A Short History of Lima Neon

In the early 1930s the largest sign-making advertising firm in Lima, Artkraft, borrowed a new technique just pioneered in France by the Claude Neon Company: they began bending colored tubes and filling them with light. The new technique caught on quickly, and soon ArtKraft had orders for more neon signs from a wide number of US companies. As a result, within a few short years, ArtKraft grew from a small alley shop on South Main Street to one of the largest sign manufacturers in the world, paying its craftsmen the highest wages in the city: a dollar an hour. But the company's success spawned local competitors. In 1930, two ArtKraft tube-benders struck out on their own with a new neon company, Neon Products Inc, which soon bought out ArtKraft and developed its own large list of important corporate clients, including Zenith, Dr. Pepper and RCA. Likewise it developed several mass marketing concepts, including decorative neon clocks. At one time the company employed over 400 people. One of them was Jack Herring of Lima.

In the years after World War II, the demand for neon dropped dramatically with the introduction of plexiglass into the sign industry. Herring began his own firm, Herring Neon Signs and Service, which remains in business at 224 N. Metcalf Street. Bending tubes along side him is Joe Honegger, who began learning the craft with Neon Products back in 1933. In the hands of such craftsmen, this aspect of Lima's industrial heritage still lives today on in the heart of the Old North End.

Sources Used
Kim Kincaid, "Neon Signs: Lima's Well-Known Bright Lights," LIMA NEWS, March 8, 2000; Bart Mills, "Sign of Lima's Industrial Heyday Returns Home," LIMA NEWS, March 17, 1992.

For your viewing pleasure, here is an informational clip on the work of neon tube benders, still practicing their craft in the Old North End.
The video was produced by: Post Production services, Inc. Cincinnati ,OH.
for The Applied History Association, Lima

Click the links below to see the movie.

Neon video 11.5MB Neon video 25MB
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