History of Gas Lighting

The need to add lighting at night and in dark places has been with us throughout human history. In fact, the first thing God created was light. How we have solved this problem has changed throughout history. One solution that has provided light for centuries is the use of gas lanterns or gas lights. This method has become a trend in outdoor lighting and is becoming more popular once again.

Different fuels throughout history have been used to create light. Some of these include olive oil, beeswax, sesame oil, whale oil, and fish oil. In 1726, Dr. Stephen Hales was the first person to document rendering a flammable fuel from distilling coal. His discovery was before its time, as no practical use occurred until the 1790's. William Murdoch worked for the Soho Foundrey in Birmingham, England. In 1798, he began lighting the foundry building using coal gas. Later, in 1802, he lit the outside of the building, much to the surprise of the public. As people saw the advantages of outdoor lighting, it gained in popularity.

gas lighting is one of the type street lighting

Coal gas was the original fuel for gas lighting through the 19th century, and into the beginning of the 20th century. In the late 19th century, natural gas began replacing coal gas, first in America, but spreading across the globe.

Street lighting created safer environments outdoors at night. Crime rates reduced as it became safer to travel after dark. People could work longer hours or complete more tasks, increasing efficiency at work and in the home. Reading and studying became easier at night, improving literacy. These factors helped contribute to the second Industrial Revolution as knowledge and efficiency increased.

Public street lighting began in Pall Mall, London in 1807. On December 31, 1813, the Westminster Bridge was illuminated by gas light. Baltimore, MA was the first city to install streetlights in America. With the advent of electric lighting, the gas street lights and illumination have all but become a thing of the past. However, the look and ambiance of gas lighting is making a strong resurgence in exterior lighting.

With updated construction, design, and practicality, gas lighting is becoming desirable once again. Copper being one of the most popular materials, it is possible to find gas lighting in a variety of styles and construction for your exterior or interior. Understanding the history of gas lighting adds to the appeal of bringing it back into your home or garden.

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