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Zeon Sign Company Records

Identifier: MSS-927-BC

Scope and Content

The collection contains documentation for signage produced by Zeon Sign Company. Each project consists of a job cost envelope annotated with expenses for materials, labor, overhead, total actual cost, selling price, and profit or loss. Contained within each envelope were all or some of the following:
  1. Conditional sales agreement
  2. Cover letter accompanying contract
  3. Dun & Bradstreet or other credit check on customer
  4. Work order
  5. Time sheets listing last name of workers, dates, hours, categories, cost summaries
  6. Photographs; either black and white or color polaroid
  7. Drawings/diagrams/surveys
  8. City permits
  9. Miscellaneous scraps of paper
The majority of Zeon’s work was located in Albuquerque, NM. However, their contracts spread throughout New Mexico (Aztec, Belen, Bloomfield, Chama, Cuba, Crownpoint, Deming, Española, Farmington, Grants, Gallup, Las Vegas, Los Alamos, Los Lunas, Magdalena, Milan, Mountainair, Pojoaque, Raton, Santa Fe, Socorro, Rio Rancho, Shiprock, Tijeras, Tucumcari, Zuni, and points between) and into southwestern Colorado (Durango), Arizona (Chinle, Flagstaff, Ganado, Window Rock), Texas (Amarillo, El Paso, Uvalde), and even a few locations in California

Eddie’s Inferno Cocktail Lounge, Star Florist, Roadrunner Coffee Shop, Paris Shoe Shop, and many other businesses lining mid-twentieth century Route 66 in Albuquerque and the surrounding Southwest contracted with Zeon for their roadside signs. Thus, the collection documents some of the vitality and allure of Route 66.

Airlines, automobile dealers, banks and loan agencies, barber shops and beauty salons, clothing stores, eateries, grocery and convenience stores, motels, and lounges, liquor stores, shoe shops, and theatres exemplify the vast array of clients utilizing the services and expertise of Zeon.

The drawings and job file documentation provide insight into the detail and aesthetics of commercial sign making. Specific tasks, staffing, costs of labor and materials are detailed in the files. The internal and external dialogue is evident in notes, correspondence, and related paperwork. The potential use of this collection crosses many humanities disciplines including art history, community planning, history of the built environment and local history. Restoration of still extant signs along Route 66 is facilitated with access to the original drawings. Additionally the Zeon company records could be used by local communities seeking to recall a vibrant part of their mid-20th century history and identity.


  • 1955-1972


Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Copy Restrictions

Limited duplication of CSWR material is allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for compliance with all copyright, privacy, and libel laws. Permission is required for publication or distribution.

Biography / History

Zeon Signs (officially, Electrical Products of New Mexico) is New Mexico’s oldest and largest full-service sign company. Zeon was established in Albuquerque in 1939, shut down in 1941 with the diversion of sign materials to the war effort, re-opened in 1949. Zeon continues to operate on 5th Street in Albuquerque as of 2016, designing, manufacturing, and installing signage, specializing in neon signs. The neon signs produced by Zeon Sign are noteworthy for their quality as well as their place in American popular culture. Most of their neon signs were designed to attract customers to businesses along the U.S. Highway Route 66 corridor.

Four partners currently own the company, two of whom are the sons of original founders and technicians. The sign company adopted its colloquial name, Zeon, from a now-defunct corporation of the 1950’s that tested components of neon signs as a kind of underwriters’ lab. If a business conformed to Zeon Corporation’s specifications, the proprietary name could be used as a hallmark of quality. Many businesses lining mid-twentieth century Route 66 in Albuquerque, New Mexico and the surrounding Southwest had their roadside signs designed, constructed, and installed by Zeon Signs.

The drawings of this collection show both the artistic and technical aspects of the design and installation work. To the best of our knowledge, the designs are the work of Ralph Johnson, Keith Kent and Carl Steinwein. Recruited by Zeon at a sign convention in Chicago, Johnson drew for Zeon from 1959 until his death a few years ago. Kent, who died in the 1970’s, was known for his particularly striking designs. His fiesta dancer sign, (only the original small painting and one blurry photograph have been salvaged) is legendary among the older Albuquerque residents. Mounted on the exterior wall of the Terrace Drive-In Theater in Albuquerque, it was admired for the grace of its lines, its enormous size, and neon flashing skirt.

See: Childs, Mark C. and Babcock, Ellen D. The Zeon Files: Art and Design of Historic Route 66 Signs. University of New Mexico Press, 2016.


25 boxes (25 cu. ft.) plus 30 oversize folders


Zeon Sign, officially called Electrical Products of New Mexico, is an Albuquerque business that designs, manufactures, and installs neon and other signage for businesses in New Mexico and the surrounding southwest. The collection contains documentation for Zeon's work from the mid-1950s until the early 1970s.

Processing Information

Although the collection was professionally cleaned in March 2015, portions show evidence of dirt, insect activity, mold, and deterioration. A small portion of files and drawings were withdrawn due to excessive deterioration.

Researchers should note that client/job names and installation addresses listed in the contents list were taken from the work orders. There are inconsistencies and variations, such as "7-11," "Seven 2 Eleven," Seven - Eleven," "Seven Two Eleven," "Seven Eleven."

Also note that not all illustrations in The Zeon Files: Art and Design of Historic Route 66 Signs. are included in this collection.


Finding aid of the Zeon Sign Company Records, 1955-1972
B. Silbergleit
© 2016
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English

Revision Statements

  • Monday, 20210524: Attribute normal is missing or blank.

Repository Details

Part of the UNM Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections Repository

University of New Mexico Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections
University Libraries, MSC05 3020
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque NM 87131