Bright Lights of Manly
Neon lighting arrived in Australia towards the end of 1929. It had been successfully demonstrated by French scientist Georges Claude as early as 1910, and the Claude Neon Lighting Company held the principal patents for the process. They defended their patents vigorously, but when their principal patent expired in 1932, numerous competitors entered the field, greatly expanding the market.
Businesses in Manly wishing to install external neon lighting for the purpose of advertising had to put in an application to Manly Council’s Health and Building Committee, whose minutes have survived from the late 1920s onwards. The first shops to apply were premises at 8 Corso and 104 Corso in July and August 1930, followed by the Dungowan dance-hall on South Steyne. Their signs were made by Claude Neon Lights NSW Ltd.
Owing to the Depression, there were no applications in 1931, but in 1932 the Rialto Cinema and Balgowlah Theatre, the New Brighton Hotel (see photo), and several cafes on the Corso installed neon lighting. By the end of 1933 all the main hotels and cinemas in Manly and many of the businesses on the Corso had applied to erect neon signs, either from the Claude Neon Company or from Messrs Neon Signs Ltd., or occasionally from the Radiant Signs Co. In the case of the Hotel Manly, what is more, the sign was “animated”. The bright lights had come to Manly.