Vintage Neon Signs Convey An ‘Old-Time’ Feel
From the early 1920s to the late 1960s, neon signs were – if not “the bee’s knees” – at least a high-tech expression of the signage industry’s latest and greatest.
In the intervening years, new technologies (up to and including color LEDs) have made neon signs look dated, which is enough not only for designers to start re-using that technology to evoke an “old style” look, but for collectors to move in and devote themselves to acquiring, preserving, and displaying the neon arts.
One such effort is a current exhibition at the Castle in downtown Appleton, WI. The exhibition, aptly titled: “Neon: Darkness Electrified,” opened last month and will run for most of 2015. It includes more than two dozen vintage neon signs, most from the collection of Jed Schleisner, of Greenville, WI. Many of these neon signs are being publicly displayed for the first time since they were removed from their original locations several decades ago.
It may seem strange that business and industrial signs which once were commonplace and have now largely gone out of date are suddenly worth collecting and exhibiting. But the creativity and talent that went into the making of such signs, and their cultural significance in helping to define the look of mid-20th Century America, have converted many of the remaining neon signs into valuable artifacts.
Here’s a colorful sampling from the exhibit:
Fun With Signs, MassDOT Style
Most bureaucrats wouldn’t know a joke if they stepped in it. But when the good people at MassDOT decided to encourage the rest of us to drive more safely, they chose to go the humorous route.
Witness this sign, photographed recently in the Boston area:
It may not put you in stitches, but it’s a light-hearted attempt to mimic our famous Boston area accent while seriously reminding drivers to signal to others before changing lanes.
To us specialists, it’s also a reminder that you don’t have to be somber with signage (see our own celebrations of signage humor, here and here) . It’s perfectly OK – sometimes even more effective – to have fun with your signs.
What’s no laughing matter is that last year police wiped the smiles off nearly 5,000 Massachusetts drivers’ faces by issuing them tickets for failing to signal their lane changes.
Don’t Drop That Ball
If baseball is America’s game, then Wrigley Field is surely one of America’s most cherished ballparks, which is why its owners have been lobbying for some $75 million in tax credits to help pay for their efforts at historic preservation.
Those credits would come from the very same source that provided some $40 million in tax credits to Fenway Park a couple of years ago to help pay for its $285 million renovation after 100 years of landmark service to the Boston area.
The problem in Chicago, however, is that some of the ballpark’s new signage – which includes all-digital scoreboards – may constitute too much of an upgrade and thereby cost the stadium its historic status, automatically quashing its eligibility for tax help from Uncle Sam.
Now, we believe that updated signage is all to the good. But if over-modernization contributes to the destruction of an honored cultural landmark like Wrigley Field, then we say maybe modern signage should take a back seat to traditional ballpark architecture. After all, there are plenty of other places to install modern signage. And we can help you with all of them.
Incidentally, Fenway Park successfully walked the tightrope between modernization and retaining its historic structures. Here’s hoping Wrigley Field can do the same.
A look at Wrigley Field:
Happy Holidays! And may all your signs be successful ones.