Author Jane Brox traces our progress from the stone lamps that originally illuminated the creation of the Lascaux cave paintings to the incandescent and fluorescent bulbs that brightened two World Fairs: the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago and the New York World’s Fair in 1939. Both of these Fairs gave glimpses of fantastic and not-too-distant futures when light and power would be readily available for everyone.
|English Regency Argand Chandelier, c. 1820, from Marvin Alexander, Ltd. in New York City|
|Sea View of Cape Poge Lighthouse, c.1840-49, by Charles Hubbard from the Smithsonian American Art Museum|
I’m not sure there is one answer to the problems of energy efficiency and pollution. But I do think all of us are much more aware of the issues each and every time we switch on our favorite lamp. Perhaps it all comes back to our idea of light and the flame. Incandescent bulbs were developed as a better candle. And Jane writes “such stubborn fondness for the age of incandescence is more than simply nostalgia. It’s testimony to how much incandescent light has meant, and how perfectly suited it still seems to be, to modern life: the steady, brilliant light of a speeding century… versatile, dependable, and economical (and in the end, democratic)… “old-fashioned” bulbs still shed a more satisfactory light than anything yet developed to replace them”.