Federal Electric Company had the distinction of being the biggest electric sign company in the nation on its first day of business. That was 116 years ago;  in 1901, it was the first and only company of its kind.

In 1900, two executives of the burgeoning Chicago Edison Company, Electricity Sales Manager John F. Gilchrist and Electrical Engineer John H. Goehst, were looking for ways to sell more electricity, when they conceived of the idea of inserting incandescent lamps into porcelain and steel signs. They  consisted of a porcelain enamel steel center panel for the advertising message, surrounded by a tubular border, in which both sides had bulbs to provide illumination for the panel.

These were the first electrified signs to be used as advertising messages with an added benefit of lighting the dark streets of early Chicago. Little did these enterprising men realize that their electrified signs were destined to become a major advertising medium.

Joined by brother James M. Gilchrist, the three started their company with $10,000 in capital, and were granted a charter under Illinois law on March 25, 1901, as Federal Electric Company, Inc., with Goehst serving as the first president.

Federal Heath traces its long and successful history to these three founding fathers, whose insights and vision in 1901 started the sign industry and would forever be associated with  the sign industry. We have grown, refocused and become the sign industry leader. With the unparalleled growth of business, the advancement of building and lighting technology and the unlimited imagination of designers, it is unlikely that our founders could have foreseen the spectacular products that continue to be produced in the 21st century.

Honoring our past, we look forward to the future, as we continue to generate new ideas, improve our products and services and find better ways to exceed the expectations of our customers.

We’ve included some vintage photos here as a window into the past of Federal Heath and the sign industry. So many people have expressed an interest in our vintage photos, that we regularly post under Thank Goodness It’s Vintage Friday #TGIVF every Friday on our Facebook and LinkedIn sites. Do you have a vintage photo you’d like to share? Send it to marketing@federalheath.com and we’ll share it.