Neon lights dating

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A larger sampling, complete with as much ancillary information as can be found, will make cracking the codes used a little more likely. For now, I hope this has been helpful in pointing out a few basic things to look for when you find yourself asking how old one of these is. My father collects vintage technical books and catalogs: While perusing his bookshelf I found a Westinghouse Electrical Supplies catalog. This catalog from , like many of the era, is worthy of a website in and of itself.


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For purposes of this discussion, I am adding some photos of pages detailing their offerings of Neon transformers at the time. Of interesting note is the discussion of the balanced secondaries that would offer protection in the event of one side being shorted. In addition, the units designed with built-in electrode sockets are of interest not only from the skeleton sign standpoint, but also because they mention their use for free standing neon pieces.

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The following photos are of the other luminous tube transformers depicted in the catalog. In addition to the images and descriptions, the catalog numbers may be of value to others as they will help with dating similar units. I hope you find this additional information interesting and valuable and I look forward to adding more when it becomes available to me.

I recently came into possession of a Jefferson transformer catalog for their luminous tube offerings. As previously mentioned, Jefferson was one of the top notch builders of neon sign transformers of the day and many of their vintage units I encounter are found to still be operational. The catalog goes into great detail on a variety of their offerings and includes design and construction information as well as citing patent numbers where applicable.

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In addition to the range of sign transformers offered there is also detail on their bombarding transformers of 10 and 15kva capacity and the slide type control chokes for them. One can safely assume then, that this had not been a required feature for that class of transformer prior to WWII…so if you find a similar unit lacking this, it can be safely guessed that it was made before Armed with this information and a quick look at one of my old transformers that has the curious footage chart on the data plate I do not see the separate grounding connection.

Since the catalog makes no mention of the footage charts being printed on the tags, it is possible that they dropped this after the war. This assertion is going a little out on the limb, but seems likely and until I locate a similar unit to my earlier one that has BOTH the footage chart tag AND the ground lug I have no definite way to dispute this guess.

Archaeology, even neon archaeology, is often a series of educated guesses and like all such pursuits may be later disproven. Jefferson Neon Trans Catalog Lastly, if you have any similar types of catalogs from other manufacturers I would be most interested in obtaining them to further this project.

Note that the high tension bushings are attached with a flanged plate screwed into the case rather than the usual compression from the central thru-bolt.

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Very high end quality, much the same construction technique used on power pole distribution transformers but in a tiny scale. Thordarson was one of the greats, it is no wonder that like Jefferson and Sola, their old ones are often still working.

10 thoughts on “Identifying and Dating Vintage Neon Transformers”

A close look at the tag for this one might lead you to believe it was made in The serial number could easily confuse someone familiar with the usual modern date code practice. But is not correct. The patent numbers referenced, and , were issued in September and December of , respectively. Thus, this unit had to have been built after that time, likely from onward but due to construction technique probably before or The patents that the transformer was built under were both assigned to Jefferson Electric.

Patent was filed July 16, by Daley, Goddard, and Sola and was granted on September 30, Patent was filed by Daley and Goddard on November 11, and granted on December 30, Without dissecting a lot of minutia, we can simply state that these two patents describe what is commonly known as a laminated core neon transformer with a magnetic regulating shunt and a secondary whose midpoint is grounded. Pretty much the same as all of them made until the modern electronic ones came about.

Jefferson Electric was founded in , named after Thomas Jefferson-who was also an inventor. In , they consolidated most of the plants into one location in Bellwood, Illinois and shortly afterward the company then became known as Jefferson Electric. This transformer is especially rare for two reasons.

First of all, it was tagged as being made by Chicago-Jefferson and with the pre-Bellwood address, which places it firmly into the timeframe. In addition, this model appears in the catalog.

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It is therefore a safe bet that this one was made in or 29, but possibly as late as August or Sept of Two other oddities about that tag. There is a serial number, unusual for a Jefferson transformer. Sometime after this was made and yet before WWII, Jefferson stopped placing serial numbers on their neon transformers. This is the only vintage Jefferson I have encountered that had a serial number.

It does not, however, coincide with any obvious date code arrangement…so the patent applied for message and the catalog are the closest production date ranges I can apply to it for now. The next item of interest is that this is a two part tag. Archived from the original on March 12, Retrieved March 12, Archived from the original on April 2, Retrieved April 2, Archived from the original on April 9, Retrieved April 9, Archived from the original on June 11, Retrieved June 11, Archived from the original on June 18, Retrieved June 18, Archived from the original on July 9, Retrieved July 9, Archived from the original on November 20, Retrieved October 8, Archived from the original on May 14, Retrieved May 14, Archived from the original on June 4, Retrieved June 4, Retrieved December 23, Retrieved May 7, Discography Awards and nominations Songs Live performances.

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