The Golden Age of Neon Lighting

The neon sign: A reminder of a simpler time. From the 1920s through the 1960s, they were at their peak. Bright neon signs promoting business’s products and services were everywhere on the streets, from hotdogs to designer clothing at departmental stores to local nightclubs. When you think of these bright streets, local landmarks such as the Las Vegas Strip or Times Square are first to your mind. The “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas”, sign at the southern end is a famous one. But where did neon come from? What is the secret to its popularity? Is it still relevant today?

The Birth of Neon

Georges Claude, a French engineer and inventor, first revealed Neon at the Paris Motor Show, in 1910. Claude created a glow discharge by sending a voltage through electrodes inside a sealed tube of glass containing rarified gases. Although more primitive forms of this invention have been used for many years, such as the Geisslertube, Claude’s Air Liquide air liquification business was able to produce large quantities of neon because it was a byproduct from the air liquification process.

Claude Neon was founded after realizing the potential of its marketing and signage. In 1919, neon signs were installed at the Palais Garnier entrance and Cinzano Italian vermouth brand Cinzano.

The Golden Years

In 1923, Claude introduced neon signage to the United States. He sold two signs to a Packard dealership in Los Angeles. The neon signs were so bright, passersby stopped to stare at them even during the day.

Neon signage became a staple of outdoor advertising and spread quickly. Although it was more costly than other types of signage, businesses saw neon signage as a way to stay competitive. Fluorescent tube coatings are the most innovative innovation. These coatings offered more color options. Signmakers used to have about twenty-six color options. They now have over 100.

Interesting fact: While neon was used as the first gas in neon signs, only a handful of colors are possible with it (mostly orange and red tones). Argon, which was mixed with a little mercury and coated with phosphorescent coatings on glass, was another gas that produced glowing effects. It can produce colors as diverse as blue, yellow, green and purple.

Although neon was out of fashion in the 1950s and 1960s, it experienced a slight revival in the 1980s. Television shows such as Magnum P.I. and Miami Vice used neon. These bright colors were used to reflect the tropical background of each show. The use of neon colors in television helped to bring back the neon aesthetic.

Neon Today

Today, neon signs are not used due to environmental and health concerns. Original manufacturers used lead in glass to make it easier to melt with a gas flame. However, lead-related health issues forced them to seek out safer alternatives.

Neon signage is now less popular due to safety concerns, inefficiency and cost. Because it is most efficient, LED is now the main source of illumination in illuminated signs. LED is also used by manufacturers in faux-neon signs, design elements and other signage.

Although sign makers are less likely to use neon signs, many still use them to invoke the nostalgic vibes of the 1940s or 50s. The use of small neon signs in interior design has become a popular trend.

graphic design also uses neon-like colors and elements. These design ideas can be creatively implemented into digital art and graphics by purchasing digital kits.

The golden age of neon is over, but the bright glow of neon will remain part of the industry’s legacy.

Our History With Neon

Since its founding in South Bend Neon, in 1934, North American Signs has been a supporter of neon signs. This was not too long after neon’s introduction in the United States. We can help you with all your signage needs, no matter what type of illumination.

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