Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
American IlluminationsUrban Lighting, 1800-1920$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

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

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM MIT PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.mitpress.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright The MIT Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in MITSO for personal use.date: 20 May 2022

Commercial Landscape

Commercial Landscape

(p.133) 6 Commercial Landscape
American Illuminations

David E. Nye

The MIT Press

Painted advertising signs were common in the eighteenth century, supplemented by illuminated gas signs in the nineteenth century. But electric signs proved ideal for commercial lighting, because they were available in a wider range of colors and could achieve illusions of movement, while being impervious to rain and wind. At first, businesses used small signs and lighted windows, but by the 1890s corporations erected enormous signs to advertise mass produced goods in city centers. Spectacular lighting technologies also were used by mass entertainment venues and department stores, creating a lively downtown. Amusement parks, emerging out of the exposition midways, developed a similar aesthetic, which contradicted both the harmonious designs of world’s fairs and the quieter, even lighting of “moonlight towers.” Starting in 1907 skyscrapers also began to be illuminated, functioning as giant advertisements for both the corporations that owned them and the private enterprise system that the new urban lighting embodied. The Woolworth Building epitomized these developments, and was dubbed “the cathedral of commerce.” Skyscrapers adopted some special effects, but seeking to retain neo-classical dignity.

Keywords:   advertising, signs, commercial lighting, nightlife, skyscrapers, Woolworth Building, Great White Way, amusement park, New York, London

MIT Press Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs, and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us.