The History of the Stop Sign – Municipal Supply & Sign Co.
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The History of the Stop Sign

Fun Facts Safety Stop Sign Traffic Sign

The History of the Stop Sign

The Stop Sign, something we come across everyday and annoys many of us. Especially, when there is not a single car or person on the road when we pull up to one.

The Stop Sign came to existence in Detroit, Michigan in 1915. It was originally Black lettering on a White background and was smaller than the signs you see today.

Octagon Shape

Back then, signs were only 24x24 compared to the 30x30 standards of signs today. In fact, the first stop sign was not even an octagon, it was a square.  The Octagon shape didn’t come into existence until 1935 when the MUTCD or Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways implemented this regulation.


The MUTCD was created by two committees who formed together in 1932. These committees were the AAHSO or American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and the NCSHS or National Conference on Street and Highway Safety. These two committees created the MUTCD to make roads across America safer as the expansion of the automobile became widespread. In 1935, stop signs transitioned from the black text on a white background to a black text on a yellow background. This was to make the signs more readable for drivers and improve safety measures.

Sign Dimensions

The stop sign had to follow the 30x30 standards for size in the year 1948 when larger signs were shown to increase visibility for drivers. This wasn’t the only major change made to stop signs in coming years after World War II. Every time someone hears the word stop sign they instantly think of a red octagon and in 1955 the MUTCD implemented that all stop signs had to be red. This was the biggest transformation in the history of the stop sign.

Just over a decade later, Congress made it mandatory that all roadways in the United States had to follow MUTCD standards to improve safety measures on all roads. Stop signs have changed since then but only slightly with the addition of the grade of reflectivity of a stop sign.

Up until just a few years ago, stop signs were allowed to be Engineer Grade reflectivity which is the bare minimum. Now, the requirement is for stop signs to be a bare minimum of High Intensity Prismatic sheeting. High Intensity Prismatic sheeting allows drivers to see the stop signs from farther away, more clearly, and is built to last double the duration.

Diamond Grade sheeting is offered but is not a requirement for Governments and Municipalities when ordering stop signs for their roads. Diamond Grade sheeting is the best on the market and has been proven to reduce accidents on the roads in several studies.

Diamond Grade sheeting is the recommended sheeting as it lasts significantly longer than High Intensity Prismatic and can see clearly from over 500 feet further away even in the middle of the night. The stop sign has drastically changed over the years from a plain black on white sign born in Detroit to the vibrant red octagonal signs we see everywhere today.



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