Signs of the Times - April 2014 - (Page 108)

Surprising Evidence About Neon's History B y D y d i a D e Ly s e r a n d P a u l G r e e n s t e i n (Ed. Note: In December, ST published Leon Dixon's article about the "first neon sign in the U.S." Dixon had contacted me more than a year ago, and I'd agreed to publish his article. In the interim, I became aware of Prof. DeLyser's research and some contrary evidence. I'm still not certain who is more "right." I decided to publish both articles separately in order to give each an individual spotlight and, perhaps most importantly, to elicit any other solid documentation on the subject. I know opinions, theories, conjectures, etc. exist by the dozens. I'm acutely aware of the power and permanence of the published word, especially during this electronic age, and I weighed my responsibility as a journalist to publishing "the truth." So I fully accept responsibility for publishing these two articles, with a confidence that a greater good will be ultimately served. - Wade Swormstedt W Photo courtesy Los Angeles Public Library Security Pacific National Bank Photograph Collection. hat is a neon sign? Must it advertise a product, service or business? Must it be sold as a product for profit in a commercial venture? Must it be outdoors? Must it run neon, or can it use another noble gas? Must it actually say something? Or is it anything, in any place, using electrically charged gas in a sealed tube? The answers are critical in chronicling the history of neon. Here, we don't claim to have discovered the first neon sign in America, Europe, or anywhere, but we provide selected early examples, and refute some popular notions about neon's history. Early use of electrical discharge, inside glass tubes, is widely attributed to Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Geissler in 1857. Geissler's tubes were fanciful in shape, but spelled no words; they advertised no product, and were not sold to customers. By 1891, Nicola Tesla, as a sidebar to his work with high-voltage power sources, was demonstrating wired and wireless luminous tubing bent into representational messages (letters, words, images). Tesla's efforts were specifically constructed to draw attention to him and his work, and, as such, were advertising, but none were sold as end products. In 1898, after neon's discovery as a noble gas that could be separated from air, Burlington House, a London science-and-art academy, made (or had made) a threecolor sign reading "Vical Victoria Regina" (ST reported this in its December 1927 issue). It advertised Burlington's capabilities, but not its wares. In 1926, this sign was installed at Los Angeles' busiest intersection - Wilshire and Western. The design, for Earle C. Anthony Packard, Inc., is much like the 1925 7th and Flower billboard, and like that one, this is a partial neon construction. 108 SIGNS OF THE TIMES April 2014

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Signs of the Times - April 2014

Signs of the Times - April 2014
Columns & Departments
Features
ST Update
Technology Update
ISA Sign Expo 2014 – Making the most of it
Vinyl Apps
Strictly Electric
LED Update
Software Update
Technology Review: Roland’s SOLJET Pro 4 XF-640 printer
Technology Review: EFI’s VUTEk GS2000/3250 digital-hybrid printers
Sign Museum News
New Products
The 2014 Intl. Sign Contest
2nd Annual Readers’ Choice Award
For the Record
ISA Expo Adds SEGD Component
Surprising Evidence about Neon’s History
Editorially speaking
Advertising index

Signs of the Times - April 2014

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