Employing electric bulbs as decoration both continued existing traditions of employing festive lighting for occasions of significance, and expanded upon the more particular practice of strings of electric bulbs as seen at the World's Fairs and International Expositions throughout the 1880s.
Modern advertising practices actually share a lot in common with one of the very first mergers of technology, advertising and spectacle: the electric bulb advertising signs which loomed large over Broadway more than 100 years ago.
San Francisco's 'California', London's 'Savoy' and Boston's 'Bijou' theatres all had converted to electrical lighting throughout by 1882. From its adoption within the interior theatre space, electric bulb lighting quickly spread to the facades of theatres, as well; the New York theatre owner Adolf Zukor, for one, used approximately one thousand bulbs above his theatre to spell out 'Crystal Palace'. In competition for the same theatregoers and eyeballs, other theatres rapidly followed suit.
In 1891, New York's Madison Square was host to a large flashing bulb sign fifty feet tall and eighty feet wide imploring viewers to "See the Turtle a Snapping Success". In July 1892, Manhattanites in the vicinity of Fifth Avenue and Broadway between dusk and midnight were
greeted by the following sequential messages blinking at them in green, red, yellow and white lights from the side of a building “BUY HOMES ON/LONG ISLAND/SWEPT BY OCEAN
BREEZES/MANHATTAN BEACH/ORIENTAL HOTEL/MANHATTAN
HOTEL/GILMORE’S BAND/BROCK’S RESTAURANT”.
The first advertising electric bulb sign appeared in Manhattan in 1892 and stylistically
mimicked existing print advertising conventions. Over time, however, the sign developed
its own unique style of visual iconography shaped in part by the limited representational capacity of the sign itself and its commercial message.
The AEG logos above show a change in style, from the end of the victorian age,1896, to the highly stylised art nouveau logo, by Otto Eckerman, at the turn of the century. The next four are by Peter Behrens, from 1907 to 1912.
The first Tiffany lamp was created around 1895. Beautiful in design and intricacy, each lamp was handmade by skilled craftsman, not mass or machine produced. Its designer was not, as had been thought for over 100 years, Louis Comfort Tiffany, but an unrecognized single woman named Clara Driscoll. Art Nouveau was a reaction to academic art of the 19th century, it is characterized by organic, especially floral and other plant-inspired motifs, as well as highly-stylized, flowing curvilinear forms.