|Photograph: 1934, Gordon Coster, courtesy Calumet412|
|photograph courtesy The Chuckman Collection|
The film tells how “sign monkeys” attended to the “millions of lights, and how the average bulb would have a life of 6 to 8 months. “Rarely a day passes within 30 to 40 having to be replaced.” According to the film, an electrical engineer was always on site. The lights were controlled by something called “a flasher”, whose 305 separate contacts made it “the largest one in the world.”
You want to know how it works? Well, every light bulb connects by a wire to a small contact point or brush. The tip of the brush presses against a copper plate, and the return wire carries electricity through the plate, brush and wire to light the lamp. A strip of paper inserted between the copper plate and the brush stops the flow of electricity and the lights go out. But where a hole in the paper lets the brush touch the copper plate, electricity flows through again and lights the bulb. No matter how many light bulbs and crushes are connected, each of them operates the same.It apparently didn't take too many years for the sign to become more trouble and expense than it was worth, and by the 1940's it had been converted into a massive multichrome promotion for Pabst Blue Ribbon.
|photograph Jack Delano, courtesy Library of Congress|
|photograph: Joe + Jeanette Archie via Flickr, Creative Commons license|