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
After Thomas Edison pioneered electric
in Newport, Rhode Island.
Throughout the 1800's, the use
gas lighting increased.
Some locations in the U.S. still use
gas lights today.
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
One of the original Brush Lights is on
display at the Wabash County
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
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
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 vapor streetlight
It was deemed a major improvement over
the incandescent light bulb, and shone
much brighter than incandescent or
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
producing a more "white" light.
Today, street lighting commonly uses
"high intensity discharge" lamps.
"Low pressure sodium" lamps became
commonplace after World War II
for their low power consumption
and long life.
Late in the 1980's, high
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
system was reliably seen as brighter
and safer than the same scene
illuminated by a high pressure