American History: Improved Methods of Outdoor Street Lighting

Roanoke, Va.'s residents saw a dramatic difference when the city installed mercury vapor street lights.

Dark streets are unsafe and unattractive, and as improved methods of outdoor street lighting became available in the 1950s, city leaders moved to deploy them. In the March 1951 edition of The American City, officials from Detroit to Philadelphia to Honolulu described programs to bring new light to their city.

In American City & County's new blog, "American History," veteran journalist Larry Conley covers the beginning of city street lighting. For example, in Philadelphia, officials installed more than nine miles of the latest mercury-vapor lights. They were the first street lights to be owned and maintained by the city, with most of Philadelphia's street lighting at the time provided by a private company....