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Power StrugglesScientific Authority and the Creation of Practical Electricity Before Edison$
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Michael Brian Schiffer

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780262195829

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: August 2013

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262195829.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM MIT PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.mitpress.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright The MIT Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in MITSO for personal use.date: 26 October 2021

A Thousand Points of Light

A Thousand Points of Light

(p.239) 18 A Thousand Points of Light
Power Struggles

Michael Brian Schiffer

The MIT Press

This chapter describes the earliest electrical lighting system of the U.S. government’s Capitol building. The dome of the Capitol building was decorated with frescoes of American history, which, during the daytime, were illuminated with the light from numerous windows. However, there was an urgent need to illuminate these frescoes at night because the light of a chandelier was not enough to illuminate every corner of the dome. This had to be done by a number of gas lights placed along the periphery of the dome. To overcome the challenge of manually lighting all the gas lamps, Samuel Gardiner invented an electric gas lighter that functioned on the rules of a telegraph key: one key of the lighter released gas, and the second key ignited the released gas.

Keywords:   electrical lighting system, U.S. government, Capitol building, frescoes, Samuel Gardiner, gas lighter

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