The Bond Clothing Store Signs in Times Square

The Bond Clothing Store sign circa 1941. (Library of Congress)
Some of the biggest neon signs - if not the biggest signs - to ever dominate New York City's Times Square were the signs advertising the Bond Clothing Store. These massive signs were some of the most brilliant and colorful signs produced during the 20th century in New York City and they added a nice dash of animation to New York's nighttime skyline!

The Bond Clothing Store opened its doors in Cleveland, OH in 1914 and started out as a cheap men's suit retailer. It quickly became one of the country's biggest clothing retailers and by 1924, it had expanded into a national chain with 28 stores in cities across the US.

In 1940, after re-organizing as Bond Clothes, Inc and moving its headquarters to New York City's Fith Avenue three years earlier, a large Bond retail outlet opened in Times Square. This outlet was a highly-sophisticated, three-year old modern building that was the former site of the International Casino. It was two stories tall, but the massive sign more than doubled its size! This sign, which was erected around the same time the store opened, advertised Wrigley's Spearmint Gum and featured some fish that swam around and blew bubbles. Underneath in neon was the logo of Bond Clothes, which featured a clock in the middle of the 'O' in 'Bond', as well as the marquee for the Loew's Criterion theater, which was housed in the same building This sign stayed a part of Times Square throughout the World War II years and would be dismantled in 1948....only to be replaced by the biggest sign to ever grace Times Square!

A postcard of the new Bond Clothes sign at night. (Wikimedia Commons)
In 1948, the designer of the previous Bond Clothes sign, Douglas Leigh, had been on a roll for much of the decade designing some of Time Square's most spectacular and memorable signs, such as the famous Camel and Kool penguin cigarette signs and the steaming Eight O' Clock Coffee cup. That year he designed a whole new sign for the Bond Clothes outlet, and created one of his masterpieces in the process. This sign was 50 feet tall and 200 feet wide, spanned two streets, and featured a 50,000 gallon waterfall! Surrounding this waterfall were two classical-style figures of a man and woman who were nude during the day, but clothed in neon togas and dresses at night. Topping this sign was a clock which stated that at "every hour, 3,490 people buy at..." Bond. Below this extravagant sign were a news ticker, or "news zipper", and the bottom of the old Bond sign, including the famous "O" clock dial!

This sign was one of the most spectacular, if not the most spectacular sign to ever hang in Times Square, and at $350,000, most likely the most expensive! It advertised Bond Clothes from the time of its inception in 1948 until 1954, when Leigh had other plans in mind for it.

In October of 1954, Leigh proposed that Bond allow other companies to make use of the sign. Bond agreed and the sign was turned over to Pepsi Cola. He replaced the two human figures with Pepsi Cola bottles and the clock was transformed into a giant bottle cap with the Pepsi logo on it. For most of the 1950s, this new sign would remain a landmark in Times Square.

In 1975, the Bond Clothes Company started liquidating its assets and selling its now-dwindling company to foreign investors. The outlet in Times Square dubbed the "cathedral of clothing" in its heyday closed in 1977. By 1982, the last remnants of Bond Clothes were sold. Despite all this, what remained of the original Bond Clothes sign would stay prominent at this location well into the 1980s, during which time the old outlet building became a short-lived punk rock nightclub in 1981. Later on in the 1990s, this building would become the site of the Roundabout Theatre.

Today the old Bond Clothes building now houses an Italian restaurant named the Bond 45 and new electronic billboards cover much of the spot where the Bond Clothes sign once stood. However, Bond 45 sports a flashy neon sign which draws inspiration from the original Bond Clothes sign (complete with a clock dial-style O) that recalls a time when neon reigned supreme and the Bond Clothes outlet was New York's "cathedral of clothing"!      

For more about the Bond Clothes outlet/company and its signs, be sure to have a look at:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bond_Clothing_Stores (Wikipedia entry on Bond Clothing Stores.)
http://www.nytimes.com/1997/03/30/realestate/when-a-big-waterfall-was-a-sign-of-times-square.html (A 1997 article from the New York Times about the Bond Clothing Store signs.)

POSTED BY Josh
DISCUSSION 2 Comments

2 Responses to : The Bond Clothing Store Signs in Times Square

  1. Calvin says:

    Advertisers are the same as you and me - they just want to make money. As long as you do not lose sight of that fact, you can rent almost any billboard. But it's all about dollars and cents.
    Billboard

  2. mbabbitt says:

    As a very young man, I worked at Bond Clothing in Times Square in 1973 in the office on the 2nd floor. Besides paging sales people and doing some cashiering, I also did the Daily Sales and Cash report and then accompanied the office manager, Teddy, to the Bank with our deposit. It was an amazing time im my life.

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