Saturday, November 9, 2019

Magikist Rug Cleaners; What happened to those three famous Magikist signs on Chicago highways?

From the early 1960s to the late 1980s, three neon Magikist signs in the shape of lips stood sentry by the expressways near the northern, southern, and western entrances to the City of Chicago.
In the Chicago area, the Magikist Lips (in the form of huge signs on the Edens Expressway, Dan Ryan Expressway, Kennedy Expressway, and Eisenhower Expressway which lit up and flashed) were well-known landmarks. The signs were 75 feet wide and 40 feet high at the lips pucker. Travelers from the early 1960s through the late 1990s tended to use them as landmarks to figure out how much longer it would take to arrive at their destination.
Kennedy Expressway, Chicago.
The sign was particularly special to Minnie Gage of Arlington Heights because those lips were hers.

In the mid-1940s her husband, the late Bill Gage, owned Austin Rug Cleaners, a business he founded in a converted blacksmith's shop in 1929. In casting about for a promotional gimmick, Gage settled on the slogan "the kiss of beauty" and the company's new name, Magikist. He had Minnie apply extra lipstick and kiss a piece of paper; a commercial artist turned the imprint into a logo.

In Magikist's heyday, the lips appeared on hundreds of local billboards and more than 1,000 buses, as well as the three spectacular signs. Chicago musician/artist Wesley Willis frequently mentioned Magikist in his song lyrics, although he used the word as a term of high praise, akin to "magician."

When the Gage family sold the Magikist business to a West Coast firm in 1985, it was the beginning of the end for the signs.

The demise of the Magikist signs:

Sign #1) The Magikist lips at 85th Street and the Dan Ryan Expressway was razed in 1992.

Sign #2) The lips at Cicero Avenue and the Eisenhower Expressway came down with no fanfare at some point several years after that.

Sign #3) The final pair rose 80 feet above a parking lot where Montrose Avenue meets the Kennedy Expressway just south of the junction with the Edens Expressway was removed in late 2003.


WBBM Channel 2 - "Magikist Wedding Proposal"

There are just three surviving Magikist outlets: independent carpet-cleaning businesses in Milwaukee and Sheboygan, Wisconsin, and Oak Forest, Illinois. They all are still using the lips logo.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.

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