"Motel (with color TV)" photo from the Neon Boneyard by Josh Smith, September 2010

idsgn: “Typographic Oasis: The Neon Bonyard” by Josh Smith, May 18, 2011 / Photograph: “Motel (with Color TV)”, September 25, 2010. All photos taken by Josh Smith and Skylar Challand for idsgn.org. Photographed with permission at The Neon Museum, Las Vegas, Nevada. © idsgn, 2011.

Far from the intellectual boomtowns, surrounded by desert, in a dusty industrial lot, hides an oasis of ascenders, ampersands, and slab serifs.
Any type-nerds or inclined designers should first be prepared to pass through an army of Ed Hardy-shirted, barbed-wire-biceped, faux-hawk-wearing-infantry that serve as a sturdy wall of defence to this sanctuary of letters. The unruly guard preserves the secret of a place called the Neon Boneyard. […]
The Neon Boneyard originated from storage lots owned by major sign manufacturers like YESCO. These ‘boneyards’ would house discarded signage to be used for their source parts or “bones” in the creation of newer, updated signage. As projects grew in scale, the sign makers could no longer house the volume of leftover signs and they began shipping used marquees straight to the dump. An outraged public, the Nevada Arts Council and YESCO stepped in to preserve the neon markers of Vegas past. […]
This winding, dirt path reveals a visual history of Las Vegas and early America. What becomes evident on exploring these typographic sculptures is that they are so much more than just leftover facades. The boneyard is a tangible history of technology, industry, style, entertainment, pop culture, and most of all: design.

54 more gorgeous photographs of the Neon Boneyard at idsgn’s Flickr account: “Neon Boneyard, Las Vegas”. If it’s not enough, try searching Flickr for “Neon Boneyard” (there are a lot of relevant results). See in particular 87 photographs of the Neon Boneyard by Pam Sattler (February 2009) on her Flickr photostream.

"BoNE YaRd$" photo from the Neon Boneyard (Las Vegas), by Pam Sattler,  February 21, 2009
"BoNE YaRd$" photo from the Neon Boneyard (Las Vegas), by Pam Sattler, February 21, 2009

More resources below:

  • This is a video presentation of the Neon Boneyard uploaded to YouTube by VoyageChannel on February 6, 2010:

  • There’s a book available about Las Vegas’ Neon Boneyard on Amazon: Neon Boneyard: Las Vegas A-Z by Judy Natal, University of Chicago Press, 2006, 88 pages. From the publishers website:
  • The garish glow of neon was part of what put Las Vegas on the map—quite literally. The city’s most distinctive form of expression, neon signs tell an elaborate story of the history of Las Vegas, from their debut in 1929 at the onset of the Depression, when their seductive tones lured travelers through the Mojave Desert to part with scarce dollars, to today, when their flickering glow is a vanishing facet of the gaudy spectacle that is contemporary Vegas.

  • Las Vegas Blog has an in-depth article on the Neon Boneyard: “Exploring The Neon Boneyard. Las Vegas’ historic signs get a second life” by Renée LiButti, September 17, 2010. Excerpt:
  • When tourists think of Las Vegas, naturally their memories flash back to its glittering lights. In addition, their first impression of the city often comes from the world’s most famous neon attraction. Designed by Betty Willis, the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada” sign has been greeting visitors at the southern end of the Strip since 1959.

    So when did the inert gas become such an integral visual component in the Entertainment Capital of the World? Its playful, flickering glow debuted in 1929 at the Oasis Cafe on Fremont Street. From the 1930s to the ’60s, neon popped up on much of the signage in the city – including spectacular large-scale façades like the pink plumage still seen at the Flamingo. It was the ultimate marketing tool for businesses because it attracted so much attention.


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