Neon Signs | Rapid City Signs

September 17, 2013

We have all seen them before while driving, dining at our favorite restaurant, or simply grabbing a hot cup of Joe in the morning: neon signs.  Neon signs have been used worldwide but were especially popular in the early 1900s in the United States.  While neon signs can still be found lighting up the day, many have become collectibles.  As the top place to get your Rapid City signs, we wanted to dive a little deeper into the history of neon signs and how exactly neon signs work.

Chemistry of Neon Signs

Neon signs are created by bending tubes of glass into the desired shape (logo, letter, etc.) with lit gas and compressed air.  Almost all neon signs are handmade because of the intricate skill it takes to bend the glass properly without breaking the glass.  After the tube has been molded into the desired shape the tradesman will then process the glass, otherwise known as “bombarding” in the United States.  This is when the tube is short circuited with a high voltage current until it reaches 550 degrees Fahrenheit.  Next neon or argon will fill the tube to a certain pressure and the tube will be sealed. 

Neon gases produce the color red naturally.  By adding other properties such as argon, phosphorus, and mercury other colors can be achieved.  Currently, over 150 colors can be made for neon signs.  Neon signs have also been known to last for many years, some well over a decade, without being replaced.

History of Neon Signs

Neon signs have a lengthy origin starting in 1855 when the geissler tube was invented by Heinrich Geissler.  Geissler was not only a scientist but also a glass blower.  The invention of the geissler tube led to scientists being able to conduct experiments using electricity and various gases in glass.  It was found that the geissler tube would glow if mixed with the correct gas and just the right amount of electric current.  By 1900 several lamps had been created using glass and electricity. 

In 1898, neon gas was discovered.  Neon is a rare gas that is obtained by the liquefaction of air and is then separated from other gases.  This led to Georges Claude, a French inventor and chemist, to create the first lamp which had an electrical discharge to a sealed tube of neon gas.  Claude displayed a neon light to the public in 1910 in Paris, France.  It was not until 1915 that Claude patented the neon lamp. 

The first time neon signs were used in advertising dates back to 1912 where a bar in Paris used neon signs to light the way for their company.  Claude’s company, Claude Neon, then sold the first neon sign to an American company in 1923.  He sold two neon signs to Packard car dealership in LA for $2,400.

Neon Signs as Collectibles

Neon signs have become quite the collectible items!  Some of the most collectible neon signs come from the 1940s-1950s era in the United States.  Neon signs that were hand-crafted and made in small quantities are some of the most popular for collectors.  Collectible neon signs range from many businesses including restaurants, bars, gas stations, hotels, ice cream shops, to even liquor or beer companies.

Neon signs are a great way to not only advertise your business but bring a colorful glow to any setting.  Neon signs can not only be seen in the dark but work great in the daytime.  For more information on how to order your own neon sign, contact the best in Rapid City signs, Conrad’s Big “C” Signs.  Not only do we specialize in manufacturing and installation, but with our accredited staff we are experts in maintenance and repair for neon signs.  Contact Conrad’s Big “C” Signs at (605) 348-8744, or stop by our main location at 1740 East North Street, Rapid City, SD 57701.


Last Modified: 09-17-2013-12:52:09