A tornado ripped through downtown Atlanta, Ga., the evening of March 14, 2008. It damaged and destroyed buildings and urban landscapes as it swept through the city. Historic Oakland Cemetery and the former Fulton Bag and Cotton Mill (undergoing rehabilitation as lofts) were among the damaged properties. Several buildings in Atlanta’s twentieth century African American neighborhood, Sweet Auburn, also were damaged.
Among the damaged buildings were the Atlanta Daily World building and a former commercial building owned by entrepreneur Alonzo Herndon. The Herndon building was located in the 200 block of Auburn Avenue. When it was demolished after the tornado, a ghost sign for Gold Dust washing powder was exposed on a former exterior wall.
The Gold Dust sign was painted on the wall that previously was the eastern exterior facade of the Atlanta Life Insurance Co. building (pictured above). When the Herndon Building was constructed the space between the two buildings containing stairs to upstairs offices was enclosed by a hyphen and the sign was concealed.
The Gold Dust twins, “Goldie” and “Dustie,” were the cornerstone of a late 19th-early 20th century advertising campaign for Gold Dust washing powder that drew heavily on negative African American racial stereotypes. The gender-ambiguous “twins” were depicted wearing skirts as they engaged in various acts of housework. The images appeared on product packaging, in print advertising, and full-color murals painted on buildings throughout the South.
The Hagley Museum has a good overview of the Gold Dust marketing efforts and their place in social and business history. A similar Gold Dust mural was documented in the 2012 book, Fading Ads of Birmingham (The History Press).
The Atlanta Preservation Center is aware of the mural. Plans to preserve it are under consideration. The National Park Service documented the 200 block of Auburn Avenue in 1979. The results — measured drawings and large format photographs — are archived in the Library of Congress.
© 2014 D.S. Rotenstein