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The following are the
History of Lights:

Street Lights, Headlights, Tail Lights,
Traffic Lights, and Turn Signals

Street Lights:

In the 1700's, street lighting was first introduced
to the US by inventor Benjamin Franklin in Philadelphia.
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.

The street lights in Franklin's day were not very efficient
and the glass globes tended to become dark with
soot from the oil burned inside, requiring
almost daily cleaning.

In 1803, the U. S. introduced gas lighting in Newport,
Rhode Island.

Throughout the 1800's, the use of gas lighting increased.
Some locations in the U.S. still use gas lights today.

After Thomas Edison pioneered electric use, light bulbs
were developed for the street lights as well.
The first city to use electric street lights was
Wabash, Indiana.

The City Council of Wabash agreed to testing the lights
and in 1880, Wabash became the first electrical
lighted city in the world as a flood of light engulfed
the town from 4 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 1900's, the number of fire
based streetlights was dwindling as developers were
searching for safer and more effective ways to
illuminate their streets.

In the 1930's, fluorescent lamp first became common.
These lamps are a form of discharge lamp where a
small current causes a gas in the tube to glow.

The typical glow is strong in ultraviolet but weak
in visible light.
The glass envelope is coated in a mixture of phosphors
that are excited by the ultraviolet light and emit
visible light.

Fluorescent lamps are much more efficient than incandescent
lamps, and for a short time became popular in street
lighting both because of the efficiency and the
novelty value.

In 1948, the first regular production mercury
streetlight assembly was developed.

It was deemed a major improvement over the incandescent
light bulb, and shone much brighter than incandescent or
fluorescent lights.

In the 1960's, mercury lamps were coated with a special
material made of phosphors inside the bulb to help
correct the lack of orange/red light from mercury vapor
lamps (increasing the color rendering index.
The UV light excites the phosphor, producing a
more "white" light.

Today, street lighting commonly uses
"high intensity discharge" lamps.
"Low pressure sodium" lamp
s became commonplace
after World War II for their low power consumption
and long life.

Late in the 1980's, high pressure sodium lamps were
preferred, taking further the same virtues.
Such lamps provide the greatest amount of photopic
illumination for the least consumption of electricity.

Studies comparing metal halide and high-pressure
sodium lamps have shown that at equal photopic
light levels, a street scene illuminated at night by
a metal halide lighting system was reliably seen
as brighterband safer than the same scene
illuminated by a high pressure
sodium system.

Head Lights:

The earliest headlights, fueled by acetylene
or oil, operated from the late 1880s.

Acetylene lamps were popular because the flame
is resistant to wind and rain.

The first electric headlamps were introduced in
1898 on the Columbia Electric Car from the Electric
Vehicle Company of Hartford, Connecticut,
and were optional.

In 1912, Cadillac integrated their vehicle's
Delco electrical ignition and lighting system,
forming the modern vehicle electrical

The Guide Lamp Company introduced dipping (low-beam)
headlamps in 1915,  but the 1917 Cadillac system allowed
the light to be dipped using a lever  inside the car rather
than requiring the driver to stop and get out.

The 1924 Bilux bulb was the first modern unit, having the light
for both low (dipped) and high (main) beams of a
headlamp emitting from a single bulb.

In 1927 the foot-operated dimmer switch or dip switch
was introduced  and became standard for much
of the century.

The standardized 7-inch round sealed-beam headlight,
one per side, was required for all vehicles sold in the U.S.
from 1940, virtually freezing usable lighting technology
in place until the 1970s for Americans.

In 1957 the law changed to allow smaller 5.75-inch
round sealed beams, 2 per side of the vehicle, and in
1974 rectangular sealed beams were permitted as well.

When Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 108
was amended in 1974 to permit rectangular sealed-beam
headlamps, these were placed in horizontally arrayed
or vertically stacked pairs.

By 1979, the majority of new cars in
the US market were equipped with
rectangular lamps.

Tail Lights:

In about 1899,the first rear lighting (one kerosene lamp)
was introduced to provide license plate illumination.

It was common to equip the license plate lamp
with a red opening towards the rear, thereby creating
the first tail lamps.

Not until about 1920 did most cars have electric lamps
in both the front and rear.
 During the 1920s, the first national and international regulations
and standards on rear lighting appeared.

 In 1926, the predecessor of the UN, the League of Nations,
agreed on the first conventions related to automobile
It was then agreed that during the night every
motor vehicle must have a red lamp in the rear,
and that the rear registration plate must
be illuminated.

In the 1930's, two tail lamps became common in the U.S.

Functionally Red light has less effect on human low light
vision than any other visible color.
Red tail and brake lights
are highly identifiable to the ROD
cells in your eyes, while higher wavelength colors like
green or blue are harder to distinguish.

 In 1905, the first brake lamps were introduced.
By 1928, requirements for brake lamps were introduced
in 11 states in the U.S.

The Ford Model T used carbide lamps for headlamps and
oil lamps for tail lamps.
It did not have all electric lighting as a standard feature
until several years after introduction.

Dynamos for automobile headlamps
were first fitted around 1908 and
became commonplace in
1920s cars.

Traffic Lights:

Before traffic lights, traffic police controlled the
flow of traffic in intersections.

In 1868, the world's first traffic light was short lived.
It was a manually operated gas-lit signal installed in
London, England.
 It exploded less than a month after it was implemented,
injuring its operator.

Traffic control started to seem necessary in the late 1890s
and Earnest Sirrine from Chicago patented the first
automated traffic control system in 1910.

It used the words
STOP and GO, although neither
word lit up.

The words STOP and GO were in white on a green background
and the lights had red and green lenses illuminated by
kerosene lamps for night travelers and the arms were
8 feet above ground.

It was controlled by a traffic officer who would blow a whistle
before changing the commands on this signal
to help alert travelers of the change.

In 1920, police officer William Potts of Detroit invented
the three colored traffic light.
He was concerned about how police officers at 4 different
lights signals could not change their lights all at the
same time.

The answer was a third light that was colored amber,
which was the same color used on the railroad, Potts
also placed a timer with the light to help coordinate a
4 - way set of lights in the city.

In 1923, after witnessing an accident between an automobile
and a horse drawn carriage, inventor Garrett Morgan
patented a 3 position traffic signal.

In the 1950's, control of traffic lights became computerized.
A pressure plate was placed at intersections so once a car
was on the plate computers would know that a car was
waiting at the red light.

Some of this detection included knowing the number of waiting
cars against the red light and the length of time waited by the
first vehicle at the red.

As computers evolved, traffic light control also improved
and became easier.

In 1967, the city of Toronto, Canada, was the first to
use more advanced computers that were better
at vehicle detection.
Thanks to the new and better computers traffic flow moved
even quicker than with the use of the tower.
The computers maintained control over 159 signals in
the cities through telephone lines.
People praised the computers for their detection abilities.

Thanks to detection computers could change the
length of the green light based on the volume
of waiting cars.
The rise of computers is the model of traffic
control which is now used in the
21st century.

Turn Signals:

Also known as indicators, blinkers, and

Before turn signals became common, drivers were required
to stick their arm out to signal their direction
or to stop.

In 1914, silent film star Florence Lawrence developed a
mechanical signaling arm that, with the press
of a button, raised or lowered a flag on the car’s rear
bumper that told other drivers which way
a car was going to turn.

After that, Lawrence devised a basic brake signal that worked
when a driver pressed the brakes, a “STOP” sign flipped up
from the back bumper.
She never patented either of these inventions, and as a result
she didn't receive any credit or profit from it.

In 1938, Buick added the first flashing electric turn signal
as a new safety feature.
It was advertised by Buick as the “Flash-Way Directional
In 1940, Buick added the self canceling mechanism attached
to the steering column.

In the mid 1940's, turn signal controls moved to the left of the
steering column.

The 'sequential', or scrolling turn signal.
Rather than merely flashing, the lights move across the car
in the direction of intended travel.

In 1965, Ford introduced the sequential rear turn signals as a
standard feature on the Thunderbird.
Mercury Cougar followed in 1967.
The Shelby GT500 also got sequential lights in 1968.
And in 1969, Chrysler followed with the Imperial.

In the 1980's, Light Emitting Diode (LED) technology for turn
signal lights was introduced.
Because such lights don't depend on lens color, they emit
red and amber hues.

For other History such
as: The Car Radio,
The Brake System,
Windshield Wipers,
The Dashboard,
The Car Heater, and More

For Wisconsin Automobile