Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Chief Motel--Native American Stereotypes

Plains Indian headdress in a neon sign.
Photo by Matthew Bamberg
Back in the day stereotypes against many different groups existed. Not a pretty era, even though its sign design and use of neon is epic, it often includes unfortunate representations of different cultural groups.

One can't ignore the stereotypes that existed back then, along with those that remain.

After all, depictions of Native Americans in headdress might be offensive to some. Many American tribes' traditions stem from symbols such as this, as some Native Americans do wear headdress, especially at celebrations like pow-wows. Native American symbols that could be harmful stereotypes belong in museums as their best use is to educate Americans about their achievements and struggles.

The reason signs like this can be offensive lies within the term cultural appropriation, which is defined as "borrowing from someone else's culture without their permission and without acknowledgement to the victim culture's past." After all, the Native American headdress is akin to a "medal of honor," as Native American chiefs are highly respected individuals in these communities.

Today, it's become evident that you can't take advantage of other cultural symbols and take them on as your own at the expense of being insulting to the people of the culture.

More cultural appropriation can be found in my post about the Sambo's controversy

Monday, July 06, 2020

The Great Arrow

Well, there's a great arrow on the Tucson Inn sign, an Arizona landmark. Then there's the Grinder, a classic.

Big, fat, skinny, blinking, twisting, spinning, attached, detached and/or winding The arrow motif was popular in the 50s and quite simply showed you where to go.

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Sign Time Line--History of Neon Signage

Collage of signs.

The text and time line illustrates the rise and fall of modern neon
signage from the 40s and 50s, huge roadside theme signs that lured motorists and pedestrians to local businesses, with blinking lights spelling out a theme from fantasy tropical lands to trips to outer space.

Increasing laws prohibiting large signs in the '60s and '70s, peaking with Lady Bird Johnson’s highway beautification program, was an era where neon tubes and light bulbs being replaced with less visible plastic

backlit signage. Images and graphics will accompany the events listed:


                                        New Inventions

1643 Evangelista Torricelli invented the barometer from using a liquid in
a tube.
1671 French astronomer Jean Picard observes a glow in a mercury
barometer tube.
1855 Heinrich Geissler, a German glassblower, get gas to glow at low
pressure inside a tube with electric current running through it.
1878 Thomas Edison invents the light bulb.
1880's (late) First electric trolley cars
1891 First large electrical sign, "Manhattan Beach Swept By Ocean
1898 William Ramsey and M. W. Travers discover neon gas in London.
1902 French inventor Georges Claude applies an electrical discharge to a
sealed tube of neon gas to create a lamp.
1906 75,000 lit signs in the United States.
1909 First Model T, first mass-produced signs.
1910 Georges Claude displays the first neon lamp in Paris.
1911 First municipal sign ordinances.
1926--Route 66 dedicated
1912 First commercial neon signs in Paris.
1916 Federal Roads Act brings many funds to United States highway
1920s (early) First neon signs in United States for a Packard dealership in
San Francisco.
1926 Erich Koch invents fluorescent lamps.
1926 Route 66 officially dedicated, the first highway
in America to be uniformly signed from one state to the next.

                                The Golden Age of Neon

1932 President Franklin Roosevelt’s Road Improvement Act.
1936 Herbert's Drive-In, Los Angeles is the first drive-in to address the
1942 Metal signs banned because of World War II.
1946 Plastics manufacturers apply technology to sign applications by
improving durability and color.
1946 Gangster Bugsy Siegel opens the Flamingo Hotel with it’s huge sign
of fluttering neon feathers, the first in the area of the Las Vegas “Strip.”
Flamingo Hotel sign 

1949 Soviet Union explodes first nuclear weapon, "Joe One."
1951 Internally lit signs outpace neon signs. November 1, 1952 America
first tested a hydrogen bomb. Atomic and rocket themes become theme for
sign makers.
Mid 1950's Synthetic plastic becomes the 4th largest basic industry in
America behind steel, lumber and glass.
1959 Growth in number and size causes many municipalities to regulate
1964 God’s Own Junkyard: The Planned Deterioration of America’s
Landscape by Peter Blake published; derides America’s glut of signage.

                                 Neon’s Demise

Lady Bird :"Signs were junk"

1965 Highway Beautification Act. Lady Bird Johnson addresses White House Conference On Natural Beauty, saying: "Pleasing vistas and attractive roadside scenes" to replace" endless corridors walled in neon junk and ruined landscape." Text of address will be included in sidebar
along with image of the former first lady.
1973 Sign codes become common across America.
1981 Museum of Neon Art opens in Los Angeles.
1982 Society for Commercial Archaeology saves Boston's Citgo sign.
1987 Las Vegas preservationists nab the 5th Street Liquor sign, then,
using borrowed trucks and cranes to rescue a dozen more.

Friday, July 03, 2020

Neon's Glow

Neon’s kinetic radiance turned the great sign of the mid-century into a symbol of American
optimism that spread throughout the world. Imagine
how a reddish orange glow was achieved in a vacuum discharge tube and
how the signs are molded and assembled.

Craftsmanship is the primary attribute in sign construction. Neon
signs are made by displacing air in tubes with neon. First, the sign maker
bends the tubes, a tricky, yet artistic task as each letter must conform to
the other and like letters must be bent in exactly the same shape.

To make the neon glow, an electric current must flow thorough the
tube. The colors depend on the mixture of gasses inside the tube, usually
neon, argon and mercury.

Spanish Trail, Arizona