Wednesday 28th January 1807
Pall Mall in London became the first street in Britain to be illuminated by gaslight. Street lighting itself was nothing new. For centuries, citizens were required to hang out lanterns or keep lights burning in windows that faced the streets. The new street gaslights were based on a patent by German Frederick Albert Winzer, who had developed and patented in 1804 a method of gas lighting fueled by the burning of coal, a technology he lectured on and demonstrated that same year at London’s Lyceum Theater. Earlier fuels included olive oil, beeswax, fish oil, and whale oil. Linzer followed the lighting of Pall Mall with a special exhibition later that year in honor of the birthday of King George III, using gaslight to superimpose images against the walls of the buildings along his street.The use of gaslight quickly took off. By 1823, the first public gas company, the Gas Light and Coke Co., had covered 215 miles of London’s streets with 40,000 lamps. Gaslight remained the primary means of street illumination in Europe and North America throughout the 19th century. Although they’ve been pretty much replaced by electric lighting, some gaslights remain, usually in the historic districts of older cities. (n the United States, gaslit neighborhoods can still be found in Boston, Cincinnati and New Orleans.