This 1901 advertisement for the British branch of the Welsbach Incandescent Gas Light Company features an owl swooping through the dark into the light of a gas mantle streetlight. The owl complains that the light makes night and day alike. It is an interesting precursor to later ecological concerns about the impact of light pollution upon nocturnal animals. It also emphasizes the brightness and efficiency of gas usage as a selling point for incandescent lamps.
In the 1880s, Austrian chemist Carl Auer von Welsbach (1858-1929) created fabric impregnated with thorium and cerium, which glowed incandescently when heated by burning gas. Mantels for gas lamps were the first industrial product to use rare earth elements, and led to an international trade in rare earth ores, especially monazite. Welsbach managed firms around the world that sold gas lamps for lighting streets, homes and businesses, which shaped the visual landscapes that millions of people inhabited from the 1890s into the 1930s.
In the United States, the Welsbach Incandescent Gas Lighting Company had offices on Walnut Street in Philadelphia, and a factory on the Delaware River at Gloucester, New Jersey. Many of the factory workers were women, who sewed the fabric mantels and packed the mantels into packages for sale across the country.
|Place of publication
|Public Domain Mark 1.0
“This Is Too Bad, Makes Night & Day Alike!” Paper (fiber product). London, England: Illustrated London news, September 14, 1901. Science History Institute. Philadelphia. https://digital.sciencehistory.org/works/6etlqg5.
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