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Hollywoodland Electric Sign

Hollywoodland Electric Sign

The Hollywoodland sign, which was erected in 1923, was lighted from the time the sign was completed.  It wasn’t until photos in the hollywoodphotographs.com collection were examined that it was confirmed that the sign’s lights were installed during the last days of the sign’s construction.  Some of the photos show work men carrying lighted boxes up the hill to be installed around the perimeter of each letters. 

Photo of Construction of Hollywoodland sign

It should be pointed out that a test letter was erected to the east of where the sign was eventually erected.

The following is the text from a September 1924 article in the Practical Electrics magazine.

“Hollywood, California, is a familiar name to most of us, and the city hardly needs advertising. Yet thay have seen fit to erect a gigantic sign high up, 1000 feet above the city, bearing the name “Hollywoodland.”

Dedication of Hollywoodland sign photo

The great sign can be seen for a distance of twelve miles. When the sign was being built there were no roads for a mile beyond the location selected, but a caterpillar tractor overcame all the difficulties.

The surface of the mountain is very irregular; the ground beneath the sign is rocky. The sign is supported by telephone poles 60 to 80 feet in height, several tones of dynamite being expended in making the holes for them.

The letters at one end are 15 feet higher than the other, and it was even necessary, on account of the irregular surface, to put some letters 40 feet in advance of the proper line, and others as much back. At a distance in looking at the sign from the front these discrepancies are not noticeable.

Two by six inch timbers, placed 16 to24 inches between centers, are the horizontal elements of the frame. To this the letters, made of galvanized iron, are nailed. Each stroke of a letter is 13 feet wide. To illuminate the thirteen great letters, 3700 10-watt lamps are used, placed along the edge of each stroke, which is found to give an advantage in legibility at night. There are 55 outlets to each circuits and the wiring is all open on the back of the structure. Everything centers in a junction box near the center of the sign.  Here there is a pilot flasher and a time switch.

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The flasher switches on “Holly,” then “Wood” then “Land”, successively: then the whole sign is extinguished and the flasher repeats its work.

Taken on a straight line, the sign is 975 feet long and the letters are 45 feet high. Naturally, here is a good deal of wind pressure exerted on the sign, but it is guyed by cable fastenings, and has already withstood one of the most violent windstorms that has visited Southern California in many years. It is claimed to be the largest sign in the United States and the only attention it has required during eight months of display has been a weekly winding of the time switch and oiling of the flasher twice a month.”

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The task of changing the burned-out light bulbs fell to Albert Kothe, who worked for the Hollywoodland Development Company. Periodically, he would trudge up the hillside, climb the ladders behind the sign and change the light bulbs.  It is estimated that the sign seized to be lighted around 1928.

The hollywoodphotographs.com website has the largest number Hollywood Sign and Hollywoodland Sign photos. There are more than 450 vintage and historical photographs of the popular icons.  The earliest photos show the construction of the sign, in 1923. Also, there are photos of the sign’s deterioration and refurbishing.

 

 

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