Las Vegas Lights and Signs

Come to Vegas in the day and it’s like any other city with a lot of construction. The main difference is a lot of big buildings along one strip of road. But, at night, Las Vegas gets in your face. The big hotels light up, each with its own theme and color. From the Emerald City green of the MGM to the royal blue of the Imperial Palace and the dark copper of the new Wynn Las Vegas

But, it’s the various signs and marquees that most visitors remember. They pulse and blaze and shimmer. The multi-colored stars of the Riviera cascade down the building’s faÃ?§ade and the pink flamingos glisten in the night. And it’s the lights that bedazzle us.

Where did they come from? Who thought them up? .

The story goes back to the early Eighteen Hundreds in London, England. The patriarch of the Young family was a sign maker. Not just any common artisan but a man with vision. He quickly took up the fascinating art of taking glass tubes, filling them with gas, and then exciting them with electricity to create bright colors.

In the 1860’s, taking up the call of the Mormon Church, Young moved his family from London to the valley of The Great Salt Lake and the burgeoning city there. He brought with him his sign making skills, and sons who shared his artisanship.

When gaming was legalized in 1931 in Nevada, it was no accident that the Young family expanded from St George, Utah into the fledgling town of Las Vegas and then, a few years later into Reno and Carson City to the north. The Young Electric Sign Company began to light up Las Vegas while The American Sign Company did the same in the north.

As anyone who’s ever been to either part of the state can tell you, their craftsmanship was memorable. It remains so today, although other companies have moved in to provide competition.

Not only was their results electrifying, but so was their originality in how the signs were built and used. They leased them to the various properties and retained the rights and ownership to all! So, when a new sign was called for or the property changed hands, the Young family simply took their signs down and stored them away. These signs have turned up in movies such as “Mars Attacks” and television series such as “Crime Scene Investigations.” Yes! They’re still there.

To see them, simply travel on Las Vegas Boulevard North near Cashman Field and they will catch your eye. Plans are underway for a sign museum and some of them can be seen at the Corner of LVB and Fremont Street – notably the prancing Caballero of the original Hacienda. A visit to The Boneyard can be arranged via www.neonmuseum.org/boneyard.

Today, twenty-five years after I first arrived, the lights of Las Vegas are still there and just as fascinating as ever!

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