© Spurensucher - 17. Januar 2019

The Time of the Moonlight Towers

Mondlicht-Straßenlaterne_19.Jhd

(Photo Source: waterandpower.org; >> direct link to photo source)

 

If one considers that Thomas Alva Edison developed a carbon filament lamp only in 1879 and then invented light bulbs according to general historiography, one is surprised if one looks at the episode of the moonlight towers.

 

What happened in L.A. just before? In 1867, the Los Angeles Gas Company, the predecessor of today's Southern California Gas Company, installed 43 new gas lamps along Main Street, making the city safer at night. The gas lighting business was run by five entrepreneurs who produced the gas from asphalt, a pasty substance, and later from oil. At that time, there were only dimly lit gas lanterns hanging from a veranda in the evenings, which were perceived as the only spots of light on the otherwise dark streets of the city. By law, local residents and business owners were later required to hang a lamp outside their doors and illuminate the first two and a half hours of each dark night. Failure to do so resulted in a fine of $2 for the first time and $5 for any further omission.

 

In 1882, C. L. Howland remedied the situation by installing seven streetlight poles, each about 50 metres high, each equipped with three carbon arc lamps and providing light of the order of 3,000 candles. He also installed a small power plant that supplied the electricity for his new street lighting.

 

This happened at about the same time as the event when Thomas Edison completed his Pearl Street power plant in New York.

In joyful anticipation, the citizens of L.A. waited eagerly for the moment in history when the first street lights would illuminate the night sky. This moment was December 30, 1882 in front of an admiring crowd of spectators. Mayor Toberman flipped the switch twenty minutes after eight and illuminated two mast points at the same time.

A report in the "Express" at that time reported about the historical event: "The main street lighting burned evenly and beautifully and threw a light that resembled the glow of the full moon on snow. The first street light was very unstable, sometimes shining brightly and then fading almost in front of the eyes again. The only complaint so far comes from young couples who don't find any dark places on their way home from church or theatre."
The next evening, five more masts were connected.

 

Can it be a little higher?

At the same time, the Welcome City Hall in Detroit was even adorned with a 90-metre-high moonlight tower. There were many more of this kind in Detroit shortly afterwards. In the end there were 122 of them, on average 50 to 60 meters high. The lighting radius was probably 500 meters. Each tower was equipped from the outset with 6 lamps. This tower euphoria is said to have illuminated 21 square miles of the city. The fixing ropes alone indicate great optimism. The city must have resembled a spider's web. Detroit was apparently the only city in the world that relied exclusively on the tower system for lighting.

 

 

Welcome_City_Hall_Detroit

Photo: Detroit; Lycurgus S. Glover, Wikimedia Commons

 

 

Photo: Detroit, 1883, Majestic Building. 

Uncredited photographer for Detroit Publishing Company, Wikimedia Commons

 

1279px-DetroitMajesticBldgMoonlightTower1890s

 

Belle_Isle_Bathing_Beach_and_Bath_House,_Detroit,_Mich_(72689)

Photo: Moonlight tower (Detroit) at Lake St. Claire or Lake Ellie, Belle Isle Bathing Beach and Bath House, Detroit, Mich.; Tichnor Brothers, Publisher, via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

The arc lamps are said to have been extremely bright and 20 times more energy-efficient than early incandescent lamps (at least) of that time. They were considered too bright for interiors, but were apparently suitable for urban lighting. Carbon or arc lamps (also called electric candles) existed long before Edison's invention (from the beginning of the 19th century). The dazzling white light was produced by two carbon rods connected to a battery. The result was the glistening light of a generated arc. At first it was technically difficult to make these arcs smaller. An electric candle (such an arc lamp) produced a light corresponding to that of 1,500 to 6,000 candles - analogous to the output of 11 to 43 modern 100-watt incandescent lamps. The temperature in the arc could apparently rise to 4,000 degrees Celsius - the highest temperature mankind could reach before the atomic bomb was developed. Perhaps that was the reason why these things were not placed indoors. Nevertheless, it was quite courageous to place such "burning stoves" in urban surroundings. At the end of the 1870s the technology with arc lamps had been improved so that they became not only brighter, but also cheaper and safer. The classic incandescent lamps followed only 70 years later.

It is said that the first arched light tower was built in San José, California, in December 1881. It was an impressive 72 metres high and was equipped from the outset with 6 matching arc lamps, which corresponded to a total brightness of 24,000 candles. The figure below shows a tower half the height in the same place, which was later placed there - the original giant did not withstand a storm in 1915 and collapsed. (Photo: Artist not credited, Wikimedia Commons).

 SanJoseArcLightTower1881

 

San_Jose_Moonlight_Tower_Postcard_1

(Postcard of San José, Artist not credited, Wikimedia Commons)

 

San_Jose_Electric_Light_Tower_(Harper's_Weekly,_1881-12-10,_pg_821)Illustration: San José from 10th of december 1881; Peelor, H.G., via Wikimedia Commons 

  

As if at the push of a button, it all started in New Orleans, where several towers were erected at once. Some of them illuminated the harbour area of the Mississippi River in order to assist with the loading and unloading of the ships at night. A tower at the busy intersection of Canal Street, Bourbon Street and Carondelet Street was erected along with four water pipes to support potential fire-fighting in the nearby multi-storey buildings.

  

LeveeAtNightNewOrleans1883

Picture: New Orleans (1883), Illustration of Julian Oliver Davidson (died 1894), Wikimedia Commons

 

At the time, moonlight towers were considered the most energy-efficient way of illuminating an entire city, as only a minimal number of lamps were required. All in all, the lighting pole system was the cheapest way to illuminate an entire city. However, ever higher buildings clearly stood in the way of further development. In this way, uniform illumination would have become more and more complicated.

Nevertheless, doubts remain, as extremely positive comments from the past also reach into the present: It was claimed that they could not only illuminate several blocks of flats at the same time, but they were even called "artificial sunlight". They were sometimes described as so bright that people could lay down on the floor with newspapers at night to at least read the headlines. Especially in medium-sized cities without skyscrapers, the moonlight towers were regarded as the future. They burned all day long into the night and gave the people the necessary security.

Paris was suspected at that time to have simply copied this moonlight tower technology without permission. The Eiffel Tower had to be used as a stud frame. Other parties claimed that this technology had been used in the French capital for a long time. How was it really ... ?

 

Paris_Bogenlichtlampen

Picture: Eiffel tower, Paris, Source and creator unknown

 

Austin in Texas has been operating 17 towers since the end of the 19th century (before it were 34). Since then, it has been hoped that this will provide the highest possible level of public safety. While everywhere in the country in the 40s of the last century the moonlight towers disappeared from the scene, the towers in Austin remained largely standing.

 

Photo: Moonlight tower in South Austin. Hard to believe that they are still in operation. Photographer: Tim Patterson (photo source see mouseover over the picture).

 

Moonlight Tower

 

 

to the overview

Rapid petrifaction: bird's nest with eggs

Gesintertes_Vogelnest_SpurensucherPetrified in a flash. Is that possible? Obviously yes, but not always in the same way ...

more information

Devils Bench, Devils wall and Cartruts

Cart-Ruts-5Last stage on the historical circular path of Leistadt: Devils Bench, Devils wall and Cartruts …

more information

From canapé to ascent

Kanapee2Third stage on the historical circuit of Leistadt: "Soup bowl" and "Canapee" ...

more information

Anything but a mini quarry

Krumholzer-Stuhl5Another stage on the "historical circular path of Leistadt": The Krummholzer chair ...

more information

Curiosities in the megalithic district

Portemonnaie1_LeistadtThe "historical circular route" around Leistadt in Rheinland-Palatinate begins with megalithic curiosities that have been "labelled" for tourists ...

more information

The Giants of the Chocolate Hills

chocolate-hillsPhoto: Slava Myronov (Source: Flickr)

The chocolate hills on the Philippine island of Bohol are almost perfectly hemispherical or conical in shape. There are said to be 1,268 of them in an area of 50 square kilometres. These hill shapes are absolutely unique ...

more information

St. John's mystery: burned six times in 86 years

Stjohns_afterthefire1892

more information

Lowered: Archways under city museum

Freiberg_Mudflood13

more information

Hambye: Abbey devastated, castle destroyed

Abteikirche-Hambye5

 

more information

Unicorns: Exterminated and trivialized

Eenhoorn_in_De_Nieuwe_en_Onbekende_Weereld_p.126


"At the edge of Canada, one sometimes sees a kind of animal that reminds one of a horse, with braided feet, shaggy mouth, a horn on the forehead, a tail like a wild boar, black eyes and a deer neck …"

more information

Tragic crash: The Rock of Tandil

Tandil_Akrobat


The Movediza Rock is a huge monolith with a weight of more than 300 tons, which was probably on the edge of a rocky outcrop for thousands if not millions of years and is said to have swayed slowly in strong gusts of wind. Its crash occurred just under 100 years ago. There is still no explanation for this …

more information

World Theatre: North American Cities of the 15th Century

Lago de Conibas


Strange places and cities in North America in the 16th century on old maps awakened my interest to take a closer look at the material.

more information

Ketzerstein compass magnet: Megaliths in the Westerwald forest

 Ketzerstein4


There, where the compass needle points north with every turn of the body, one feels abandoned by all good spirits. This is the case at the Ketzerstein near Liebenscheid-Weißenberg …

more information

The Time of the Moonlight Towers

 

Mondlicht-Straßenlaterne_19.JhdIf one considers that Thomas Alva Edison developed a carbon filament lamp only in 1879 and then invented light bulbs according to general historiography, one is surprised if one looks at the episode of the moonlight towers.

more information

Earl's Court Tower: Fairytale tower or water dispenser?

Narragansett_Earles-CourtCottages were built on Rhode Island in New England in the late 1880s when Narragansett became known as a summer resort for unforgettable summer holidays. These summer cottages were arranged around a park-like estate that remained in memory as Kentara Green.

more information

Bologna: Skyscrapers Skyline in the Middle Ages

Bologna_MiddleageSkyscrapers obviously have a much older tradition than assumed. If one is interested in the general term "skyscrapers", even "Sheeplepedia" leads us to the numerous high towers that constituted Bologna in the 11th or 12th century.

more information

The Devils Slider of Utah

Image from page 119 of  

Mit dürren Worten versucht die Wissenschaft, uns diese Felsanomalie zu erklären. Diese ungewöhnliche geologische (oder gegebenenfalls menschengemachte) Formation befindet sich …

more information

Not kissed awake yet: Granite frog from New Boston

Frog_Rock_NewBostonThe so-called 'Frog Rock' really exists: It's a big granite rock in New Hampshire (USA), southwest of New Boston ... and it looks exactly like on the old postcard.

more information

Missing! When islands just disappear ... 

pexels-photo-390508When I read that the Japanese coast guard has been searching for a missing island for quite some time, I can't help smiling.

more information

Dead Aries as Order Logo: The Golden Fleece

Medea-fleece-dt_HeaderI must admit that so far I knew little or nothing about this connection: the Golden Fleece. It is an order that goes back to the beginnings of the 15th century as an award and honoured the "merits of knights" in an unspecific way.

more information

Megaliths as real pillars: Carn Brea Castle

Carn_Brea_Castle_-_Cornwall,_England_-_10_March_2010Science uses a term unknown to me so far for peculiarities which cannot be explained (or which it does not want to explain): "Folly" - (literally translated: foolishness/spleen/madness). That's why Wikipedia also writes about Carn Brea Castle that the castle is a "small stone folly".

more information

Flute obelisk poses puzzles

Obelisk_Hardinvast6

more information

Donuts in the rock

Mauzenstein_21
Near Bad Herrenalb-Bernbach lies a striking rock, which some scientists have classified as a pre-Christian cult site. Even if this assumption cannot be proven, its anomalies are unmistakable.

more information

On a big foot: New tracks of a Bigfoot in the Pacific Northwest?

BF_1Probably in Oregon, several traces of a bipedal creature have been recorded by a female rider. Compared to humans, this suggests an extraordinary phenomenon.

more information

Sun gone: Blackout in Siberia

Blackout_Sibirien_Spurensucher

 

There's nothing in the Western press about it: On July 20, regions in Siberia were immersed in darkness for several hours during the day...

more information

Sun gone: Blackout in Siberia

Blackout_Sibirien_Spurensucher

 

There's nothing in the Western press about it: On July 20, regions in Siberia were immersed in darkness for several hours during the day...

more information

Camel rock on mallorca

rock-trail-formation-camel-jungle-park-836565-pxhere.com
Far away from the "Ballermann", the hiker can enjoy an interesting karst landscape scenery.

more information

Keyholes from above: They appear worldwide

Saudi-Arabien

 

Only 100 km east of Mecca it starts: On a 20 km long - almost dead straight - axis from north to south one finds an accumulation of strange geographical formations, which repeat themselves...

more information

Hammer in the field: Mushroom stone in the Trubach valley

Steinpilz8

more information

Stacked high: Foundation Pottenstein Castle

Pottenstein_1

more information

Monolith in a suspended state: Ishi-no-hoden

 

1150px-Ishi-no-hoden_,_石の宝殿_-_panoramio_(6)

more information

When Lucy fell from the sky

Lucy_Neandertal

more information

When Lucy fell from the sky

Lucy_Neandertal

more information

To provide you with the best possible service, we use cookies on our website. By visiting and using our website you agree to the use of cookies. Get more information in our Privacy Policy.

Privacy Policy