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NEON SIGNS - Background

Neon signs, first called neon lamps, were developed by Georges Claude and first appeared in 1910 at the Paris Motor Show.  They consisted of luminous gas-discharge tubes containing rarefied neon and usually other gases. Ironically, "neon" signs are often not made with neon but with argon gas, mercury, CO2 and  phosphorous coated tubes to create about 150 colors. Neon itself only creates the color red. Neon signs weren't used in the U.S. until 1923.  Therefore, there weren't any American neon beer signs pre-Prohibition and the earliest ones were in the 1930s, after Prohibition was repealed.  Neon Beer Signs that hung in the windows of bars and taverns were once a quintessential part of brewery advertising. It was common for some drinking establishments to have several different beer signs in their windows to help attract business. Neon beer signs became very popular throughout the 1940s and 1950s. However, their popularity declined by the1960s as backlit signs became more common. Shown in chronological order are an assortment of Bavarian Brewing Co. neon signs.  Note:  If you have any images of earlier neon signs from Bavarian Brewery, or not depicted below, please let us know

 One of the companies that made some of Bavarian's neon signs in the 1950's displayed on this page was "Lou's Signs."  Lou's family still remains in this business and operates as Neonworks of Cincinnati in a location adjacent to and visible from inside the American Sign Museum.   

c. 1937:  Two neon sign versions for Bavarian Beer (In Bottles) were made by Lackner Signs. As shown, one was a green neon uranium glass. According to the label, the patent for this sign was no. 1,859,319 and the date made was February, 1937.  A very similar sign made around the same time with argon and mercury filled clear glass creating a blue neon color is also displayed. Besides the different neon color between the signs, the back of the uranium sign is black and the argon sign is navy blue. Interestingly, even though the signs indicate that Bavarian Beer was available "In Bottles," the brewery at the time the signs were made appears to have provided nearly all its beer in barrels with limited, if any, bottling capabilities. Only after the brewery fell into receivership and bankruptcy a couple years after it opened in 1935, and acquired by the Schott Brothers in 1938, was Bavarian Beer commonly available in bottles. These neon signs may have been the first ones made for Bavarian Brewing Co., which at that time, referred to its main brand of draft beer as Bavarian Beer.  The name Bavarian's Beer, (with the apostrophe "s"), or Bavarian's Old Style Beer, wasn't used until 1946.  Image and sign information is courtesy of David Green and CincySigns for the first image with the green neon and from Gary Schmeh for the second image with the blue neon.  Another neon uranium glass sign with the same design as the signs below was made for Student Prince Beer and the Heidelberg Brewing Co., also located in Covington, KY. (See section 8A. Heidelberg Brewery.)

c.1942: This neon "spinner sign" was made by Neon Works for the new owners of Bavarian Brewing Co. beginning in 1938, the Schott Brothers.  Their names as owners and operators of the brewery are noted on the bottom of the sign. Spinner signs are unusual and this one for Bavarian Beer is rare.  In order to view the image in motion, in both light and in the dark, please click here. Image and sign information is courtesy of David Green and CincySigns.

Early Bavarian Beer Neon Sign, c. Late 1930s..

c. 1940 - 1946: This sign apparently came from the Cincinnati area and is believed to be from Bavarian Brewing Co. It was made  in 1940 shortly after the Schott Brothers acquired Bavarian Brewery  and was probably in use until this brand was changed to Bavarian's Old Style Beer in 1946. Other breweries, such as the Mt. Carbon Brewery in Pottsville, PA, also had a Bavarian (Type) Beer.

c. 1946-1948:  When the Bavarian's Old Style brand started to be used in 1946, it is believed that these earlier signs may have been two color signs using red and blue, as shown be the examples below. The blue color is created from adding mercury to argon gas, and the red color is neon.

Bavarian's Old Style Pink & Blue Neon Sign c. Late 1940s.
Bavarian's Old Style Pink & Blue Neon Sign c. Late 1940s.

c. 1949 - 1956:  The most common Bavarian's Old Style signs were three color signs using yellow, white and blue, as shown below.  The color yellow used in all of these signs is from helium. Sometimes the lettering changed to italic and on draft was added. There were also some color variations in the first letter of "Bavarian's" depicted on the last two images in the group below, and one of these indicate an alcohol content of 6%. 

Mostly 1957 - 1960: Besides neon signs for Bavarian's Old Style Beer, neons were also made when Bavarian Brewing Co. modified the brand name to Bavarian's Select Beer and included a three flag design beginning in 1957. It's believed most of these neons were made before the brewery sold to IBI in 1959. That's because IBI seemed to prefer using backlit signs and neon signs were becoming our of favor starting around 1960. However, it's possible that neon signs with this design could have been made as late as 1966, the year the Bavarain Brewery closed.