Vintage Neon Signs

Mid-century neon signs

At one time Vancouver boasted over 19,000 neon signs.

That’s not a misprint. In 1953, Vancouver reputedly had more neon than any other city on earth, except for Shanghai.

One of the world’s leading sign manufacturers, Neon Products ltd., was based in Vancouver and led production from the 1930s through the 60s, but when values later shifted and neon signs were seen as a blight on the city’s natural beauty, by-laws were introduced which pretty much put an end to neon production by the early 1970s.

In recent years there’s been a new found appreciation for this retro art form and contemporary neon is once again being created and installed around the city, although sadly only a fraction of Vancouver’s original vintage signs remain.

The best place to see illuminated vintage neon in all its restored glory is at the Museum of Vancouver. For one-stop gawking, the museum’s permanent exhibition “Neon Vancouver, Ugly Vancouver” isn’t huge but it’s well worthwhile for fans of the genre.

If you’re an urban explorer looking to see vintage neon signs in their natural environment, the Vancouver Neon Project website exhaustively lists locations for dozens of old and new signs around town.

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