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Reddy Kilowatt (Penn Power) Sign - New Castle PA

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Hello there! I’m Reddy Kilowatt… and I first appeared in March 1926 as the logo for the Birmingham-based Alabama Power Company. The Roaring Twenties was a time of great growth for the electric companies, especially in the rural markets. My initial duty was to help promote the growth and consumer use of electric power in Alabama. (c1946) Full Size


This is Ashton B. Collins Sr. (1885-1976), the man that created me way back in March 1926. He witnessed a powerful lightning storm and was inspired to recreate that event in a cartoon character. Collins was an employee of the Alabama Power Company and later became a successful businessman in his own right. The company allowed him to retain the rights to my image and he patented me in March 1933. Thanks Ash! (c1960)


Ashton Collins was leery of government intervention in the private sector and licensed my image to “investor-owned” companies only. During the 1930’s, when the Great Depression was in full swing, I became a leading ambassador for the growing electric industry. This photo shows me in my early days. (c1927)


Collins had my image upgraded in 1933 by family friend Dorethea Warren, a young artist who went on to be a popular author of children’s book. In the coming years I was licensed to represent numerous power companies in the United States and around the world. In the early 1940’s I became the corporate spokesman for the Penn Power Company in New Castle and was later incorporated into their logo. (1944) Full Size


Ashton Collins, seeking to bring my likeness to the big screen, approached the Walt Disney Company in 1945. After being turned down by Disney due to prior commitments, my creator was able to enlist animator Walter Lantz (shown above) for his expertise. Lantz is best known for creating Woody Woodpecker in 1940. (c1960)


Hi folks! Lantz made me shorter and more proportional, with softer facial features and four-fingered gloves similar to other cartoon characters. I soon appeared in a 1946 short film entitled “Reddy Made Magic.” To watch an early television commercial featuring me click on: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_kW2KZ04wk. (c1950)


Even though my mission was to promote and expand the use of electric power, I occasionally tried to remind people that energy conservation was important too. My heyday was during the 1950’s and 1960’s when I was a household name. At my peak about 300 electric companies were licensed to use my image. (1943) Full Size



Many people in New Castle might remember me for gracing a large neon sign on the Penn Power substation building on West Washington Street. This is the original sign, erected back in 1917, which later had my image added. (c1930) Full Size


On the evening of Tuesday, May 29, 1950, this brightly lit sign, measuring 44-feet in height by 65-feet in width, was turned on for the first time. My giant image was about 29-feet tall and the sign contained a quarter mile of neon tubing. (c1970) Full Size


The landmark sign was a popular site in downtown New Castle. (1956) Full Size


After years of promoting the use of energy consumption I went into a decline in the 1970’s as electric companies started to “go green” and emphasize conservation efforts. My image and message was altered, but I never really acclimated into my new role. By the early 1990’s my image had pretty much disappeared. Various corporate mergers also caused legal issues regarding my licensing. In addition, animated characters also fell out of favor as powerful corporations sought to modernize their logos. (1949) Full Size


In late 1982 the Penn Power Company, now under Ohio Edison, removed my image from their logo and began phasing me out. In December 1988, after years of deterioration, the giant neon sign atop the Penn Power substation building was dismantled and I disappeared from the New Castle skyline. (Dec 1988) Full Size


Sadly, after being a powerful spokesman for many decades, I’m almost extinct these days. In 1998 the Northern States Power Company of Minneapolis, Minnesota, acquired by rights from Ashton B. Collins Jr. – the son of my creator. They began using my image and even gave me a new brother named Reddy Flame, designed to promote the natural gas industry. Two years later the company was part of a corporate merger and once again my image was shelved. (1998)


One of the few companies to still utilize my likeness is the Barbados Light & Power Company in the Caribbean. The company graciously put me in a 2011 promotional video detailing the history of electricity. Check it out at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OOVffAeAmII. In March 2016 I will celebrate my 90th birthday. Don’t forget me! (2012) Full Size

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Comment

  1. I remember him well my friend.

    Bill Cwynar · 07/05/2015 03:23 PM · #

  2. I remember Bill Keaggy (Supervisor of Building & Grounds)had a museum located at the South Avenue Service Building (Youngstown Division) with a lot of memorabilia on Reddy Kilowatt. Unfortunately he had to dismantle the museum to make room for other employees being transferred here from Penn Power. Don’t know whatever became of all those fixtures. I think I may still have a Reddy Kilowatt pin that Bill gave me.

    Mike Mraz · 07/06/2015 04:09 PM · #

  3. When I saw the sign, I knew I was nearly at my piano teacher’s house (Virginia Ewing) and, if I hadn’t practiced enough, I knew I was in trouble. “Every hour, day or night, I’m Ready Kilowatt, Your Electric Servant” This would have been in the late 50’s.

    Audrey · 07/09/2015 01:15 PM · #

  4. I remember the sign. I was in St. Mary’s grade school and could see the sign from the classrooms. As I recall it was animated and his arms and legs moved, but I could be wrong about that since it was sixty years ago.

    Jim Chill · 12/17/2015 08:47 PM · #

  5. I went to St. Mary’s grade school for 8 years starting in 1959. I used to walk past the old train station and up the hill past Reddy Kilowatt.

    David Denny · 03/16/2016 03:06 PM · #