What if you could beam up out of your hectic modern life and, in mere minutes, beam down into the peaceful countryside of yesteryear? I do that a lot here Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where I am lucky enough to live, along with more than 30,000 members of the Amish community.
There are many idyllic scenes to enjoy here, and I do, but what started catching my “English” eye were the signs. Fresh-picked produce. Quilts and crafts. Birdhouses. Carriage shops. Farm-based enterprises and cottage industries. Trades that would have been common 200 years ago. Hard to believe this is the 21st century!
About nine years ago I began photographing the signs. The deeper I ventured, the more enchanted I became. So, this is where my Amish neighbors buy their hats, scooters, and wringer washers. Also where farm equipment is manufactured, repaired, or adapted for animal power; where an ever-evolving economy flourishes, off the electrical grid.
I began to discern which signs target fellow Amish, the local community, or tourists. The more signs I observed, the more curious I became about their cultural meaning and the more I got to know and respect the people behind them. As my collection of pictures grew, a book of photographs began taking shape.
Signs of Lancaster County: A Photographic Tour of Amish Country is the just-published travelogue of my adventures. Hundreds of photographs of one-of-a-kind signs in the context of their scenic settings take you on a journey that is pretty, peaceful, and educational. The pictures are interspersed with my notes that provide details and explanations.
Not just anywhere can you buy a watermelon and get your horse washed in one stop, or get parts for both your lantern and your copier at the same remote farm. In Lancaster County you can, and here are the pictures to prove it!
Next time you visit, you can have fun tracking down the signs in the book. The road names are included in the captions. But you’ll notice that while many of the signs remain in exactly the same spot, some have been replaced with slicker new ones. Others have vanished. I’m so glad I captured these wonderful signs when I did, and I’m happy to beam them out to armchair tourists everywhere.
All photographs are copyrighted by Tana Reiff. Unauthorized use is prohibited.
Tana Reiff is a photographer and the author of fiction and folktale retellings at easy reading levels. Following a career in adult literacy, she began exploring Lancaster County, where she has lived for over 40 years, with camera in hand. Her many unique photographs of rural scenes and wildflowers are available as prints and throw pillows on Fine Art America.
Purchase Tana’s book here.