Re: Paulin Saguaro on Broadway


Hello All,

Thanks for the warning about the saguaro!  Last time I saw it, there was another cactus growing in a crevice between two arms.  The Sunshine Mile section of the Broadway Project is being handled by Rio Nuevo, with advice from Project For Public Spaces.  I'm pretty sure they won't send a healthy saguaro to the landfill if they are aware of it.  I'll ask about it.  

Also great info on the Paulin's "sputnik" sign, which was probably a Rotosphere. Here's some info on Rotospheres from Debra Jane Seltzer's incredible website  Roadside  I like to quote the article instead of just posting a link, because I've seen so many links go bad over time. Debra writes:

Roto-Sphere signs are perhaps the biggest and most dramatic neon signs ever mass-produced. They were created and produced by Warren Milks from 1960-1971. Milks made approximately 234 of them at his sign shop in Bossier City, LA. Only about 20 Roto-Spheres are left. Of these, only four are fully operational (Memphis, Lakeland, Whiteland, and Salt Lake City). Only 10 are still on public display.

Roto-Spheres were promoted as sign add-ons and distributed nationwide, with a few sent outside the country. This map which I created from Milks' index cards shows where all of these signs were shipped. The peak year for production was 1962 and by 1965 their popularity had faded. Shipping per year: 1960 (11), 1961 (32), 1962 (70), 1963 (42), 1964 (42), 1965 (17), 1966 (11), 1967 (3), 1968 (1), 1969 (4), and 1971 (1). Since Milks received the orders for his Roto-Spheres directly from the sign shops, his index cards indicate the name of the sign shop and their addresses. Therefore, determining which businesses each sign went to is difficult. Most of these sign shops are either gone or do not have records that go that far back. Milks passed away in 2012.

Contrary to what many people say, Roto-Spheres were not inspired by the Russian Sputnik, other satellites, or anything space age. Milks got the idea for the design from something he saw on TV. While many of us thought the inspiration might have come from Playhouse 90, Milks didn't think that was it when I showed him the video. He thought it was a commercial for a children's toy or a spinning Christmas ornament. When people began calling his signs "Sputniks", Milks began using the name himself. However, the signs were always marketed as Roto-Spheres. He also produced some similar signs including the Turn-Star. There were 23 of these shipped around the country between 1963-1965. However, none of those are known to still exist. For more, see this website.

Roto-Spheres feature sixteen aluminum spikes outlined in neon. These multi-colored spikes are each eight feet long. They are mounted on a ball that spins in three directions. Not only does the sign rotate on its pole, but the ball itself is composed of two counter-rotating hemispheres. A motor and three gears resembling an automobile's rear axle differential are used to power the ball. Sign shops have made successful repairs with auto parts. However, Milks swore he used special gears in the construction of these signs but not gears from automobiles. Restoring and maintaining Roto-Spheres can be tricky and costly due to their size, mechanics, and the amount of neon used. I believe the original sign cost about $2,000 with shipping. The shipping weight was 800 pounds for the sphere and arms. The crate was then returned to Milks' shop. To fully restore one today costs about $15,000. Here is the patent for the Roto-Sphere design.

Carlos writes:

After years of searching, I finally found a photo of the Paulin's sign at UA Special Collections, but we can't post their stuff here.  After a half hour of searching at, I couldn't find the Schellie article.  Alex, if you can find it, I'll send it to Debra. 

Thanks again,


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