The history of the neon sign industry in the US has not yet been written. What has been written is brief, and mostly focuses on Times Square and Las Vegas, overlooking the realities of the neon industry in other places.
Because neon only began in the US in the 1920s, it's still possible to collect the stories of people whose families have been involved in the industry from the beginning, or near the beginning.
Would you like to contribute your stories, your family's stories, and your business' stories to this history of the neon industry? How long has your sign shop been in the neon business? How long have there been tube benders in your family? How has your shop managed through the changes the industry has faced?
I'm a historical geographer, working with the support of the American Sign Museum on a book that will detail the rich history of this industry in cities and towns all over the country. The book will trace the spread of neon across the US, along with tourism, automobile travel, and highways, to show how neon transformed the American landscape. It will follow the industry from its first bloom in the 1920s and the end of Prohibition, through the Great Depression and the WPA Storefront Modernization program. From the blackouts of WWII to the boom in consumer culture of the prosperous 1950s. From the urban renewal and "Scrap Old Signs" programs of the 1960s-'80s, to the rise of neon art and "retro" neon in the 1980s and '90s. The book will reveal the challenges and synergies the industry has faced with competing technologies -- fluorescents and LEDs, plastic signs and digital message centers -- all have been seen as threats to neon's success and survival, but have also worked together with neon.
Neon in the US is nearing its 100th birthday. Will it survive to see that day? Let your voice be heard.
If you or someone you know has a long tradition in the neon industry, I'm interested in interviewing you.
Please contact me by email (preferred) at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 225-937-9371.
Dr. Dydia DeLyser
Associate Professor of Geography
Department of Geography and Anthropology
Louisiana State University