Gas lighting: Wikis

  
  
  

Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Did you know ...


More interesting facts on Gas lighting

Include this on your site/blog:

Encyclopedia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Gas lighting refers to a technology used to produce light from a gaseous fuel including hydrogen, methane, carbon monoxide, propane, butane, acetylene, or ethylene.

Before electricity became sufficiently widespread and economical to allow for general public use, gas was the most popular means of lighting in cities and suburbs. Early gas lights had to be lit manually, but soon gas lights could light themselves.

Gas lighting today is typically used for camping, where the high energy density of a hydrocarbon fuel, combined with the modular nature of canisters allows bright and long lasting light to be produced cheaply and without complex equipment.

Contents

History

Gas lighting in historical center of town Wrocław, Poland

Background

Early lighting fuels consisted of olive oil, beeswax, fish oil, whale oil, sesame oil, nut oil, and similar substances. These were the most commonly used fuels until the late 18th century. Chinese records dating back 2300 years note the use of natural gas in the home for light and heat via bamboo pipes to the dwellings.[1]

Public illumination preceded the discovery and adoption of gaslight by centuries. In 1417, Sir Henry Barton, Mayor of London, ordained "lanterns with lights to be hanged out on the winter evenings between Hallowtide and Candlemasse." Paris was first lit by an order issued in 1524, and, in the beginning of the 16th century, the inhabitants were ordered to keep lights burning in the windows of all houses that faced the streets. In 1668, when some regulations were made for improving the streets of London, the residents were reminded to hang out their lanterns at the usual time, and, in 1690, an order was issued to hang out a light, or lamp, every night as soon as it was dark, from Michaelmas to Christmas. By an act of the common council in 1716, all housekeepers, whose houses faced any street, lane, or passage, were required to hang out, every dark night, one or more lights, to burn from six to eleven o'clock, under the penalty of one shilling as a fine for failing to do so.

Coal and natural gases were known originally for their adverse effects rather than their useful qualities. In Coal Mining miners described two types, called the choke damp and the fire damp. In 1667 a paper detailing the effects of these was entitled, "A Description of a Well and Earth in Lancashire taking Fire, by a Candle approaching to it. Imparted by Thomas Shirley, Esq an eye-witness."

Dr. Stephen Hales was the first person who procured a flammable fluid from the actual distillation of coal. His experiments with this object are related in the first volume of his Vegetable Statics, published in 1726. From the distillation of "one hundred and fifty-eight grains [10.2 g] of Newcastle coal, he states that he obtained one hundred and eighty cubic inches [2.9 L] of air, which weighed fifty-one grains [3.3 g], being nearly one third of the whole." These results seemed to have passed without notice for several years.

In the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society in 1733, some properties of coal-gas are detailed in a paper called, "An Account of the Damp Air in a Coal-pit of Sir James Lowther, sunk within Twenty Yards of the Sea." This paper, contained some striking facts relating to the flammability and other properties of coal gas.

The principal properties of coal-gas were demonstrated to different members of the Royal Society, and showed that after keeping the gas some time, it still retained its flammability. The scientists of the time still saw no useful purpose for it.

Dr. John Clayton, in an extract from a letter in the "Philosophical Transactions" for 1735, calls gas the "spirit" of coal; and discovered its flammability by an accident. This "spirit" happened to catch fire, by coming in contact with a candle, as it escaped from a fracture in one of his distillatory vessels. By preserving the gas in bladders, he entertained his friends, by exhibiting its flammability.

The first gas lighting

William Murdoch (sometimes spelled 'Murdock') was the first to utilize the flammability of gas for the practical application of lighting. He worked for Matthew Boulton and James Watt at their Soho Foundry steam engine works in Birmingham England. In the early 1790s, while overseeing the use of his company's steam engines in tin mining in Cornwall, Murdoch began experimenting with various types of gas, finally settling on coal gas as the most effective. He first lit his own house in Redruth, Cornwall in 1792.[2] In 1798 he used gas to light the main building of the Soho Foundry and in 1802 lit the outside in a public display of gas lighting, the lights astonishing the local population. One of the employees at the Soho Foundry, Samuel Clegg, saw the potential of this new form of lighting. Clegg left his job to set up his own gas lighting business, the Gas Lighting and Coke Company

Close up of plaque on wall of Murdoch House
Murdoch House in Redruth

A "thermolampe" using gas distilled from wood was patented in 1799, whilst German inventor Friedrich Winzer (Frederick Albert Winsor) was the first person to patent coal gas lighting in 1804.

In 1801, Phillipe Lebon of Paris had also used gas lights to illuminate his house and gardens, and was considering how to light all of Paris. In 1820, Paris adopted gas street lighting.

In 1804, Dr. Henry delivered a course of lectures on chemistry, at Manchester, in which he showed the mode of producing gas from coal, and the facility and advantage of its use. Dr. Henry analyzed the composition and investigated the properties of carburetted hydrogen gas. His experiments were numerous and accurate and made upon a variety of substances; having obtained the gas from wood, peat, different kinds of coal, oil, wax, &c. he quantified the intensity of the light from each source.

Josiah Pemberton, an inventor, had for some time been experimenting on the nature of gas. A resident of Birmingham, his attention may have been roused by the exhibition at Soho. About 1806, he exhibited gas-lights in a variety of forms and with great brilliance at the front of his manufactory in Birmingham. In 1808 he constructed an apparatus, applicable to several uses, for Benjamin Cooke, a manufacturer of brass tubes, gilt toys, and other articles.

In 1806, Murdoch presented to the Royal Society a paper entitled "Account of the Application of Gas from Coal to Economical Purposes" wherein he described his successful application of coal gas to lighting the extensive establishment of Messrs. Phillips and Lea. For this paper he was awarded Count Rumford's gold medal.[3] Murdoch's statements threw great light on the comparative advantage of gas and candles and contained much useful information on the expenses of production and management.

The first public street lighting with gas took place in Pall Mall, London on January 28, 1807. In 1812, Parliament granted a charter to the London and Westminster Gas Light and Coke Company, and the first gas company in the world came into being. Less than two years later, on December 31, 1813, the Westminster Bridge was lit by gas.

As artificial lighting became more common, desire grew for it to become readily available to the public. This was in part because towns became much safer places to travel around after gas lamps were installed in the streets, reducing crime rates. In 1809, accordingly, the first application was made to parliament to incorporate a company in order to accelerate the process, but failed to pass. In 1810, however, the application was renewed by the same parties, and though some opposition was encountered and considerable expense incurred, the bill passed, but not without great alterations; and the London and Westminster Chartered Gas-Light and Coke Company was established. By 1816, Samuel Clegg obtained the patent for his horizontal rotative retort, his apparatus for purifying coal gas with cream of lime, and for his rotative gas meter and self-acting governor.

The spread of gas lighting

Following this success, gas lighting spread to other countries. The use of gas lights in Rembrandt Peale's Museum in Baltimore in 1816 was a great success. Baltimore was the first American city with gas streetlights, provided by Peale's Gas Light Company of Baltimore.

The first private residence in the US illuminated by gas was that of William Henry, a coppersmith, at 200 Lombard Street, Philadelphia, Pa.

Among the economic impacts of gas lighting was much longer work hours in factories. This was particularly important in Great Britain during the winter months when nights are significantly longer. Factories could even work continuously over 24 hours, resulting in increased production.

In 1817, at the three stations of the Chartered Gas Company, 25 chaldrons (24 m³) of coal were carbonized daily, producing 300,000 cubic feet (8,500 m³) of gas. This supplied gas lamps equal to 75,000 Argand lamps each yielding the light of six candles. At the City Gas Works, in Dorset Street, Blackfriars, three chaldrons of coal were carbonized each day, providing the gas equivalent of 9,000 Argand lamps. So 28 chaldrons of coal were carbonized daily, and 84,000 lights supplied by those two companies only.

At this period the principal difficulty in gas manufacture was purification. Mr. D. Wilson, of Dublin, patented a method for purifying coal gas by means of the chemical action of ammoniacal gas. Another plan was devised by Mr. Reuben Phillips, of Exeter, who patented the purification of coal gas by the use of dry lime. Mr. G. Holworthy, in 1818, patented a method of purifying it by causing the gas, in a highly-condensed state, to pass through iron retorts heated to a dark red.

By 1823 numerous towns and cities throughout Britain were lit by gas. Gaslight cost up to 75% less than oil lamps or candles, which helped to accelerate its development and deployment. By 1859, gas lighting was to be found all over Britain and about a thousand gas works had sprung up to meet the demand for the new fuel. The brighter lighting which gas provided allowed people to read more easily and for longer. This helped to stimulate literacy and learning, speeding up the second Industrial Revolution.

Oil gas appeared in the field as a rival of coal gas. In 1815, John Taylor patented an apparatus for the decomposition of "oil"and other animal substances. Public attention was attracted to "oil gas" by the display of the patent apparatus at Apothecary's Hall, by Messrs. Taylor and Martineau.

In 1891, the invention of the gas mantle by the Austrian chemist Carl Auer von Welsbach eliminated the need for special illuminating gas, a synthetic mixture of hydrogen and hydrocarbon gases produced by destructive distillation of bituminous coal or peat, to get bright shining flames.

Lamplighter lighting a gas streetlight in Sweden, 1953. By this time remaining gas lamps were rare curiosities.

Illuminating gas was used for gas lighting, as it produces a much brighter light than natural gas or water gas. Illuminating gas was much less toxic than other forms of coal gas, but less could be produced from a given quantity of coal. The experiments with distilling coal were described by John Clayton in 1684. George Dixon's pilot plant exploded in 1760, setting back the production of illuminating gas a few years. The first commercial application was in a Manchester cotton mill in 1806. In 1901, studies of the defoliant effect of leaking gas pipes led to the discovery that ethylene is a plant hormone.

Throughout the nineteenth century and into the first decades of the twentieth, the gas was manufactured by the gasification of coal. In the latter years of the nineteenth century, natural gas began to replace coal gas, first in the US, and then in other parts of the world. In the United Kingdom, coal gas was used until after the Second World War.

Gas street lighting today

In the early 20th century, most cities in the United States and Europe had gaslit streets. However, gas lighting for streets soon gave way to electric lighting. Small incandescent electric lamps began to replace gas lights in homes in the late 19th century, although the transition took decades to complete. See, for example, Rural electrification.

Gas lighting has not disappeared completely from cities.

Gas lighting in the Honourable Society of Lincoln's Inn, London

Cities that retain gas lighting now often find that it provides a pleasing nostalgic effect. Similarly, gas lighting is also seeing a resurgence in the luxury home market for those in search of historical accuracy.

The largest gas lighting network in Europe is probably that of Berlin with about 44,000 lamps. Quite a few streets in central London, the Royal Parks and the exterior of Buckingham Palace remain gaslit as well as almost the entire Covent Garden area. The Park Estate in Nottingham retains much of its original character, including the original gas lighting network.

In the United States, Cincinnati, Ohio still uses gaslight in many of its residential neighborhoods, as do parts of the famed French Quarter in New Orleans and of Boston's Beacon Hill neighborhood.

South Orange, New Jersey has adopted the gaslight as the symbol of the town, and uses them on nearly all streets. Several other towns in New Jersey also retain gas lighting: Glen Ridge, Palmyra, Riverton, and some parts of Orange. The Village of Riverside, Illinois, still uses its original gas street lights that are an original feature of the Frederick Law Olmsted planned community.

Many gas utility companies will still quote a fixed periodic rate for a customer-maintained gas lamp and homeowners still utilize such devices. However, the high cost of natural gas lighting [4] at least partly explains why a large number of older gas lamps have been converted to electricity. Solar-rechargeable battery-powered gas light controllers can be easily retrofitted into existing gas lamps to keep the lights off during daylight hours and cut energy consumption and green-house gas carbon emissions by 50%.[5]

The most popular gas lighting fixtures today are made from copper, a sustainable and durable metal that ages and patinas to protect itself from the elements.[6] Gas Lights today are also used with electronic ignition systems that allow the lights to be controlled from an ordinary light switch. With energy conservation a pressing issue today, these systems can also allow gas lights to be placed on a timer or photocell so that they are not running continuously, only when needed. Today gas lights are widely used for creating ambiance and to accentuate a property's design.

The use of natural gas (methane) for indoor lighting is nearly extinct. Besides producing a lot of heat, the combustion of methane tends to release significant amounts of carbon monoxide, a colorless and odorless gas which is more readily absorbed by the blood than oxygen, and can be deadly. Historically, the use of lamps of all types was of shorter duration than we are accustomed to with electric lights, and in the far more draughty buildings, it was of less concern and danger. There are no suppliers of new mantle gas lamps set up for use with natural gas; however, some old homes still have fixtures installed, and some period restorations have salvaged fixtures installed, more for decoration than use. New fixtures are still made and available for propane (sometimes called bottle(d) gas), a product of oil refining, which under most circumstances burns more completely to carbon dioxide and water vapor.

In some locations where public utility electricity or kerosene are not readily accessible or desirable, propane gas mantle lamps are still used, although the increased availability of alternative energy sources, such as solar panels and small scale wind generators, combined with increasing efficiency of lighting products, such as compact fluorescent lamps and LED's are diminishing their use. For occasional use in remote cabins and cottages, propane mantle lamps are still far more economical and less labor intensive than the investment in and ongoing maintenance of an alternative energy system.

Other Uses

Gas lighting is still in common use for camping lights. Small portable gas lamps, connected to a portable gas cylinder, are a common item on camping trips. Mantle lamps powered by vaporized petrol are also available.

See also

External links

References

  1. ^ P. James and N. Thorpe, Ancient inventions (Michael O Mara Books, 1995), pp.427-428: citing Ch'ang Ch'ü (a geographer), Records of the country south of Mount Kua.
  2. ^ Janet Thomson; The Scot Who Lit The World, The Story Of William Murdoch Inventor Of Gas Lighting; 2003; ISBN 0-9530013-2-6
  3. ^ http://royalsociety.org/page.asp?id=1748
  4. ^ Aren Cambre’s Blog » Blog Archive » Gas Lamps are Expensive
  5. ^ Vulcan Lighting Gas Light Igniters and Lamps
  6. ^ Gas Lights | Gas Lanterns | Imperial Gas Lights |







Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address
Message