How Some of The Most Memorable Custom Signs Were Made

Since the evolution of commercial electric lighting, some now iconic signs have been ordered and constructed that have shaped the cultural image of the unique American landscape. This month, we highlight some of the most famous signs in the US, such as the “HOLLYWOOD” sign , “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign, , and others that have made their mark on our collective consciousness. 


According to, “Harvey and Daeida Wilcox founded Hollywood in 1881 as a community for like-minded followers of the temperance movement.” While the origins of the name are unknown, the sign was erected as a real estate advertising tool, with a name slightly longer than the current sign: HOLLYWOODLAND. The sign, constructed in 1923, consisted of 45 foot high white block letters, anchored to telephone poles and illuminated by 4,000 incandescent light bulbs. Costing around $21,000, the equivalent of $250,000 today, the last four letters were removed in 1949 and the sign restored by the City of Los Angeles

Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Sign

Designed in 1959, by Betty Willis, the sign was commissioned at the request of local salesman, Ted Rogich, to represent the city of neon lights itself. Standing at 25 feet high, in the median of 5100 Las Vegas Boulevard South, at the southern end of the Vegas Strip, the iconic sign features an architectural style, known as Googie, not Google, that blends elements of futurism, the Atomic Age, and car culture, a  style popular in the 40s and 50s. The back of the sign reads, “Drive Carefully, Come Back Soon,” sending visitors on their way.  Costing a mere $4000.00, Willis never copyrighted the sign, thinking of it as a gift to the city.

YESCO takes care of the Welcome to Las Vegas sign

Much of the original Welcome sign was rebuilt with sturdier materials in the factory at YESCO, who took ownership of the sign in 1964. The sign is leased to Clark County and maintained by YESCO on the county’s behalf. It is an icon of Las Vegas and proudly represents YESCO’s historical and current contributions to signs and lighting in Las Vegas and throughout the world.   Please see: for more information or if you have any questions about the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign.[DJ1] 

The Fisherman’s Wharf Sign

Built in the shape of a ship's wheel with a red crab at the center, The Fisherman’s Wharf is not just iconic, it's also beautifully designed. Constructed of sheet metal, plywood, and plastic, lit with neon and incandescent lights, the original sign was installed in 1968, according to Fisherman's Wharf Community Benefit District CEO, Troy Campbell. Over the years, the original sign, subjected to corrosive salt water and wind, decayed, to the point that several groups agreed to replace the iconic sign with an almost identical sign made of more durable materials. The Fisherman's Wharf Community Benefit District helped pay for the $115,000 sign, along with the Fisherman's Wharf Merchants Association and the Port.

Brighter LED lights save on energy costs

The new sign, installed just before July 4, 2013, is constructed from rust-resistant aluminum and a high-density foam material that replaced the steel and plywood of the original sign. Replicating the plastic front and refurbishing the wooden handles, to retain the flavor of the original look, LED lights were installed to achieve a better quality and brighter light that uses less energy and requires less frequent maintenance than the original lights. Another landmark sign that defines the San Francisco skyline also got a much-needed makeover in 2020.

Ghirardelli Square Sign

As the SF Chronicle reported, “the sign was in a serious state of disrepair, with corroding metal and missing bulbs, and it needed to be pulled down for preservation and restoration work.” Originally erected in 1915, for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, the Ghirardelli Square Sign was two-sided, with lit-up letters facing the waterfront and the upscale Russian Hill neighborhood. When the sign was first restored in 1964, the city-facing letters were removed due to complaints from Russian Hill residents. The reconstructed sign features LED lights and the ability to change colors, for the first time for holidays and special events. In the Midwest, another iconic sign has made appearances in many movies and TV shows.

Chicago Theatre Sign

Standing 18 meters tall, the Chicago Theatre sign has endured since the venue was built in 1921. A stunning example of Chicago’s Art Deco architecture, the sign symbolizes the city’s vibrant culture and entertainment industry. Featuring the words “Chicago Theatre” on a marquee-style background, boldly displayed in white letters, and illuminated by over 6,000 light bulbs. Stunning in both design and craftsmanship, the Chicago Theatre sign has remained basically unchanged since its installation in 1921. The theater is known for its rich history of top entertainers, such as Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Prince, and Jerry Seinfeld among others. The sign has undergone several renovations to retain its iconic status.

Times Square Sign

Located at the intersection of Broadway and Seventh Avenue, the Times Square sign consists of a vast 76 feet tall by 223 feet wide LED screen and displays advertisements and messages from some of the world’s biggest brands. The Times Square sign is one of the most valuable advertising spaces in the country. A symbol of New York’s brilliant culture and bustling energy that reflects the power of advertising in contemporary society, signage in Times Square continues to evolve with technology. In 2008, Ricoh installed the first solar powered sign, with four wind turbines and 45 solar panels. Measuring over 9,000 square feet, the LCD NASDAQ sign is the largest continuous sign in Times Square. Just a few blocks away, another iconic symbol of the entertainment world shines bright and steady.

Radio City Music Hall

Opening in 1932, Radio City Music Hall cost approximately $8 million to construct, funded by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and theatrical genius S. L. "Roxy" Rothafel. Along with the exquisite exterior of ripple-finished gray Indiana limestone, decorated with vertical aluminum spandrels, The Radio City Music Hall’s sign lights up the corner of 50th Street and Sixth Avenue with a 50,000 lb. stainless steel and 40,000 lb. aluminum combined marquee. Wrapping around the corner, the sign extends down the entire block. The Art Deco sign consists of somewhere around six miles of red and blue neon powered by 599 transformers. In March 1999, the Broadway National Sign Company renovated the famous marquee, restoring all the neon in the horizontal signage and the 96 ft vertical marquee. 

Tower Records Sacramento

Depicting teens dancing on top of a record, with the dancers’ legs moving back and forth , in time with flashing music bars, the iconic "Dancing Kids" sign was designed in 1949 by Zeon Electrical Products Corporation, for Clayton and Russ Solomon, who founded the legendary Tower Records. The city of Sacramento made an exception to its ordinance that outlawed animated signs for this well-loved neon sign.

Varsity Drive-In Sign

Located near the Georgia Tech campus, this iconic sign has been a fixture in Atlanta since 1928 and features the restaurant’s name in bold red on a white background. An indelible example of mid-century Americana, with its bright red color and bold lettering style, the Varsity Drive-in sign’s retro message reminds visitors of a simpler time, when people went to drive-ins looking for some fun and good food. 

These and other iconic electric signs are landmarks that tourists love to visit, and residents love to boast about. For help with your next iconic electric sign, contact YESCO!

Note that YESCO does not claim to have sold, designed, engineered, installed, or manufactured any of the signs mentioned above.