Saturday, August 13th, 2011

First Electric Light in New Mexico

The following advertisement from the June 23rd, 1881 Las Vegas Optic newspaper probably documents the VERY FIRST appearance of electric light in New Mexico.
First Electric Light in New Mexico - June 23, 1881
Regarding the electric light shown in the illustration, the advertisement says:

All under the most perfect sun-eclipsing ELECTRIC LIGHTS, which are exclusively used to illuminate the VAST METROPOLIS OF EXHIBITION TENTS.

William Washington Cole, who began his circus in 1871, promoted new technology — “marvels” — in his expositions along with traditional circus acts. The electric light advertised here would have been a Brush Arc Light, which American inventor Charles F. Brush began selling commercially in 1879. Brush had invented the first modern electric dynamo in 1876. One or more of Brush’s dynamos, powered by a steam engine, would have powered Cole’s electric arc lights.

Electric arc lights were quickly shown to be much cheaper than gas, the prevailing technology, and to provide more light. By 1881, Brush had sold over 6,000 arc lights, including the following:

  • 800 lights in rolling mills, steel works, shops, etc.
  • 1,240 lights in woolen, cotton, linen, silk, and other factories
  • 425 lights in large stores, hotels, churches, etc.
  • 250 lights in parks, docks, and summer resorts
  • 275 lights in railroad depots and shops
  • 130 lights in mines, smelting works, etc.
  • 380 lights in factories and establishments of various kinds
  • 1,500 lights in lighting stations, for city lighting, etc.
  • 1,200 lights in England and other foreign countries.

Thomas Edison invented his incandescent light bulb in 1879 which would replace fairly quickly the arc light.

Note that the word “electric” in the advertisement is written with “lightning” characters, a typographic convention evidently already established in 1881.

See also:

The Electric Light

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