The Art of Neon Lights – An Illuminating Marketing Concept

A new and electrifying promotional phenomenon arrived in the early 1920’s that took traditional methods of marketing to another level. In 1923, Georges Claude and his French company Claude Neon, introduced neon gas signs to the United States. It was in this same year that the first neon sign was installed in the city of Los Angeles, California. A Packard car dealer, Earle C. Anthony, imported from Paris, two “Packard” signs for his dealership which he paid $24,000 for. Of course this was an incredible amount of money to pay during that time for two signs, but the concept was new and unique although the popularity of neon signs was not widespread yet. Today, this vintage Packard sign is located on a privately owned structure in Cottage Grove, Oregon, but can be viewed from the sidewalk.

Glass benders infuse a variety of gases (ie. neon, helium, xenon, argon and krypton) to produce a diversity of colors. When you look at the dazzling show of neon lights that shine brightly on Broadway in New York and along the Strip or on Fremont Street in Las Vegas, Nevada, they are as spectacular as a fireworks show on New Year’s Eve or the Fourth of July. Traveling across the country and around the world, you will find a variety of businesses still displaying the incredible craftsmanship of neon lights.

Neon lights on theatre marquees, signs for motels, hotels, restaurants, casinos, and other businesses added that “wow factor” for attracting potential clients and curious onlookers. These lights on the outside of businesses were an exciting hook to lure you into finding out what was happening on the inside of that establishment. Neon lights were quite an innovative promotional marketing tool.

From advertising to art, the popularity of neon lights, neon clocks, neon specialty and novelty signs, business signs, bar signs, beer signs and light boxes segue into eye-catching collectibles. If you are a neon light enthusiast wanting to learn more about the education, history and preservation of neon collectibles, here are some resources:

1. MONA (The Museum of Neon Art) educates the public about the history, culture, and technical aspects of electric and kinetic media. MONA provides neon art classes and is dedicated to the education, exhibition and preservation of electric and kinetic media art.

2. The Neon Museum in Las Vegas collects, preserves, studies and exhibits neon signs for the enrichment and education of their global audiences.

3. Roadside Peek includes content on its website regarding education and citings of neon lights. They also include other roadside icons and treasures from the past found across the country.

For institutional locations regarding continued education on neon signs, here is a list of some schools provided by the Neon University:

1. British School of Neon (England)

2. Daco Neon School (Papillon, NE)

3. Ed Waldrum School of Neon (Irving, Texas)

4. Hollywood School of Neon (Hollywood, Florida)

5. National Neon Institute (Benicia, California)

6. Neon Trade School (Las Vegas, Nevada)

7. Savage Neon (Baltimore, Maryland)

8. Urban Glass (Brooklyn, New York)

9. North Texas Neon School (Ft. Worth, Texas)

10. Northwest Indiana School of Neon (Hammond, Indiana)

11. Northwest Technical College (Detroit Lakes, MN)

The art, science and theatrics of neon signs can inspire you to collect or revive that retro promotional look for your business.


6 thoughts on “The Art of Neon Lights – An Illuminating Marketing Concept

  1. Thank you for this information. I did not realize that Xenon was used mainly in the car industry, but it does make sense. I understood that it was used in flash lamps and high-pressured arc lams that produce ultraviolet light, as well as instruments used for radiation detection and in the medical field as an experimental anesthetic. Thanks for your contribution.


  2. Don Morrison says:

    Thanks for the informative history. I’ve been doing custom neon signs for over 10 years, retired recently from my other job as an electrician to do just electric signs including neon, LED displays, and repairs.
    My shop may be sold soon due to medical reasons, but I’ll continue to enjoy the design and artistic expression of glass bending. It’s fun to create landmarks, and signs from a few hundred dollars to over $100,000 LED video displays make this a good market niche. Keep up the team effort to preserve and expand our art.


  3. Hi Don,

    It’s great to hear comments about an artform that’s pretty much becoming obsolete. When I visited Las Vegas a few years ago, some made a comment that “neon” signs are so yesterday. How sad…and in Las Vegas of all places? I also heard that they will eventually replace the neon signs with the newer animated signs, but to me that really does not capture the flavor of the artistry behind these wonderful works of art! I commend you on continuing to keep the spirit of neon signs alive, however I’m sadden to hear about your medical reasons for selling your shop. Hopefully, there will be more interest in making neon lights more marketable and more artistic for collectors and those of us who simply admire it’s essence! Thanks so much for sharing your story! Be blessed!


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