YESCO Celebrates Centennial of ‘Lighting Up Las Vegas’ with New Exhibit

'Lighting Up Las Vegas: YESCO Marks a Glittering Century' exhibit will be on display at the Nevada Humanities Program Gallery

UPDATE: On May 6, the “Lighting Up Las Vegas: YESCO Marks a Glittering Century” will be moving to Clark County Museum. At the new location, the exhibit will run May 6 to August 29 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Clark County Museum is located at 1830 S. Boulder Highway, Henderson, NV 89002.

A little more than 100 years ago, Thomas Young founded the company that would come to be known as the Young Electric Sign Company, or YESCO. Although based in Utah, YESCO became an indelible part of Las Vegas history, as the designer and manufacturer behind many of the city’s most iconic neon signs.

To celebrate YESCO’s centennial, the Las Vegas News Bureau and the Neon Museum have teamed up to present the exhibit “Lighting Up Las Vegas: YESCO Marks a Glittering Century,” on display at the Nevada Humanities Program Gallery through March 23, and available indefinitely on the Nevada Humanities website. There will be an opening reception on March 9, with a discussion at 6 p.m. including exhibit curators as well as current YESCO Senior Vice President Jeff Young, and curators will also be on hand during First Friday on March 4.

“One of the YESCO signs are always going to be one of the signs that come to mind when you think of the look and feel of Las Vegas,” says Las Vegas News Bureau archivist Kelli Luchs. Luchs worked closely with Neon Museum curators to comb through the News Bureau’s collection of more than 7 million photos to select the images for the exhibit. “They knew the top signs that we’d want to look at, so we cross-referenced it with the Las Vegas News Bureau collection to see if we had good photographs,” Luchs says. “And if we did, we chose that sign, we researched it, we put together the narrative.”

Those signs range from early downtown casinos like the Boulder Club and the Horseshoe to modern venues like Circa and Allegiant Stadium. A 1945 sign created for the Boulder Club, the first known as a “spectacular,” is the earliest sign featured in the exhibit. Luchs highlights the signs for the Golden Nugget and the Horseshoe as her favorite photos on display. “When I see Fremont Street, and you see those aerials, that giant sign is just the one that really calls to you,” she says of the Golden Nugget sign. “It stands out from the rest, in size, everything.”

YESCO created signs that remain essential to Las Vegas’ image to this day, including cowboy Vegas Vic, the Hard Rock Cafe’s guitar, and the high-heeled shoe that once adorned the Silver Slipper. Looking through photos of YESCO’s evolution provides a Las Vegas history lesson, as well as a burst of nostalgia. “The ultimate takeaway is to educate people about Las Vegas,” Luchs says, “and to remind them why they love this town, whether they’re visitors or whether they’re locals.”

“Lighting Up Las Vegas: YESCO Marks a Glittering Century.” Through March 23, Tuesday to Thursday, 1 p.m. to 4p.m. by appointment, free. Opening reception March 9 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

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