History of Neon Signage
We are accustomed to associating neon signage with the USA but neon lighting was actually invented and commercially developed in France in the early 1900’s.
It did not appear in the USA until 1923 when a Los Angeles car dealer purchased two ‘Packard’ signs from France to promote car sales. American business owners were quick to recognise the potential of this new, attractive, bright and colourful signage to promote their products and attract customers.
Through the1920s and 30s there was rapid adoption of signage by businesses of all kinds, gas stations, restaurants, bars and entertainment venues, which brought the main streets of both large and small towns across the USA to life. The bright lights of the theatres on Broadway and in Times Square in New York, and the extravagant light displays on hotels and casinos along the strip in Las Vegas are familiar examples of extensive use of neon lighting in its heyday.
Since the 1950s there has been a gradual decline in the use of neon lighting as fashions changed and businesses discovered less costly ways of using lighting for advertising. In Australia neon signage has always been there in the mix of indoor and outdoor signage. Neon signage is now being rediscovered. On one hand the technology has been improved by research and development leading to a larger range of better colours and more powerful lighting. On the other, many artists have been attracted to this medium to express their ideas in light and animation.
Also, a number of recent films have adapted the use of neon lighting to produce unusual visual effects. Both of these uses have raised the profile of neon lighting. An interesting present day phenomenon is the growing interest in replicas of retro American neon advertising signs of last century for gasoline, beer, cars and bars made familiar and famous by their frequent appearances in the settings of American movies. These are being purchased to decorate home bars, man caves and the like. Others are ordering custom built signs for upmarket interior design effects at home, or to strongly promote products or services at their place of business. What was old is now new again!