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The History of Neon Signs



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There are places all over the world that employ neon lights for certain purposes. For example, entertainment areas such as Las Vegas use the attractive lights to bombard pedestrians with an attractive and alluring glow to entice them to enter the casinos. Bars line their walls with neon Beer advertisements to boost sales. Even small businesses use neon signs to convince consumers to stop by their establishment. People all over dream of having their name in the lights; one day if they are lucky they may indeed find their name in the lights neon lights.

The neon glow was actually discovered by a Frenchman named Jean Picard in 1675 when he unknowingly shook a mercury-filled barometer causing the tube to glow. This glow was the result of the interaction of the gasses in the tube responding to the static electricity caused by Picard shaking the tube. Because static electricity had not been discovered yet, Picard could do little to advance the technology he accidentally stumbled upon.

It was not until 1855 after several when Henry Geissler began experimenting with electricity and gasses with a tube, now appropriately dubbed the "Geissler Tube." Geissler would put low pressure gasses inside the tube and apply an electric current. The result of his experiments was simply that the gasses would emit light. Once the electrical generator was developed there were several discharge and vapor lamps invented well into the 1900's.

Finally around 1902 Georges Claude was the first to actually seal a tube of neon inside gas and subject that tube to an electrical current. On December 11, 1910 Claude displayed the first neon lamp to the public. Subsequently, he began to market his product and sold it around the world. People in America stopped and gazed in amazement at the liquid fire at the first neon sign in the U.S. that read "Packard" at a Packard car dealership in L.A.

The business of selling neon signs increased dramatically in the early 30's because the end of prohibition was followed by the opening of many bars and night clubs. Bar owners decided that neon signs would be perfect to lure customers into their establishments. Another trend began in the 1950's when small diners and drive inns began popping up across the country they all seemed to be surrounded with neon signs.

Neon signs have come a long way since Picard shook his barometer and noticed a feint glow. Today tubes can be formed in plenty of different shapes and filled with certain gasses that will produce a desired color. Neon lighting has become so popular that some artists use neon bulbs to create sculptures. Whatever the use of neon lighting is, there is no denying the tantalizing effect it has on those that are exposed to it. With over 150 color possibilities neon lights will continue to line the streets and attempt to lure consumers toward them.



Sources: http://inventors.about.com/library/weekly/aa980107.htm

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