The Street Lamp
iPhoneOgraphy – 16 Aug 2016 (Day 229/366)
A street light, light pole, lamppost, street lamp, light standard, or lamp standard is a raised source of light on the edge of a road or walkway. Modern lamps may also have light-sensitive photocells that activate automatically when light is or is not needed: dusk, dawn, or the onset of dark weather. This function in older lighting systems could have been performed with the aid of a solar dial. Many street light systems are being connected underground instead of wiring from one utility post to another.
Early lamps were used by Greek and Roman civilizations, where light primarily served the purpose of security, both to protect the wanderer from tripping on the path over something or keeping the potential robbers at bay. At that time oil lamps were used predominantly as they provided a long-lasting and moderate flame. The Romans had a word ‘lanternarius’, which was a term for a slave responsible for lighting the oil lamps in front of their villas. This task remained the responsibility of a designated person up to the Middle Ages where the so-called ‘link boys’ escorted people from one place to another through the murky winding streets of medieval towns.
Before incandescent lamps, candle lighting was employed in cities. The earliest lamps required that a lamplighter tour the town at dusk, lighting each of the lamps. According to some sources, illumination was ordered in London in 1417 by Sir Henry Barton, Mayor of London though there is no firm evidence of this.
In 1524, Paris house owners were required to have lanterns with candles lit in front of their houses at night, but the law was often ignored. Following the invention of lanterns with glass windows, which greatly improved the quantity of light, in 1594 the police of Paris took charge of installing lanterns in each city neighborhood. Still, in 1662, it was a common practice for travelers to hire a lantern-bearer if they had to move at night through the dark, winding streets. Lantern bearers were still common in Paris until 1789. In 1667, under King Louis XIV, the royal government began installing lanterns on all the streets. There were three thousand in place by 1669, and twice as many by 1729. Lanterns with glass windows were suspended from a cord over the middle of the street at a height of twenty feet and were placed twenty yards apart. A much-improved oil lantern, called a réverbère, was introduced between 1745 and 1749. These lamps were attached to the top of lampposts; by 1817, there were 4694 lamps on the Paris streets. During the French Revolution (1789-1799), the revolutionaries found that the lampposts were a convenient place to hang aristocrats and other opponents.