Neon Signs 101: History and Future

Reliable Signs Birmingham, Al

Did you know that the first pair of neon signs sold in the United States cost $2,500 in 1923? Or that by 1940 there were around 2,000 shops producing neon signs? Let’s learn a little bit more about how they were invented, how they took off, and why neon signs could still be the best option for your business in Birmingham, AL. 


We have no intention of overloading you with all the science and history related to the discovery of neon and creation of neon lights, but here’s a condensed version of information found at In the mid-1800s, Heinrich Geissler began experimenting with electrical currents and different gases in tubes. In the late 1800s, neon was discovered. Georges Claude, a French engineer, chemist, and inventor, created the first neon lamp in 1902 and by 1912, the first commercial neon sign was sold in Paris. The first neon signs sold in the United States went to Packard car dealership in Los Angeles. Throughout the 20s and 30s, their popularity grew across the States then peaked in the 1950s. In the early 60s, exposed neon lights quickly phased out in exchange for lower maintenance fluorescent signs with translucent plastic faces. So are neon lights and signage still used today?

In recent years, neon signs have made a comeback in artwork and even for outside signage, although many neon signs use colored LED lights and colored plastic tubes now, instead of actual neon gas. So while they’re not technically “neon lights”, they’re a realistic facsimile. 

Fun Fact: Neon gas eliminates red, orange, and amber. Other colors are usually created with argon gas rather than neon. But stylistically, we refer to all of them as neon signs. 

How They’re Made

Neon tubing starts as long sticks of hollow glass which is then bent into shape. There are different burners designed to make softer or sharper bends in the glass. Then these tubes are filled with their purified gas mixture (which may or may not be actual neon gas depending on the intended color). From there, the electrical components are added. Neon signs are so versatile because they can be bent into almost any shape.

Neon signs are classic; they add character to your storefront or venue.  They immediately catch our eye and draw us in. Neon signs can be “exposed” or inside of channeling. Both create a unique lit display that grabs the attention of passerbyers. Explore our Neon page to see just some of the many neon signs we’ve created in and around Birmingham, AL, including a very familiar one in the Homewood area. When you’re ready to add a classic, vibrant flair to your business, contact us so we can work together to create a neon sign that will attract new customers and set you apart from the rest! 

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