Behind the City Lights

Posted on — By Marisela Thompson

Behind the City Lights

Neon Past

Nicknamed the City of Lights, it comes to no surprise that Las Vegas has a history of spectacular, eye catching signs. Moving away from the standard pole and box design, 1929 marked the beginning of the golden age of neon lights.  In 1929 the Oasis Cafe started an unforeseen stream of spectacular neon sign designs.  Displaying the first neon sign to shine its lights, they began an unforeseen trend. Shortly following trend, the Las Vegas Club would introduce their neon sign in 1930. Then in 1933, the Boulder Club’s sign would appear as one of YESCO’s (Young Electric Sign Company) first neon sign.

Image Credit: University of Nevada, Las Vegas, University Libraries Digital Collection

Image Credit: Vintage Las Vegas

While neon signs lit the night, it would not be until 1945 that YESCO would create Las Vegas’s first neon sign. YESCO was inspired by their original design for the Boulder’s Club.

The sign would be a spectacular cantilevered vertical marquee. It would shine brightly with thousands of incandescent bulbs and curtains of neon. Soon, casino owners would rush to commission their own signs. Owners of the Golden Nugget, Fremont, and the Stardust, to name a few, raced for the biggest and brightest.

The neon signs appearing all around did well when it came to attracting passersby.   The city itself, however, would not gain its own neon until 1959. The renowned Las Vegas Sign was first commissioned for by Ted Rogich, a World War II vet. Rogich admired the neon signs scattered through the city.  Yet one day it dawned on him that the city lacked their own shining sign. Later, the famous sign would in the future become one of three signs spread throughout the Las Vegas City. In 2002, a replica of the Las Vegas Sign was installed on Las Vegas Boulevard. Later in 2007, a third would be added on Boulder Highway.

Image Credit: University of Nevada, Las Vegas, University Libraries Digital Collection

Coming of Age

Soon, as technology changed, the Golden Age of Neon would become the Golden Age of Digital Media. in 1984, YESCO would install one of the first computerized message centers at Caesar’s Palace. By the 1990’s, signs would become replicas of iconic European monuments.  Casinos such as Bellagio and Paris displayed a copy of the Bellagio bell tower and a half scale replica of the Eiffel Tower.  The architecture added to signs drawing the interest to the possibilities.

Image Credit: Mike Boening, Unsplash

Finally, signs would continue to change, they would begin to include LED screens and video displays. The way the city of lights changed its displays continued to attract passersby. The newest and the most inventive of approaches changing signs once more in the City of Lights.