commissioned to re-create the image.

Reading the story as written by his late wife Sophia (literally on the back of one of those bus ads), Martin reveals that the little Coppertone girl was actually his own daughter Deborah, Charles Clowe’s granddaughter. She had been running around poolside at the Clowe home in Coral Gables when her training pants slipped, exposing a pale bottom on an otherwise tan body.

Deborah’s grandmother remarked to her husband: “Charles, look at that. It’s adorable. I’d rather see that on a billboard than any sexy girls.”Clowe then added the dog for advertising appeal, and so the icon was born. Although she never posed for an artist, and the Coppertone girl’s looks were slightly altered, it was Deborah Clowe who unwittingly served as the original inspiration. So the story has deeper Miami roots than previously known.

The Process

The restoration process began with the very delicate removal the sign from it's existing location. Each piece was carefully detached from the building, very slowly lowered to the ground, and then transported to American Tropical Sign & Service's fully equiped facility in Hialeah for restoration.

Once in our shop, our technicians began the first step in the very arduous process of cleaning and close inspection of the sign surfaces. All contaminates and deteriorated paint finishes where removed. Damaged surfaces were repaired in preparation for new paint finishes. All metal surfaces were coated with state-of-the-art primers and then painted with the final finish coat of paint.

The sign was originally illuminated with neon tubing. The neon tubing was replaced with over 3,000 energy efficient long life LED's. New white acrylic faces were cut and silk screened for the dog and the girl. New yellow acrylic faces were cut for the Coppertone letters. Parts of the signs were assembled, tested and then disassembled for transport to the signs new location.

The restoration process took several weeks and over 160 man hours to complete. Once complated the sign was carefully transported to it's new home at 7300 Biscayne Boulevard to begin the installation process.



The American Tropical Signs & Service's technical team began the installation of the newly restored sign on November 24th, 2008, in preparation for the light up ceremony. The process took over 40 man hours with crews working overtime to meet the deadline for the lit up ceremony.

The lit up ceremony, and historical event was scheduled for December 2nd with local citizens, dignitaries, press and political officials in attendance. Also in attendance was the son of the original sign manufacturer, Jerry Bengis, that was twelve years old when the sign was originally installed in 1958.

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