From Gas to Glow: The Fascinating Timeline of Neon Signage



When you imagine a neon sign, what do you see? Do you see a bright flame that points you towards the tiki bar? Perhaps you can remember the neon sign hanging in the window of your favorite restaurant? If you begin to get nostalgic while you think about neon pictures You’re not alone. Neon lights represent the past days by and cast a glow unlike any other source of light.

In this blog, we’ll explore the colorful story of neon signage, from its popularity throughout America to why they are disappearing into the background.

What is the definition of a neon sign?

A neon sign is a cold cathode fluorescent lamp (CCFL). A typical neon sign made up of glass tubes that contain neon gas as well as a tiny amount of argon gas. Neon is used to refer to signs that are distinct colors, but it does not make all hues. For instance an orange “neon” sign actually created using the gas helium which is not actually neon. Red neon signs however are constructed using neon gas. Neon signs are commonly used to highlight building features, draw attention to products or services, or as accent lighting.

Who invented Neon Signs?

It’s not right to claim that one person created neon signs. The signs came into existence as the creation of several inventors and chemists over the years. It took years of research and trial and error before neon signage set the night sky aglow. These are the most prominent individuals who helped in the creation of neon signs.

1. William Ramsay and Morris W. Travers

In the 1800s, Scottish Chemist William Ramsay looked through the air for rare and mysterious gases with his colleague Morris W. Travers. Ramsay and Travers discovered neon in 1898 by isolating the gases form liquefied argon. Each gas emits a unique brilliant hue when put inside a glass tube and charged with high voltage. Their discovery was the starting point for neon lamps.

2. Georges Claude

Inventor Georges Claude also used techniques to mix air and produce massive quantities of industrial-grade. L’Air Liquide, which he founded in 1902, quickly was a global company.

Claude carried out research while selling liquid oxygen with the hope to uncover new knowledge. After Ramsay had found it all and Claude discovered that there was little left to pull out of the air. He decided to focus on other problems like finding a solution to the problem of too intense electrical lighting. He turned to neon, leftover from his liquefaction of air, to create alternatives to light sources.

Claude took the concept of Daniel McFarlan Moore, an inventor, to send an electric charge through a glass tube stuffed with gas to produce bright white light. Claude made Moore’s concept more effective by using larger electrodes, that stayed cooler for longer, as well as substituting neon gases that were that were used by Moore. His neon lamps lasted for hundreds of hours, and they burned consistently and brightly.

Claude was granted an invention patent in 1910 to neon lighting. Claude admitted that red neon was not a good choice for overall lighting, but was perfect for a dazzling decorative light.

How do neon signs function?

Neon lights function because an electric current passes through the gas creating a shine. On their own, gases do not conduct electricity. A gas, like neon is required to be contained in a gas-discharge tube for a current to flow through. The gas-discharge tube can be described as a glass tube sealed with electrodes. When an electric voltage is applied to the electrodes, the gas pressure rises to a level that enables an electric current to flow through the tube. The electric current sets the gas to aglow. Neon emits red, and other gases emit different colors such as yellow and blue.

To create an neon sign, it is necessary to learn difficult techniques taught by a skilled craftsman. The procedure involves using heat to bend glass tubes in a pattern, attaching electrodes to the tubes, and then pumping in gases , and then removing any impurities from the glass. In the end, it’s a complicated process that requires practice and expertise.

What was the first time that neon signs became popular?

Georges Claude sparked the popularity of neon signs in 1912 , when he installed the first advertising neon sign in a Parisian barbershop. The signs made of neon were quickly adopted by other businesses such as the Paris Opera. To keep growing, Claude formed the company Claude Neon and sold franchises for neon signs. There were numerous franchises around the globe.

Earle C. Anthony, a Packard Motor Car Company dealer was the one who developed the first American neon signs. Anthony had seen the signs of Claude in Paris in 1923 and he bought two signs to be installed in his downtown showroom. The attractive neon signs read “Packard” and cost about less than the cost of a car. The signs were so attractive that they caused traffic jams. It was hard to drive by the Packard showroom in the 1920s and not stop to admire the hypnotic neon signs.

The demand for neon signs in the United States exploded quickly and they soon became a symbol of the advancement of technology and modern industry. Signs made of neon were mostly made to attract tourists who used interstate highway systems. When you were a tourist during the 1930s, you could expect to find neon signs promoting gas stations, motels and diners across the country. Additionally, cities that were bustling like New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas became known for enticing customers to eat, dance, gamble, see the movies and more with amazing neon signs.

Around World War II, neon’s popularity began to decrease. A lot of business owners didn’t wish to spend money to fix damaged signs, so they chose to substitute neon signs using signs made of plastics as well as fluorescent tubes. Plastic signs are less expensive and easier to maintain as opposed to neon signs. In addition people began to associate neon signs with run-down motels, sleazy bars and other shady establishments. In the 1970s, there was a small revival of neon signs that continues today. Modern neon signs are usually tiny and are typically used to advertise beer or to announce the opening hours of a store.

Why aren’t neon signs being used any more?

Neon indoor signs can be seen in bars and homes across the country. But, numerous businesses have switched to different types of illuminated signage due to a variety of reasons such as:

  • Signs made of neon can be extremely costly.
  • Customized neon signs for your business require the work of experienced artisans.
  • Neon signs are more susceptible to being damaged than other sign materials. They are also harder to replace.
  • Neon signposts may not work in cold weather due to the additional energy of argon.
  • Signs made of neon are typically heavier than other materials.
  • Modern signs are more flexible than neon signs.

While neon signs are not as well-known as they were in the past, there’s still a deep admiration for the glow of a neon. Museums that preserve neon signs can be found in towns and cities. You’ll also find neon signs for companies such as restaurants and nail salons to neon signs in different locations.

Alternatives to Neon Signage

The unique glow of neon lights is different from any other light source. They’re however quite limited when compared to modern signage. Here are some alternatives to neon signs and how they capture the attention of people who are looking at them.

1. LED Signs

LEDs give off a stunning glow similar to neon but they are more efficient and last longer. They are small and frequently mix green, red and blue to create white light. A lot of LED signs are light as compared with neon signs and are great for advertising sales, new products, occasions and more inside the restaurant, store or other commercial. A lot of business owners put large LED signs on their property to draw customers and relay messages. Unlike neon signs, you are able to modify the advertising on a programmable LED sign to meet your requirements and reach customers however you want. These are just a few reasons businesses opt for LED signs.

  • energy-efficient:LEDs emit light in a particular direction, which reduces the requirement for reflectors with light traps. They are among the most efficient lighting sources and consume 75 percent less power than traditional lighting. By 2027, widespread use could result in more than $30 billion in savings in the U.S.
  • Durable:LEDs last 25 times longer that incandescent lighting. LEDs are cheaper than other light sources and will not require you to change bulbs as often, which can save both time and cost. LED signs, on other hand, required skill and time to repair or replace parts.
  • Does not release warmth: LEDs don’t emit much heat, unlike other lighting sources that can release as high as 90 percent of their energy.
  • Low-impact:LEDs don’t contain mercury. Some neon signs, however have small amounts of mercury that can cause environmental harm. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is encouraging residents to call local agencies to reuse a neon lamp, rather than tossing it in the garbage.
  • Visibility that is reliable: LEDs have a long life span and are easy to maintain. Business owners can feel certain that their signage will always be prominent. LEDs can also be utilized in cold weather, as opposed to neon signs which might take longer to heat up.
  • Bright and attractive: Some LED signs employ moving or bright colors to attract interest. Similar to neon signs that are also LED, LED signs are tough to miss and are a pleasure to view.

Advertising for business by using backlit graphics is another alternative. Backlit graphics are constructed using frames, LED light and fabric overlays that can be interchangeably woven to display your own messages and designs. These are also called lights boxes. They can be used indoors or out and can be powered by any source of power. Backlit graphics provide a versatile light solution for businesses that want to draw clients and stand out an influx of.

2. Digital Signs

Digital signage can give business owners the the power that is unmatched by any other lighting source. Digital signage allows you to alter the information displayed at any time you want to make changes or project an attention-grabbing animated video, a schedule of events, menu items that are new or whatever else you can think of. Digital signage is simple to read and captivates the attention of customers. It’s as if it’s a TV. Digital signage allows business owners to manage the content they distribute. These are just one of the many benefits that digital signage can provide:

  • Flexibility: What could be simpler than creating content on a computer and then sending it to a sign. There’s no need to purchase an entirely new sign every time you promote a new product or service. There are endless options with digital signage and can create animation and videos as well as share news, display photographs and much more.
  • Make yourself noticed According to an Nielsen survey from 2015 75% of the respondents saw an online billboard in the month preceding the survey and 55% of them noticed that message most of the time. Also, digital signage stands out and makes an impression.
  • Inform and stimulate: The same survey discovered that 61 percent people who took part in the survey believe that digital billboards are an effective way to learn more about sales and events. Digital signage is the perfect way to market your business.
  • Increase brand recall Eighty-two percent of respondents recalled advertising on billboards with digital technology. If you want to make sure that people remember your brand name, consider going digital.
  • Increase customer satisfaction with Digital signage. There are a variety of ways to make customers happy. They make it easier. Bright menu boards for instance, make it easy for customers to view the choices and make decisions faster. The illuminated menus can also draw outside customers. Staff can set up digital signs that change in accordance with the time of year and day of the month. This can make it much easier to work.
  • Help customers feel relaxed: You can use digital signs throughout the place, including waiting rooms and areas of the hotel lobby. Digital signage can be used to give health advice to patients while they wait for treatment, for instance. Or, digital signage can be used to guide the people who are in a big building. Digital signs aren’t easily missed and fit seamlessly in any environment.
  • Make promotions stand out:Are you having a big sale? Is there a new product that is available? A digital sign can generate excitement and inspire customers to purchase.

Shop SpeedPro for Neon Sign Alternatives

Make sure your business gets the attention it deserves by using quality displays that are the talk of the town. SpeedPro is excited to assist you in transforming your idea into a stunning sign. We can make your sign stand out using stunning backlit graphics or digital signage which advertises daily specials. Our team of experts will work together with you to create the perfect sign solution that will stand out from competitors. If you’re looking to be noticed, make sure to visit any of our locations today.

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