General Lighting

Lighting at the Pan-American Exposition

The Pan-American Exposition was held on 342 acres in Buffalo, New York from May to November 1901. The exposition featured educational exhibits showcasing the latest advancements in technology, with electricity and electric lighting being a major feature. Below is a photo of a street light used at the Exposition.


A number of the Exposition buildings, including the prominent Electric Tower, were covered in incandescent light bulbs—a relatively modern invention at the time. At dusk, more than two million light bulbs were turned on simultaneously, producing an incredible display. The Electric Tower was the highlight of the Exposition, attracting the attention of millions of people who visited in the summer.  Apparently, even Theodore Roosevelt raved about the tower when he returned to Washington.

Walter Hines Page, the editor of the Atlantic Monthly, saw the Electric Tower as an “epiphanous achievement, a masterpiece of human skill, a monument to the genius of man.” With hundreds of thousands of bulbs, and each one using approximately 100 watts, the amount of energy required would have been astounding. Today’s individual LED chips use as few as 2 watts of energy, proving the immense progress that the lighting industry has made!

If they were alive now, what would Page and Roosevelt think about today’s lighting technology?

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