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Gaslights preceded electric lights by several decades. The first gaslights were used in about 1792 with manufactured gas. Public street lights were introduced in 1807 in London. Use of natural gas began about 1820 in New York. By the end of the 19th century, gaslights were used extensively.


Gaslights had to be lighted manually using a small torch on a long pole.  They were lighted in the evening and turned off later in the evening or in the morning by “the old lamplighter”. Later, when the price of natural gas became cheap, the manual gaslights were left burning 24 hours per day; this is still being done today where manual gaslights are used.


When electric lights became available they were not deemed to be reliable, so gaslights were installed as back-up in case the electric lights failed. This is very evident in the James J. Hill house which was completed in 1891 in St. Paul, Minnesota, where electric lighting was installed using a generator (which was not always working) to provide electricity. Gaslights were also installed as well for indoor lighting, in case the electricity failed. People did not trust this new form of “electric” energy and felt more comfortable with the gas lighting. The gas lights had to be light individually and were open flame burners that provided very little light.


During the first half of the 20th century, electric lighting essentially replaced gas lighting; some locations still maintain gaslights for nostalgic or aesthetic purposes. In the 1960’s Minnegasco, the local gas company in Minneapolis, sold and installed over 70,000 gaslights, mainly for yard lighting purposes. Then, in 1974, there was an energy crisis and a shortage of natural gas, so the Minnesota legislature decreed that all gaslights should be turned off. This restriction remained for over 25 years until the code was changed such that gaslights can again be used if burned only at night. 


Now, with the advent of the automatic gaslight igniter (which turns the gaslight ON at dusk and OFF at dawn); gaslights can again be used in Minnesota. With the exception of Wisconsin, most other states allow gas lighting and do not have restrictions on burning gaslights during the day. The automatic igniter still is a worthwhile addition to their gaslight as it saves 50% on the amount of gas used. The manual gaslight can be automated, using the Knightlighter™ battery operated igniter/burner, which plugs in to the present gaslight and can be exchanged as easily as changing a light bulb.


Interesting Links:

Gas Lighting
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

Computer Read Audio:

"The Lamplighter" By Charles Dickens:


Authorama Public Domain Books The Lamplighter, by Charles Dickens:


"Jolly Lamplighter," by Charles Dibdin: The LAMPLIGHTER (1790)

"The Lamplighter," by Robert Louis Stevenson:

"Old Lamplighter": Lamplighter.htm