History of Gas Lighting

The world of lighting has been a continual race in technology and advancement since it started. When looking at the early beginning of modern lighting, gas played an important role. Here are a few facts to know about the history of gas lighting.

  • In the 1790s, William Murdoch experimented with gas lighting derived from coal gasses. By the time a thermolampe using gas distilled from wood was patented in 1799, gas had become a common application for lighting needs and would cincture to grow and expand to new applications.
  • The history of gas lighting dates back to the 18th century. While it was not the only light source during those times and had to compete with oil options, it would become quite popular as an easier solution than oils over time.
  • Gas was an ideal solution for lighting because of its naturally flammable nature. While this made it ideal for lighting, many were afraid of potential hazards of using gas and stuck with oil until doing so became too expensive.
  • The first gas streetlights were installed in 1816 in the city of Baltimore. This was a big step in the history of gas lighting because it proved it could be effective for large-scale lighting needs of an entire city. By the time Paris adopted gas as its main source of lighting in 1820, gas been solidified as the main source of illumination for cities all over the globe.
  • Gas street lamps completely changed society. When travel and going outside of the home was once confined to during daylight hours only, gas lighting opened up the evening hours as well thanks to the increased visibility and safety. Many towns had increased travelers and businesses began staying open past dark thanks to the gas lighting revolution. Factories also started staying open later into the day which helped speed up production and spurred on the economy as well.
  • While coal gas would be the main source for this lighting option for some time, the use of natural gas from other sources would eventually displace it as the main source due to limited coal resources in some locations. By the time of the 20th century, almost all homes and cities used gas lighting of some form as the main source of illumination.
  • The decline of gas lighting was led by the inventions of Thomas Edison. The gas lighting systems currently in place in the 1900s would pave the way for direct current and alternating current arc lighting systems. His inventions would move lighting away from the combustible nature of gas and to lights using a direct current (DC) at a relatively low 110 volts to light incandescent light bulbs which worked by way of filament place in the center of the glass tube. While this was a major breakthrough, it wasn't efficient enough to displace gas until the new alternating current power transmission system was developed that gas would be displaced for something that offered a better voltage, safer design, and solved the problem of using too many natural resources such as coal or other natural gasses.
  • By the 20th century, gas lighting was replaced entirely by incandescent lighting. While gas is still seen in some applications or locations, it is considered a relic to more modern options on the market today.