Mental Floss

The Quick 10: 10 Famous Neon Signs

Stacy Conradt
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You've probably heard of the neon graveyard in Las Vegas "“ it's where a lot of the historic signs in town go to bite the dust after the hotel they advertised has been torn down. I've never been there, but it's on my To Do list the next time I'm in town. It's too bad the graveyard is just limited to signs from Sin City, though "“ there are scores of vintage neon signs that could have used a good home. Check out these 10 that used to brighten up city landscapes "“ or, in some cases, still do.

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2. Vegas Vic, Las Vegas. Vic has been keeping an eye on downtown Las Vegas since 1951. He used to reside on the side of the Pioneer Club building, but since the Fremont Street Experience opened in 1995, the building has been a souvenir shop (go figure). He was so popular that the company who created him made his cousin, Wendover Will, just a year later. Wendover Will actually beat Vegas Vic for the Guinness World Record title of "World's Largest Mechanical Cowboy," which makes you wonder how many there are.

3. Grain Belt Beer, Minneapolis. This landmark has been in Minneapolis next to the Hennepin Avenue Bridge since about 1940. It used to flash the letters in sequence, but the once-impressive neon sign has been dark for quite some time. It's up for sale, though "“ the Eastman Family, who owns the site the sign sits on, is looking for a buyer to restore and relight the sign. Any takers?

4. The Coppertone Girl, Miami. The giant emblem of a little girl losing her britches to a puppy first showed up in billboard-sized form on Biscayne Boulevard in 1959. It's been relocated a few times and sat in a warehouse for a few years in the "˜90s, but today she's proudly mooning people on Biscayne again, just down the street from her original location. She did receive a bit of a makeover, though "“ during her restoration in the "˜90s, her neon lights were replaced with LED.

5. The Skipping Girl Sign, Abbotsford, Australia. "Little Audrey," as she was once known, was originally set up to advertise the Nycander company's "Skipping Girl" brand of vinegar. When the factory was torn down in 1968, Little Audrey went with her. The public was outraged to have lost their landmark, so much that a replica was built and erected on a nearby building just two years later.

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7. Westinghouse sign, Pittsburgh. This is the neon sign to end all neon signs (actually, it was probably an argon sign, if we're being totally truthful). The sign included nine Westinghouse logos lined up all in a row, but each logo had 10 individual pieces that could light up by themselves without lighting up the rest of the logo: the four slants of the "W," the three dots on top of the "W," the bar underscoring the letter, and both the top and bottom half of the circle. You can see how the sign was animated here, but the real sign is long gone "“ when the building it was mounted on was torn down in 1998 to make way for the Pirates' PNC Park, the sign went with it.

8. Magikist sign, Chicago. You can bet a giant pair of neon lips would catch the attention of a lot of people "“ and that's what the Magikist carpet company was banking on, too. The 41,100-pound neon lips were regarded as Chicago landmarks, noting when you were finally out of the suburbs and into the city. Most of them have been quietly torn down since the mid "˜90s, though.

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10. The Travelers Insurance umbrella, Des Moines. The cheery 40-foot umbrella has been a staple on the Des Moines skyline since 1963. Like a lot of these old advertising signs seem to, it fell into disrepair for many years until the Graham Group, who owns the building the umbrella brightens up, took responsibility for it in 2005.

It seems like a lot of towns have nearly-forgotten gems like these. Is yours one of them? Or do you remember one that has since been torn down? Share in the comments!

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