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Chattanooga Neon & Electric Co. at 801 N. Market Street was central to the city's thriving neon lighting market. This 1966 photo was taken by News-Free Press photographer Bill Truex. Contributed photo from ChattanoogaHistory.com.

This is the business that made the Scenic City glow.

The 1966 photo features Chattanooga Neon & Electric Co., a sign and wiring business then located at 801 North Market St.

The photo, taken by newspaper photographer Bill Truex, appeared in the Chattanooga News-Free Press in February 1966 on a page devoted to advertisers. The image now resides at ChattanoogaHistory.com, an online gallery of vintage photographs curated by history buff Sam Hall.

The caption noted that the business, which traces its history to 1913, had just added floor space and new machinery to assure its customers "prompt and efficient service."

William A. Jewell is listed as the owner of the business. Jewell's obituary, published 10 years after this photo was taken, notes that he "made and erected over 1,000 neon signs throughout [Chattanooga]."

Neon lighting, which features glass tubes filled with electrically charged gas, enjoyed peak popularity in the United States from about the 1920s to the 1960s. By the middle of the 20th century there were an estimated 2,000-plus neon fabricating shops in the United States, and most cities featured an array of the dazzling neon signs.

In Chattanooga, the Tivoli Theater remains a good example of vintage neon and chaser lights that were typical of the mid-century period.

More Info

Launched by history enthusiast Sam Hall in 2014, ChattanoogaHistory.com is maintained to present historical images in the highest resolution available.

If you have photo negatives, glass plate negatives, or original non‐digital prints taken in the Chattanooga area, contact Sam Hall for information on how they may qualify to be digitized and preserved at no charge.

 

 

According to published reports, William A. Jewell started his company here, then called St. Elmo Electric, in 1913. Jewell wired many of the homes in the historic neighborhood in the years that followed. By 1917, Jewell changed the name of his company to Chattanooga Electric Co. and moved the enterprise to Main Street.

Jewell was born in Campbellsburg, Kentucky, in 1893. At 15, he was a telegraph operator at Louisville Western Union. At 16, he moved to Chattanooga where he worked as an apprentice electrical machinist, a telephone operator and as a signal department assistant with the North Carolina & St. Louis Railroad.

The address in this photo, 801 N. Market St., has been most recently occupied by Dynamic Displays and Graphics, a company that specializes in trade show displays, exhibits and promotional products.

Follow the "Remember When, Chattanooga?" public group on Facebook.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com.

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