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Neon Signs – History of Neon

American Tropical Signs & Services, LLC  fabricated and installed this NEON sign  in Miami Beach, Florida.

The history of neon sign technology dates back to 1875 before the age of electricity, when the French Astronomer Jean Picard observed a faint glow in a mercury barometer tube. When the tube was shaken a glow called barometric light occurred.  By 1900 after years of experiments, several different types of electric discharge lamps or vapor lamps were invented in Europe and The United States.

The French engineer, chemist, and inventor Georges Claude (b. Sept. 24, 1870, d. May 23, 1960) was the first person to apply an electrical discharge to a sealed tube of neon gas (circa 1902) to create a lamp. Georges Claude displayed the first Neon Light tube on Jan. 11 th, 1910 in Paris.  Georges Claude patented on Jan.19th, 1915 – US  Patent 1.126.476

By 1923 Neon Signs became symbols of glamor and progress

The technical information for this page was written by Daniel Preston who is an inventor, an engineer, a member of the technical committee of the International Neon Association and the owner of Preston Glass Industries.

How are Neon Signs Made:

Neon signs are glass tubes bent into shapes and filled with inert gas.  When the electric current hits the electrodes flowing through the gas,  its atoms glow.

The type of gas in the tubes, determine the color of the light.  In a clear tube, argon gas is blue, while neon gas produces red light.  Other colors  are obtained by using glass tubes that are coated in fluorescent colors.  Blue argon gas in a yellow tube, emits a green light.

To shape the tubes, glass blowing techniques are used.  Following a fire resistant pattern, tube is marked where it needs to be bent . Then heat is applied to each spot on a burner that has a propane flame at 1200 degrees F.  In about 30 seconds, the glass becomes soft enough to be pliable.  The tube is bend gently, and later, air is blown to restore the original diameter.

If you like to learn more about this fascinating technique,  you may visit the link below.


While the market for neon lighting, in outdoor advertising signage has declined since the mid 20th Century, in recent decades neon lighting has been used consciously in art, both in individual objects and integrated into the architectural design of buildings. Neon tubes fabricated by a sign manufacturer, and designed to follow a building architectural angles or shapes can become exterior illuminated signage by creating a colorful and eye catching night time look without the use of typical channel letter signs or box signs.


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