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The answer, according to one longtime director of the city’s street services, is simple: They are easy to read. In 1883, the city placed its first large order of signs—redwood planks stained black with letters in white lead paint. Signs made of wood, glass, and metal—some dating to L.A.’s horse and buggy days—were posted until 1939. That’s when the Junior Chamber of Commerce pushed officials to create uniform signage, and the Bureau of Engineering designed those blue porcelain enamel warhorses still found on some streets.