Timeline of Neon Sign Development
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.
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.
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
large electrical sign, "Manhattan Beach Swept By Ocean Breezes."
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.
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.
1912 First commercial neon signs in Paris.
1916 Federal Roads Act brings many funds to United States highway construction.
1920s (early) First neon signs in United States for a Packard dealership in Los Angeles.
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 automobile.
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.” 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. Plastic backlit signs began to appear.
1959 Growth in number and size causes many municipalities to regulate signs.
1964 God’s Own Junkyard: The Planned Deterioration of America’s Landscape by Peter Blake published; derides America’s glut of signage.
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.
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.
2000s LED lighting use became widespread