History of Neon

Though there are conflicting schools of thought on neon’s beginnings, there is no doubt to it’s resilience and it’s beauty.

From Rudi Stern’s book “Let There Be Neon”:

Although neon is thought of as quintessentially American, it was a Frenchman (Georges Claude) who introduced the first neon sign, circa 1910. Before long, a giant white ‘Cinzano’ advertisement was illuminating Paris, ‘The City of Light.’ Neon made its American debut in 1923, with a sign above a Packard car showroom in Los Angeles. Although minimal by current standards, it did what it was supposed to do: stop traffic. Neon took off with the 1933 repeal of prohibition, which created a need for eye-catching signs above bars. In the 30’s and 40’s, neon became synonymous with Art Deco and the dreamily sinister look of film noir. By the 50’s, neon had become inextricably linked with drive-ins, diners, the glamour of Las Vegas and by extension, the American dream itself. Although cheap fluorescent and plastic signs in the late 50’s temporarily displaced this burst of neon creativity, today the vibrant colored light has once again regained its rightful place on the international landscape.

From the Wikipedia entry for “neon signage”:

At the 1893 World’s Fair, the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois, Nikola Tesla’s signs were displayed. The development of neon signs is credited to Georges Claude and the first public display of a neon sign was of two 38-foot (12 m) long tubes in December 1910 at the Paris Expo. The first commercial sign was sold by Jaques Fonseque, Claude’s associate, in 1912 to a Paris barber.