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Oklahoma Made: Claude Neon Federal Sign Company

Oklahoma Made: Claude Neon Federal Sign Company

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You don’t have to look far to see the impact that Claude Neon Federal Sign Company has had on Tulsa.

There are signs literally all around you.

We spoke to employees Pete Webb and Joe Kesterson about the company’s history and current work. It was impressive and eye-opening to learn how many signs here boast the CNF brand.

They explained that CNF Tulsa was opened in 1926 as a branch office with an additional branch office in Oklahoma City. The home office originated in Wichita, Kansas.

What does the name Claude Neon Federal refer to? Here’s the history.

In the early 1920s, a French scientist named Georges Claude filled a glass vacuum tube with a rare gas called neon. He connected this tube to high voltage electricity by means of an electrode on each end, causing it to glow with a brightness. Georges Claude obtained international patent rights for his discovery, which bore the name Claude Neon.

The first neon signs were built in France and imported to the United States; however, this method of producing signs was impractical, and soon licensing rights for the manufacture of neon tubing in the U.S. was sold to Federal Sign & Signal Co. of Chicago. In turn, Federal Sign sold franchises to other sign companies in various cities throughout the USA. The name of the company was derived from “Claude,” the inventor, “neon” from the product itself, and “federal” from the licensing company.

Claude Neon Federal Sign Company became a Tulsa-owned and -operated sign company in 1955, and it still is today. CNF’s offices and manufacturing plant are located northeast of downtown Tulsa at 1225 N. Lansing Ave.

Webb and Kesterson explained that many changes have taken place in the industry. State-of-the-art, computerized equipment, along with the very best materials are used in the manufacturing of their signs, they said.

The city of Tulsa and the Route 66 Commission have emphasized keeping neon signs a part of Tulsa’s skyline through the Route 66 Neon Sign Grant program. But CNF makes a wide variety of signs, including LED signs (a big percentage of the current market), pylon signs, casino signs, monument signs and more.

And the company’s work is so well known that CNF Signs also manufactures and ships signage nationwide from right here in Tulsa. For more information and history about the company, go to


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