Jay Robert Allen, the president and owner of ShawCRaft Sign Company, designed the Illinois Lincoln Highway Mural Series. Throughout the process, over the years, the mural series became a legacy project for Allen, and he painted many “hidden treasures” into the murals. Some you may be able to see, others are so small or so well hidden they are not visible. At the request of the communities sometimes objects were painted into the murals or the background was changed from the original photo. This gave the community a more personal connection to their mural. These added delights are something fun for the viewer and meaningful for the artist, community and the ILHC.
Here, we share some of the secret hidden treasures with you!
The initials RG are painted at least once into 33 of the 35 murals, as a tribute to Mr. Allen’s departed friend and fellow artist Reneata Guzman.
A special surprise element for then Mayor Martinez and the Village Clerk, Sharon Van Dam was painted in to the mural; images of Mr. Mills and Mr. Petrie, philanthropists of the town in the 1900s were added in on the top balcony. The unique border design was created to represent and pay tribute to Ashton’s current-day Mills and Petrie Memorial Building. Jay pays tribute to a departed favorite uncle by painting his name, ‘Brumley’s Livery Service’ on a building sign. An interesting fact from Jay about his uncle, “He really did serve Ashton in that role for a number of years.”
Jay pays tribute to a departed favorite uncle by painting his name, “Bromley” on the Livery Service sign.
This mural has Jay’s son’s birth date on the license plate.
The man that appears the in left foreground of the mural is a self portrait of Jay Robert Allen.
|A vintage streetscape image was added into the background of the mural as accolade to the City of Byron. The names of ShawCraft’s two employees are painted into the streetscape signage.|
“Women on the Lincoln Highway” was the second mural for the City of Crest Hill and includes many family names of the artist. One of the women in the car is actually the face of a Lincoln Highway staff member.
|Many items are intertwined into this mural. “Scott Bort Rocks” is painted across the windshield frame as a tribute to a friend of the artist and the ILHC. On the car’s license plate are the initials RG and the number 322, Jay’s son’s birthday and 222, a lucky number of someone on the project. The bridge above the red, white and blue “L” sign has a plaque painted with a special thank you to efforts of the people on the mural project.|
Jay painted a special background into the mural at the request of Frankfort; the building is the Folkers Hotel, a downtown building from the 1920s. The initials and birthday of a family friend are painted on the car’s license plate.
Flowers are painted into the windows of the HI Lincoln building on this mural.
This mural has the early 1900s downtown background of Genoa added in, with the local library that still stands today in the image. It was Valentine’s Day when Jay was working on the background, so one of the buildings has “Jody’s Finery” painted on its sign, in honor of his wife.
Carl Fisher in this mural holds a few hidden treasures; family names, Jay, Jodi and Evan, Jay’s parents’ names and the phrase “love one another” and the initials RG are painted with the shape of a heart.
The Illinois Lincoln Highway Project Director’s initials and birth date are on the front grill of the vehicle on the right side of the mural.
A sign on the tow truck has the mural project details on it. The birth date of Jay’s wife Jody and “I miss you Dad” dedicated to Jay’s dad, are also secretly painted into the mural.
In the overhead viaduct, Mr. Allen painted his own name and several other family members’ names. The word “love” is painted on the roadside pole and in the street several times.
Abraham Lincoln’s hair is filled with very small hidden family members’ names and the initials RG are also painted in several times.
This mural has several tiny hidden initials, “RG”.
This first mural for the City of Rochelle tells the story of Emily Post’s cross country trip on the Lincoln Highway. Painted within the design is a tribute to Brain Waves Graphics, owned by friends of Jay.
|The mural was designed from a vintage Rochelle postcard, with some special elements added in; an image of the Rochelle built Partin-Palmer automobile along with a full color red, white and blue Lincoln Highway “L” sign. Being the last mural in the collection to be created, it holds several hidden treasures. Many of Jay’s family have their names painted throughout the detailed design. The man in the mural is a portrait of Jay’s dear friend, Sam Darby. A special acknowledgment is made to a dear friend of the ILHC and Jay. On the mural’s train; as a tribute to Char, her love of Johnny Cash was depicted with “Johnny Cash Rides Forever” hidden on the train. Her birth date is painted on the front plate of the engine.|
This playful scene was painted from an old photograph shared from the Sauk Village Library. The automobile was added into the design to convey that early roadway was very essential to everyone. Hidden within the painting is “Jay loves Jody,” the artist’s sentiment to his wife.
Each mural in this grouping is an exact replica of the original Lincoln Highway Radio Show posters, but the artist was still able to incorporate the initials “RG” several times within the hair of the Frances Farmer image.