The lights which make cities like Las Vegas bright and colorful – the Neon lights, were invented by Georges Claude. Claude was a chemical engineer from France. He had been working on air liquefaction process in order to extract oxygen from the atmosphere. This process resulted in the production of neon and other gases such as helium, argon, nitrogen, etc as by products.
In 1902, during one of his experiments, he passed electric current through a tube containing neon under pressure and noticed a red glow. Fascinated, he experimented with other gases such as mercury, argon, helium, krypton, and xenon. He was successful in obtaining different colors by using different combination of gases.
Jacques Fonseque, an advertising agent saw potential in Claude’s discovery. Claude along with his aide Fonseque started making neon signs by shaping the glass tubes. In 1910, Claude demonstrated the first neon lamp to the public in Paris.
The first commercial neon sign was sold by them in 1912 to a Paris barber. Claude also worked on the design of the electrodes for neon tube lights and was granted a U.S. patent for the same in 1915.
In 1923, Georges Claude introduced the neon signs to the U.S. by selling two signs to a Packard Car dealership in Los Angeles. The signs which read, ‘Packard’ were sold for $24,000.
Neon signs soon caught up and were widely used for outdoor advertising.