Popular worldwide, neon signs illuminate the night sky and attract people with their warm and welcoming light. Whether they’re outside a fast-food chain, guiding you towards a luxury hotel in Las Vegas, or adding a touch of glamour to a new restaurant, neon lights have stood the test of time. In fact, we can’t imagine a modern skyline at night without a neon glow!
At Neon Mama, we’re experts when it comes to designing and manufacturing bespoke neon lamps, neon signs, and LED neon lights. So, who better to help you discover the history of neon and find out who first invented neon signs!
Who Discovered Neon Gas?A chemical reaction needs to take place in order to form neon gas. The award for the first discovery of neon gas, argon, krypton, and xenon goes to Sir William Ramsay, a British physical chemist, and Morris Travers. Together they discovered a brand new gas element in 1898. Four years before, William Ramsay had found argon and was the first person to isolate helium in 1895.
The scientists froze argon, using liquid air, and then evaporated this to collect the gas that is produced. Using a high voltage, they collected the first sample of the gas. To their surprise, the neon gas illuminated the glass tubes and glowed with bright crimson light. Upon discovery, the two scientists decided to name the new gam Neon, after the Greek word Neos, meaning the new one.
Discovering many new elements and expanding the Periodic Table, Sir William Ramsay proudly found a group of chemical elements with very low reactivity. Thanks to these incredible scientists, neon technology and the discovery of noble gases have helped us build refrigerants, fog lights, and even MRI scanners.
Who Invented Neon Lights?
While Sir William Ramsay and Morris Travers discovered neon gas, they didn’t invent neon lamps. It wasn’t until 1902 when French engineer and inventor Georges Claude showcased the first neon light.
Who Was Georges Claude?Born in Paris in 1870, Georges Claude grew up to become an engineer and the first person to commercialize neon gas. Known for Claude system, a process of liquifying air, Georges Claude and fellow businessman Paul Delorme founded L’Air Liquide, a large multi-national corporation in Paris.
Inspired by the Geissler tubes, an invention by US electrical engineer Daniel McFarlan, Georges Claude started to harbor the power of neon technology. The first neon tube lighting was designed by producing a byproduct of his air liquefaction business. The crimson light made when passing an electric current through a glass tube was first demonstrated at the Paris Motor Show in 1910.
By developing a technique to purify the neon gas within a sealed glass tube, Georges Claude’s invention was distinctly different from Daniel McFarlan’s Moor tubes.
While Daniel McFarlan’s small glow lamp can found in almost every American home, Georges Claude turned neon gas into a marketing strategy. In his workshop, artisans known as tube benders created neon signs by hand. Attaching electrodes to each end of the tube, the gas was trapped, and the neon lights would glow with a crimson light or could be changed by tinting the glass tubing.
Earl C Anthony & First Neon Sign In America
Neon signs finally made their debut in the US in 1923 when Earle C Anthony’s car dealership in Los Angeles bought two neon signs from Georges Claude. The neon signs were designed to display the word ‘Packard’ and were purchased for $2,400. With a beautiful blue border, the neon signs actually brought traffic to a standstill, as people stopped to see the beauty of the light.
However, as World War II began in 1939, neon signs' demand dropped dramatically as the 1942 ‘dim-out’ New York took place. Light pollution was significantly reduced across New York to prevent German submarines from spotting the harbor and American ships. By plunging New York into darkness, the city could also save a lot of money and fuel.
After World War II ended in 1945, New York became a hub for US veterans to receive training in the manufacturing of neon signs. This move supercharged the industry and gave the demand for neon signs a much-needed boost.
Dubbed ‘liquid fire,’ the popularity of neon signs took off across the US and now light up famous landmarks across the country. Neon signs can be seen in almost every city in the United States! But for the most extravagant neon lights, take a trip to Las Vegas, where you can see some of the most iconic designs ever made.
How Neon Has Transformed The Signage IndustrySince Georges Claude’s invention, the sign industry has never been the same. Neon technology has made advertising at night a considerable possibility around the world. The night sky is now real estate, and for those able to invest in beautiful neon signs, attracting customers after dark is now a lucrative business.
By using a high voltage electrical charge to illuminate a tube filled with neon gas, businesses can create beautiful branded displays to encourage customers to visit their business or purchase goods and services. Before neon advertising signs, hotels, restaurants, and stores would use simple billboards, posters, and flyers to drum up trade. But for businesses open when the sun goes down, advertising at night was a challenge.
Now thanks to neon technology, companies can cash in on passing trade and use custom made neon signs to advertise and market their business. Whether it’s a new luxury hotel in Los Angeles, a restaurant in New York, or a casino in Las Vegas, neon signs have opened up a whole new world of possibilities when it comes to advertising.
The Future of Neon LightsNow you know who discovered neon gas and the first person to create a neon light, what does the future look like for neon technology?
Neon signs do carry a vintage charm, and their vibrant glow gives people a warm feeling inside. Neon signs from the 1930s can often fetch over $10,000, but if you’re searching for a more affordable option, look out for LED modern designs.
Rather than using neon gas exclusively to become more energy-efficient, many neon light suppliers, like Neon Mama, are combining the beauty of neon signs with the efficiency of LED lights.
LEDs or light-emitting diodes, can create a wide range of replica neon sign designs. Using LEDs rather than neon tubing, there is also more choice when it comes to shape and color. A modern twist on a traditional invention, LED neon signs is perfect for advertising and promoting your business or using it within your home.
Unlike standard neon signs that can consume a lot of electricity and become hot to touch, LED neon lights only convert 5 percent of energy into heat, so they will never get hot! This makes modern neon signs more affordable, safer to use, and far more versatile.
So, if you’re in the market for a modern neon sign, feel free to browse our online collection of LED neon signs and explore the beauty of artificial neon light.