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American IlluminationsUrban Lighting, 1800-1920$
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David E. Nye

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780262037419

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262037419.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM MIT PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.mitpress.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright The MIT Press, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in MITSO for personal use.date: 06 April 2020

The United States and Europe

The United States and Europe

(p.61) 3 The United States and Europe
American Illuminations

David E. Nye

The MIT Press

By 1900 there was great disparity between the lighting of American and European cities. The five leading American cities had more than three times the electrical illumination of Paris, London, or Vienna. This chapter examines possible explanations. The contrast was not due to technological differences. Price does not explain it. Gas was somewhat cheaper and more entrenched in Europe, but electricity was more expensive than gas on both sides of the Atlantic. More important was the checkerboard layout of American cities, whose wide, straight streets made installation of new systems easier, and the fact that gas scarcely had any technological momentum in the new, rapidly developing cities in the western half of the US. Furthermore, many Europeans preferred gaslight, which sheds a warmer spectrum of light.

Keywords:   networked city, gas system, electrification, public space, Britain, France, illumination, New York City, General Electric

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