Signs of the Times - December 2013 - (Page 62)

The First Neon Sign In America Packard, yes; at a dealership, no Photo of Seventh and Flower in Los Angeles, 1926. Was this America's first neon sign? By Leon Dixon Google up "first neon sign massive in USA." You'll immediately see the confusion and mythology about where and when, fueled by the wild arena of the Internet. Here are facts. Nearly every historical account today claims the first neon in the U.S. was placed at Earle C. Anthony's Los Angeles Packard automobile dealership; clearly it was not. Histories claim only two signs, but there were three. Even worse, Mr. Anthony is usually described merely as a car salesman in these histories. But he was never merely a "Packard dealer" with a showroom. That's another story, but for brevity's sake, he was something of a genius who handbuilt Hollywood's first motion-picture camera. He invented the very concept of the gasoline service station, fathering the predecessors to today's Photo credit: Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection Chevron stations. He started one of the predecessors to Greyhound Bus Lines. And, he was on Packard Motor Car Co.'s board. Anthony was one of the greatest innovators and marketers the world has ever known. So a quick look at the real Earle C. Anthony may help to shed light on the neon story. "E.C.," as he liked to be called, was born in Washington, IL in 1880. His family moved to L.A. when he was 10. At age 17, he built and drove one of the first cars (certainly the first electric car) in the City of Angels. By the early 1900s, E.C. became the West Coast Packard distributor for Packard Motor Car Company (PMCC) and began building a sales empire of Packard dealers. Packards were luxurious automobiles. European royalty and heads of state loved them. Even the Russian Czar Nicholas II owned 62 SIGNS OF THE TIMES / DECEMBER 2013 / them. E.C. was quick to capitalize on Packard's European fame when he visited the Paris Auto Show in the early 1920s. There, he met Georges Claude and first saw neon technology. A man of vision, E.C. returned stateside with three of Claude's wondrous neon signs with him and began a whole new era. These signs were fashioned in the traditional "Packard" automobile script logo. The first of E.C.'s signs was erected in downtown Los Angeles in 1923, but NOT at one of his dealerships. Despite traffic jams and public fascination caused when the first neon went up, precious little was actually photographed or written about it then. ST was largely focused on the eastern U.S. Newspapers also apparently paid little or no attention. But Seventh and Flower was a

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Signs of the Times - December 2013

Signs of the Times - December 2013
ST Update
Technology Update
Vinyl Apps
Strictly Electric
LED Update
Software Update
Technology Review - Universal Laser’s ILS9.75 and ILS12.75 platform lasers
Technology Review - CET Color’s 500K X-Press flatbed, UV-cure printer
New Products
The Hands Have It
Digital Print Update
The First Neon Sign in America
The USSC Design Awards
Advertising index
Editorially speaking

Signs of the Times - December 2013