Journalism History, New York City, Advertising, Advertising Spectaculars, Electric Signs, Sublime, Technological Sublime, New York Times


During the latter half of the nineteenth century, when the telegraph had produced an appetite for breaking news, New York City newspaper publishers used signs on their buildings to report headlines and promote their newspapers. Originally chalkboards were used to post headlines. But, fierce competition led to the use of new technologies, such as magic lantern projections. These and, later, electrically lighted signs, would evoke amazement. In 1928, during an age of invention, The New York Times installed an electric "moving letter" sign on its building in Times Square. Popularly known as "the zipper," the monograph drew significant attention from New Yorkers over the next thirty years and contributed to the reorganization of readerships into audiences; it both anticipated television and was eclipsed by it. Drawing on the records of the New York Times Company, this article traces the history of newspaper signs and the zipper, while correcting the historical record regarding the inventor of the sign.

Original Publication Citation

Dale L. Cressman, "News in Lights: The Times Square Zipper and Newspaper Signs in an Age of Technological Enthusiasm," Journalism History 43:4 (Winter 2018), 198-208

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Ohio University




Fine Arts and Communications



University Standing at Time of Publication

Associate Professor