Steel and Neon—The Makings of a Sign

Hill Top Motel, Kingman, AZ
Neon’s kinetic radiance turned the great sign of the mid-century into a symbol of American optimism that spread throughout the world. The reddish orange glow in the word Hill Top above was achieved in a vacuum discharge tube. The makings of a sign begin with 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.


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