On this day 136 years ago, the city of Wabash made history by becoming the “First Electrically Lighted City in the World”, and journalists could not come up with enough awestruck prose to describe that technological first occurring on the evening of March 31, 1880 in the north-central Indiana city of Wabash:
The people stood almost breathless, overwhelmed with awe, as if in the presence of the supernatural…The strange, weird light, exceeded in power only by the sun, rendered the square as light as midday. Men fell on their knees, groans were uttered at the sight and many were dumb with amazement….It drove the darkness back and out of the entire city of Wabash so that now the people could see to read on nearly all of the city’s streets by night.
Charles F. Brush developed the first commercially successful arc light systems in North America in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1879. By 1880 authorities in Wabash, Indiana, realised that the Brush electric arc light system for its streets would cost $800 less per year than gas lighting. They also noted that they would get greater volume of illumination. This was the beginning of the revolution across the world to switch to the electric light. By proving to be economically better than oil and gas the future was set. More information is available at Edison Tech Center.
The following appeared in the Scientific American of April 2, 1881: The town of Wabash, Indiana was the first in the world to light its wholly in this way (lamps placed upon towers at a considerable elevation above the ground and above adjoining buildings), and they find that our Brush lights, of 3,000 candle power each, placed on a iron flag staff on the dome of their courthouse, at a height of about 130 feet above the ground, are sufficient for the general illumination of an area from one-half to three-fourths of a mile in every direction. (Internet Archive)
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