Skip to content

News & Insight

Golden Age of Neon

From the 1920s to the 1960s was the golden age of neon.  Neon dominated new developments in the signage industry and brightened businesses with its “magical” glow. Even though the golden age of neon has come and gone, this type of lighting is still prevalent in today’s signage industry.

Georges Claude, a French engineer, first revealed his new glowing invention at the Paris Motor Show in 1910. Claude developed a tube that was brightly lit when an electrical unit passed through the rarefied gas of the tube. These tubes used neon gas, which was a byproduct of the Claude’s air liquefaction business. Its popularity grew quickly in Europe and eventually spread to the United States in 1923. As it became more popular, more colors were developed through different concoctions of rarified gasses and fluorescent coatings. 

While neon signs were in style around the world, they were extremely popular in the United States during this era. Time Square in New York City was especially famous for its use of the new technology. Many praised it for its “magical” glow and ability to be curved into letters or figures. Businesses saw neon as a novelty that kept them competitive, even though it was pricey.Hard Rock Cafe

Over the years popularity of neon signage has waned, giving way to incandescent and LED lighting. LED is now the king of lighting in the signage industry as it has proven to be the most efficient source of light. According to a survey by Signs of the Times, a trade magazine, 33% of signs were illuminated by neon and 23% were illuminated by LEDs in 2007. The tables have turned though as now only 18% of signs utilize neon while 40% use LEDs. However, neon is still significant to some businesses that believe that neon invokes 1940s or 1950s nostalgia. Even though the golden age is gone, the bright glow of neon will still remain a part of the signage industry.

North American Signs has been a proponent of neon signs since the company’s founding as South Bend Neon in 1934. We can satisfy any signage needs no matter the type of illumination.

North American Signs Neon
Examples of North American Signs’ neon from the 40s and 50s