04 - Light Bulb Era


The Light Bulb Era

Now that we have gone from pre-electric signs to electric signs, you'll see that we still have the concept of the trade sign, with the blinking Regal boot.  This boot is from Brooklyn, New York and is kind of an unusual sign. If you look at one side of the boot you'll see the Regal name is lit up in lightbulbs, and if you look on the other side of the boot you'll see it is lit up in neon. It turns out when this sign came to us it was originally, it had neon on both sides, but the neon was in terrible shape. When they went in to fix the neon they actually found underneath the neon tubes were a number of old light bulb sockets that somebody had filled with cork and painted over it. It became clear that this sign was originally made for light bulbs and was later retrofit with neon when that technology became available; making the sign much older than they had originally anticipated. Our best guess now is that the sign was made somewhere around 1910. It also became the perfect sign to bring on into the museum, since you can see the evolution of the sign industry happening literally within one sign. So when they restored the sign they restored one side to its original condition, and kept the other side and its last known condition. This becomes a trend that you'll see around the museum, if you find a sign that is different on either side it is likely that it was restored to its original condition on one side and restored to its last known condition on the opposite.
Next to the boot are the Curlee, Gulf, and Bostonians signs.  All of these signs are made by the FlexLume Corporation out of Buffalo, New York,  and they were famous for their milk glass or sometimes called opal glass letters. all of these signs are covered in these milk glass letters.   the letters are all made individually. When they were ready to install the letters they would take the sign cabinet, that's what you call the box of the sign, and they would cut it to let the raised part of the letter poke through. The letters are surrounded by a flat piece of glass that has been used to clip the letter into the cabinet. And all around these letters you'll find what look like little pinheads are nail heads, that is where the clip is holding the letter in place. Once the letters were installed it would fill the sign cabinets with as many light bulbs as they could get in there, giving you a nice even glow on all of your letters. This makes this very easy to read at a distance, as well as tight viewing angles. You get nearly 180 degrees viewing on illuminated 3D letters. Totally the opposite of the daughters of America sign to the right of the Gulf sign.
Underneath the Bostonians sign is the Kelly Springfield Tires sign. this sign is covered in small cast glass buttons, that are made threaded, so that they can be screwed into the punched-out holes on this sign. Altogether you end up with a 1910 version of Lite Brite! This sign was made in Kalamazoo Michigan in 1915.
To continue on through our timeline, and with the tour, we will now move further down our hallway and pass the D of A sign.