Wm. Stage is an American journalist, author, and photographer. He is known for his pioneering documentary work on a form of outdoor advertising: brick wall signs.

—Taken from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia —

Wm Stage

Wm. Stage was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan and immediately given up for adoption by his 19-year-old unwed mother. For three months he lived under the care of Catholic sisters in the St. Agnes Foundling Home, also in Kalamazoo, until he was adopted and taken to Grand Rapids, the only child of Bill and Virginia Stage. As a boy, he took a keen interest in plants and animals, roaming the woods and farmlands near his home. In 1969, he enlisted in the Army and was sent to Germany as a medical corpsman. It was there he attended University of Maryland Evening Division, studying English composition and German language.

After the Army, he began natural history studies at Thomas Jefferson College, the now-defunct “hippie college,” located on the campus of then-Grand Valley State College in Allendale, Michigan; he graduated four years later with a Bachelor of Philosophy degree. In 1978, he was hired by The Centers For Disease Control, Atlanta, and assigned to the St. Louis City Health Department as a public health officer / STD epidemiologist. Soon after arriving in St. Louis, he began to moonlight as a feature writer for local newspapers and magazines. In 1982, he left his position with CDC to devote himself to journalism and photography.

Journalism, Photography and Literature

By July, 1982, Stage had been hired full-time with The Riverfront Times, a St. Louis-based alternative newsweekly, founded by Ray Hartmann in 1977. He stayed with the paper until 2004, producing three different regular columns over a 22-year period, plus numerous magazine-style features. Have A Weird Day: Reflections and Ruminations on the St. Louis Experience, is a collection of expository writings that appeared in The Riverfront Times under a column titled “Mississippi Mud.” From 2003 to present, he has been a columnist with the St. Charles County [MO] Business Record. He has taught feature writing at the Defense Information School [DINFOS], Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana; and photojournalism at Saint Louis University School for Professional Studies. He is a 1995 alumnus of the week-long Missouri Photo Workshop, offered, since 1949, by the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism and held in a different Missouri town each year.

His photographs, largely falling into the genre of street photography, have been widely exhibited and purchased for inclusion in various private collections. While doing a popular column for The Riverfront Times, “Street Talk,” Stage posed quirky or philosophical man-on-the-street questions to unwitting subjects. Overall, he captured more than 8,500 faces on film, featuring people from every walk of life as well as notables such as Robert Mapplethorpe, Sir Edmund Hillary, Kurt Vonnegut, and Jerry Seinfeld. A select collection of those portraits became a book, Pictures of People.

Book Worm

Stage founded two publishing companies. Cumquat Publishing Company wholesales art and novelty postcards to bookstores and museum gift shops, while Floppinfish Publishing Company Ltd. is a small-scale book publisher.

For three years [2005-2008], Stage and his daughter, Margaret, produced a monthly, for-profit newspaper, Black White & Read All Over, which they distributed in the Lafayette Square neighborhood of St. Louis. In 2010, father and daughter collaborated again with the publication of The Painted Ad: A Postcard Book of Vintage Brick Wall Signs. The Painted Ad followed the lead of his first book, Ghost Signs: Brick Wall Signs in America, the first commercially produced book on the subject. Ghost Signs earned Stage a seat on the board of The Society For Commercial Archeology, at the time based in the Smithsonian Institute and currently based in Madison, Wisconsin.

In 2001, at the age of 50, Stage found his natural family, first making contact with his biological mother and her children, and, later, making contact with the children of his late biological father. His lifelong identity as an only child was suddenly altered; he now had a “new family” with a second mother, seven half-brothers and sisters as well as numerous aunts and cousins scattered throughout the eastern United States and Nova Scotia. In 2004, Stage was the subject of an episode of “Past Lives,” a documentary-style show on Canadian TV that focuses on people in search of their roots. The half-hour program, filmed on Cape Breton Island, ran Canada-wide and was seen in re-runs for four years. These events were humorously chronicled in a December, 2003 cover story in The Riverfront Times and formed the core of a comic memoir Fool For Life [2009]. Five years in the writing, Fool was well-received by both the reading public as well as critics and bolstered Stage’s reputation as a prose humorist.

In 2007, Stage began voicing guest commentaries on KWMU-FM, the NPR affiliate in St. Louis. Topics range from the folly of Daylight Savings Time to the joys of ice skating.




Fiction / Memoir

As Contributor

  • Photographs appear in St. Louis: Home On The River – Urban Tapestry Series – Towery Publishing Inc. 1995
  • Photographs appear in St. Louis: For The Record – Urban Tapestry Series – Towery Publishing Inc. 1999
  • Cover photograph “Three Of A Kind” appears on For the Common Good? American Civic Life and the Golden Age of Fraternity – Jason Kaufman, author – Oxford University Press Inc. 2002
  • Photographs appear in St. Louis Seen & Unseen – Michael Kilfoy, editor – Virginia Publishing, 2006
  • Photographs appear in Outhouses – Holly L. Bollinger, author – MBI Publishing Company, 2005
  • Photograph “Harvey’s Sandwich System, St. Louis, Missouri 1979” appears on cover of Lire le materialisme – Charles T. Wolfe, author – Published in France, 2020


  • Presenter: 2009 Celebration of the Book – Missouri Center For The Book, Stephens College, Columbia