Street lighting in the United States was introduced to the US by inventor Benjamin Franklin, who was the postmaster of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. For this reason, many regard Philadelphia as the birthplace of street lighting in the US.
The colonial-era streetlights were lit by candles placed inside a glass vessel, which kept the candle from being blown out by wind. Franklin’s design was four-sided, with four separate panes of glass, so that if one pane of glass was broken, the lamp did not need to be entirely replaced, and might not even blow out.
After the invention of gas lighting by William Murdoch in 1792, cities in Britain began to light their streets using gas. The United States followed suit shortly afterwards with the introduction of gas lighting to Pelham Street in Newport, Rhode Island in 1803.Throughout the 19th century, the use of gas lighting increased. Some locations in the US still use gas lights.
After Thomas Edison pioneered electric use, light bulbs were developed for the streetlights as well. The first city to use electric street lights was Wabash, Indiana. Charles F. Brush of Cleveland, Ohio wanted to publicly test his new invention the “Brush Light” and needed a city to do so. The City Council of Wabash agreed to testing the lights and on March 31, 1880, Wabash became the “First Electrically Lighted City in the World” as a flood of light engulfed the town from four Brush Lights mounted atop the courthouse. One of the original Brush Lights is on display at the Wabash County Courthouse.
By the beginning of the 20th century, the number of fire-based streetlights was dwindling as developers were searching for safer and more effective ways to illuminate their streets. Fluorescent and incandescent lights became popular during the 1930s and 1940s, when automobile travel began to flourish. A street with lights was referred to as a white way during the early 20th century. Part of New York City’s Broadway was nicknamed the Great White Way due to the massive number of electric lights used on theater marquees lining the street.
Lack of natural light during nighttime in the urban environment was always a problem. From basic inconvenience that people cannot see where they are going to the greater chance of being attacked or mugged during the night. Because the problem was there since humans started living together, history of street light is maybe longer than we think.
History of Street Lighting:
As many as 55 million streetlights illuminate American roadways today, lighting a path for more than 250 million cars and trucks (Los Angeles Times).
But streetlights predate the earliest cars by thousands of years.
From ancient oil lamps to advanced LEDs, following is a 60-second history of streetlights.
1.In ancient Rome, wealthy citizens used vegetable oil lamps to light the front of their homes. Special slaves were responsible for lighting, extinguishing and watching the lamps.
2.In 1417, the Mayor of London ordered that all homes must hang lanterns outdoors after nightfall during the winter months. This marked the first organized public street lighting.
3.Scottish inventor William Murdoch kicked off a movement toward more efficient street lighting in 1802. His coal-fueled gas light illuminated the outside of the SoHo Foundry for a public presentation. Five years later, London had its first gas-lit street.
4.In 1816, Baltimore became the first U.S. city to install gas streetlights. Paris followed closely behind, in 1820. These early gas lights consisted of gas lanterns placed on poles.
5.Paris laid claim to the world’s first electric streetlights. Its arc lamps, also known as Yablochkov candles, were installed in 1878. Three years later, 4,000 of these electric lamps were in use, effectively replacing gas lanterns mounted on poles.
6.Thomas Edison changed the world when he determined how to create a pure vacuum in his bulbs – something Joseph Swan was unable to achieve. Edison’s carbon-thread incandescent lamp, introduced in 1879, led to the development of light bulbs for streetlights.
7.Low-pressure sodium lamps were introduced in Europe in the 1930s. These lamps included a removable outer jacket and a vacuum layer for insulation, maintaining a high temperature to keep the sodium in vapor form.
8.American Nick Holonyak, Jr. developed the first practical visible spectrum light-emitting diode (LED) in 1962.
In 1965, high-pressure sodium (HID) lamps brought superior color and efficiency compared to their low-pressure predecessors. HID lamps are still the most widespread type of streetlight on the planet.
9.Modern LEDs last longer, produce better light and use less energy than HID lamps. While LEDs represented a tiny fraction of streetlights in the U.S. a few years ago, the pace of adoption is growing by leaps and bounds.
We’ve come a long way since the days of the ancient Romans. And, thanks to the rapid rise of LEDs, HID streetlights may soon be just as extinct as the oil lamps the Romans used to light long-vanished roads.
Why street lights are important?
Street lighting provides a number of important benefits. It can be used to promote security in urban areas and to increase the quality of life by artificially extending the hours in which it is light so that activity can take place. Street lighting also improves safety for drivers, riders, and pedestrians.
Driving outside of daylight hours is more dangerous – only a quarter of all travel by car drivers is between the hours of 7pm and 8am, yet this period accounts for 40% of fatal and serious injuries to the same group 1. Pedestrians and vulnerable road users suffer from decreased visibility in the dark too. For these reason, ways of reducing the risk to all road users during the hours of darkness must be found.
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