Since in the early decades of the 20th century some municipalities only permitted a sign to extend over a sidewalk if it also provided electrical illumination after dark. In the first half of the century it was common to add numerous bulbs to capture the attention of passersby day and night.
This design is from a large collection of sign illustrations drawn by Williamson discovered several years ago in Maine, done for a broad range of businesses including pharmacies, dentists and clothing stores. Williamson worked for the Federal Sign System Electric Company, located on West 43rd Street in New York City, where he designed some of New York’s first electric light signs. These typically incorporated rows of light bulbs within the lettering or outlining forms.
Federal Sign System Electric Company was formed as an offshoot of Commonwealth Edison in 1900 in Chicago, and held a patent on a clamp socket to hold the bulbs. By 1906 there were 75,000 electric signs in use in the United States.
Condition: Generally very good with usual light overall toning and wear. Recently professionally deacidified, few marginal chips restored, laid on supporting mulberry paper.
“A Brief History of the Sign Industry.” Signs of the Times. September 1976. pp. 62-66A, 95. Online at American Sign Museum: http://www.americansignmuseum.org/briefhistory/. 24 June 2016.
Smith, Roberta. “Decorative Tradition, Laced With Bursts of Eccentricity.” New York Times. 19 January 2007. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/19/arts/design/19taas.html?_r=0 (24 June 2016).