“Do not go gently into that good night”*…
In the 1950s Vancouver was said to be second only to Shanghai in the number of neon signs per capita in the city. Neon Products Ltd, a company established in Vancouver in 1928, and the largest manufacturer of neon signs in Western Canada, estimated that in 1953 there were 19,000 neon signs in Vancouver, one for every 18 residents.
In many ways the grey cityscape and frequently wet sidewalks of Vancouver provided a perfect backdrop for neon– a mid-century ambience wonderfully captured by black-and-white photography.
The Vancouver Public Library has collected a wonderful Flicker set of nighttime photos of mid-century Vancouver, from whence the examples here. I found them via the invaluable Rebecca Onion, who notes that the set captured the city’s neon at it apex…
In his history of neon, Christoph Ribbat writes that by the 1950s and 1960s, the style was on its way out, “replaced by backlit plastic structures that were becoming considerably easier to use, more flexible and more durable” than the breakable glass tubes of classic neon signage.
In Vancouver, as the curators of the Museum of Vancouver write, many neon signs fell victim to a “visual purity crusade” in the 1960s. Critics thought that the neon cheapened the look of the streets, and obscured Vancouver’s natural beauty. (“We’re being led by the nose into a hideous jungle of signs,” wrote a critic in the Vancouver Sun—a newspaper whose headquarters was prominently bedecked in neon—in 1966. “They’re outsized, outlandish, and outrageous.”)
* Dylan Thomas
As we bask in the glow, we might recall that it was on this date in 1931 that the Floridian Products Corporation made its first sale of canned rattlesnake. The company’s founder and chief “wrangler” was George Kenneth End; a Columbia journalism graduate unable to find a job, he and his family moved to Arcadia, Florida (near Tampa) to make a living at farming. But as End put it, “the rattlesnakes were more prolific than the crops I planted.” First he tanned them; then he tasted them. Surprised to find them palatable, he wrote to the The Tampa Tribune about the delicacy– and received a stream of requests.
End made a business of supplying adventurous restaurateurs and gourmets until 1944, when he died of a rattlesnake bite.