Sunday 15 March 2009

Postcard of the Day No. 26, Wrigley’s Spearmint

The Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum electric spectacular sign, largest of its kind in the world, extends a full block from 44th to 45th Street on the east side of Broadway, towers ten stories high, and represents a million dollar investment. The electrical current required for this colossal animated display would serve a city of ten thousand. It contains 1,084 feet of neon tubing, almost 70 miles of insulated wire and 29,508 lamp receptacles.

I have no affection for chewing gum, an obnoxious substance and a prime example of a business that passes on the social and environmental costs associated with the product, to the public purse. However, we can put that all aside and enjoy this gargantuan display of neon lighting constructed by Artkraft-Strauss of Lima, Ohio, installed in Times Square in 1936 and equivalent in height to a ten storey building. The aquatic spectacle makes a wonderful subject for a linen postcard from the late 1930s. All competing signage, visible in contemporary photographs, has been either eliminated or toned down by the retoucher to enable the Wrigley sign undisputed command of the image. The end came in 1942 when it was switched off for the last time as a wartime economy measure. The card fits comfortably into the category of Postcards of the Night which formed the subject of a fascinating book published in 2003, illustrated with some superb examples from the genre. The story of illuminated signs in Times Square can be read by following this link.

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