Forgotten History – Moonlight towers

The excellent Low-tech Magazine has a fascinating article on moonlight towers.

In the early days of electric street lighting it was difficult and expensive to install street lamps similar to those we know now. Instead, many cities installed moonlight towers. These were towers fitted with several powerful  electric arc lamps.  The light from these towers  could light areas several thousand feet in diameter. Some of the towers were as much as 90 metres [300 feet] high.  The light intensity was apparently about equal to moonlight, hence the name for the towers.

Some European cities had them, but they were more common in US cities [Detroit had 122].  Austin, Texas installed its towers partly in response  to the actions of a serial killer called the Servant Girl Annihilator.
Lighting technology advanced and moonlight towers started to disappear. Now only Austin still has some of its original towers, and San Jose has a single replica.
I have read a fair bit of history but had never heard of these.  Nor have I read about them in novels or seen them portrayed in films [with the exception of the 1993 film Dazed and Confused which featured one of the Austin towers].   A moonlight tower would seem so strange to our eyes that I am surprised that some film maker has not managed to incorporate them into an historical film.
I find it fascinating that things that were once so  common have so completely disappeared from modern memory.

Leave a comment

Filed under History

Comments welcome

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s