Fairly recently Las Vegas denizens finally realized that they had not appreciated the special art work that so typifies their city - neon signs. A museum whose mission is to honor and preserve these flashy signs opened last fall. It has many more beat up signs than it has room for or funds to repair. Many of the casinos we remember from our earliest visits here have been knocked down, imploded, or otherwise destroyed and the neon signs that lured tourists to these casinos have been lost along with the rest of the buildings. In this city of over the top opulence the financial support for the preservation of these signs seems insufficient. The outdoor tour yard behind the museum is small and the signs they had obtained were piled helter skelter. Only a few of their signs were in working order and others that have been repaired are placed in the downtown area as outdoor art. We hope to go appreciate them tomorrow night.
The techniques for making these signs hasn't changed too much over the years. The glass tubing is still bent by hand and a noble gas, usually neon or mercury is activated depending on what color light is desired. The glass can be colored and the color of the background the tube sits on influences the final result. LED lights are starting to be used, but are not quite as bright. There are stretches of the Strip that have so much neon going on, you could read a book at midnight.
As we toured through the display area, the guide talked nonstop about the history of Las Vegas. The earliest sign they had was from 1929 and was created to lure construction workers to stop there for chicken dinner. The most intricate sign they had was from a used car lot. The earliest casinos had western themed names and signs, reflecting the "normal" life that was here. These days the casinos try to transport you to other places such as Paris or the Venetian. This started with the Tropicana whose signage had the hot pinks and teals we associate with southern FL. There were also signs from the quickie marriage chapels that line Las Vegas Blvd. north of the Strip. Three hundred marriages licenses are issued here every day.