Arbuckle Gallery at the Pacific Hotel

Painting the Town: The Work of Rey Giese


11:00 am to 5:00 pm

Thank you! History San Jose sincerely thanks the generous sponsors who made this exhibit possible:

Robert J. Bettencourt

Jim Salata, Garden City Construction

Joseph George Fine Wines

Rey Giese paint toolbox

Born in 1919, Reynold Giese dropped out of San Jose High School in 1935 to pursue work in the sign painting business. The school principal supported Giese’s decision because of his demonstrated artistic talents. After working as an apprentice for several years and slowly building a client list, Giese was able to open his own shop. Among his clients were businesses, public entities and political campaigns. Each of Giese’s pieces was hand-crafted, from his original sketch to the brush strokes of the final product. Giese continued this practice into the 21st century.

Rey Giese apprentice sign

Giese was hired to paint signs for a variety of community events, from the County Fair to football games. While the circus was in town, he was even hired to paint a live elephant. At one point, Giese’s work lined both sides of First Street in downtown San Jose. Due to burgeoning customer traffic resulting from Giese’s signs, one client claimed he needed to continually raise his prices — more work for Giese, as a new sign was commissioned for each price increase.

Giese often expressed his humor in his art and created pieces for family and friends. He continued to paint until his death in 2013. The accumulated signs in Giese’s San Jose garage studio have become an archive of the city’s businesses and activities.

About Clyde Arbuckle

Clyde Arbuckle was instrumental in preserving San José’s history by collecting historic materials, and founding the San José Historical Museum, which later became History San José. Find out more about Arbuckle’s contributions to local history and his legacy at History San José.

About the Pacific Hotel

The Pacific Hotel was originally located at 74-80 South Market Street in downtown San José, near the Plaza de César Chavez. The first hotel at this location was founded in 1860, but the Pacific Hotel itself was not opened until 1880. Charles Schiele, a Prussian immigrant and former waiter, purchased the property, then known as Otter’s Hotel, and was the first owner of the Pacific Hotel. Schiele remained in charge for seven years, until he sold the hotel to Julius Neifing and Jacob Schlenker and was elected to the San José City Council. Schlenker owned the hotel with different business partners until 1903, when he sold it to George Pfeffer. The Pacific Hotel remained in business until July 1907, when the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company bought the building. Read more.