Middle East Groceries Neon Sign

Neon signs, once coloring main streets and and highway byways, have slowly disappeared as local ordinances seek to increasingly govern their display. But from the abolition of the Prohibition Law in 1933 until celebration of the American Bicentennial in 1976, brilliantly lit multicolored glass tubing dominated the main streets of every city with advertisements reflecting the international diversity of foodways and business opportunities serving not only recent immigrants but tourists and locals seeking alternatives to food normally cooked in the home. This sign reflects an effort by an American culture group to more simply express their identity to outsiders not familiar with the confusion of more specific multiple country origins, foreign dialects, religious practices, and generational differences reflected after World War II. Not all customers who frequented this grocery store spoke Arabic or believed in Mohammed. The first generation to arrive in the United States from the Middle East came from Syria but political divisions, conflicts, and new national identities with new political boundaries following two world wars gave rise to a much more diverse community in the twentieth century. Third-generation offspring of 19th century immigrants no longer spoke their grandparents’ native languages but still enjoyed traditions practiced in an earlier time. Reflecting the existence of a diverse community, this sign promised availability of foods basic to many cultures that originated from the Middle East and Mediterranean, whether it be fava beans, strong coffee, flat breads, dried dates, olives, snacks, or sandwiches not offered by larger supermarket chains.
Currently not on view
Physical Description
glass (part material)
rubber (part material)
metal (part material)
overall: 1 1/2 in x 24 in x 33 in; 3.81 cm x 60.96 cm x 83.82 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Food Culture
See more items in
Work and Industry: Work
Cultures & Communities
Artifact Walls exhibit
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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