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A Brief History Of Neon

January 20, 2016 3 min read

Neon gets its name from the Greek word “Neos”, meaning “new”. It is the Universe’s most abundant element; but only 0.0018% of the atmosphere of the Earth is made up of it. Not only is it odourless and colourless, it doesn’t compound with any other elements. It was first isolated in 1898 by chemists Sir William Ramsey and Morris Travers; starting with liquid argon, which was evaporated to create krypton, (but you can learn more about the science behind the signs here, we aren’t here to talk about that today).

Georges Claude

Neon signs were then developed by French engineer Georges Claude in 1902, and patented by 1910; he created light by applying electricity to neon or argon in a sealed glass tube, furthering the work of the scientists by discovering that adding different elements to the tube can create different colours. The first ever neon light was two neon-tube lamps created by Claude in Paris in 1910. And the first advertising sign made by neon was for a hairdressing business in Paris, this sparked off something no one had ever seen before – utilising this new light form as signage for businesses.

Earle C. Anthony

The first neon signs to be seen in America were commissioned by Earle C. Anthony, founder of Packard Motors, he requested Claude to ship two neon signs. His Downtown Los Angeles showroom was created in 1911, and by the early 1920’s the infamous ‘Packard’ neon sign was displayed. It remains to this day on the Packard Lofts apartment block (see below image) at the original location of the car showroom on Olympic Boulevard and Hope Street. At this time Las Vegas was nothing more than a sleepy desert town.

In its century long history, neon has come a long way and it’s fair to say it’s been through a lot of ups and downs. To this day it is still often perceived with negative connotations; neon is still associated with dive bars and dodgy areas of town that no one wants to talk about.

There was a decline in its popularity from the 60’s onwards, businesses didn’t consider it to be the most viable type of electric lighting signage for their brand and it was not popular in everyday life. But in the past decade it has had a sort of resurgence, people are beginning to see it as an art form, it is being utilised for signage needs and here at Neon Creations we often get requests from domestic clients looking for the perfect gift for a loved one.

Neon signs may have done a disappearing act from the major cities, but there is no doubt that neon signs have become art forms in their own rights. Whilst some people are busy renovating architectural structures; neon signs are being restored and admired in museums and art exhibitions – have you planned your trip around the neon world yet?

History of Neon Creations

Incepted by Tony Spink over ten years ago, Neon Creations is an expression of a passion for all things neon. It is a hand crafted skill, one that takes hard work and dedication to see through. An attentive approach and the ability to put a modern twist on a product that has stood the test of time has ensured our success in the industry. Neon Creations is a family run business, and our signs are recognisable all over the UK. See if you can spot a few of the below whilst you’re out and about!


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