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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

History Of Lebanon's First Lighting Facilities

Dallas Bogan on 14 September 2004
original article by Dallas Bogan
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We in our modern ways tend to just flip on a switch for our lighting, but it was not always this way. In this article we shall discuss the first lighting facilities in Lebanon.
The Lebanon pioneers early lighting methods consisted mainly of oil lamps burning animal oils.
The candle has its origins traced back to ancient Egypt in which they were depicted on the Pharoh's tombs as being held overhead in dish-light holders.
The tallow candle in the home of the first settlers was a great improvement over the burning of animal oils. The oil lamp was cheaper, but the candle had its advantages; it could be carried more easily and it gave off less smoke.
In the homes of the more prosperous citizens, candles were placed in decorated and fashionable brass or silver candleholders. If one were to entertain at a party, or arrange a wedding of sorts, this type of candleholder would be borrowed from the neighbors for the occasion.
Private residences, church services, and public meetings were all lighted by candlelight. An old saying, "at early candle light," meant the announcement of a night meeting.
The Presbyterian Church of Lebanon held its first services in the old courthouse before its church was erected. David Montfort, on April 2, 1817, was licensed to preach the ministry; services were held in the old courthouse and lighted by candles.
The Mechanics Institute was newly organized in 1834-35. Two meetings were advertised for each week, one for a lecture, and the other for debate. The gatherings were held in the old town hall on Broadway.
The treasurer's report shows that the only expense in lighting the hall was in the requisition of candles. The first winter the treasurer paid out $3.25 for candles at 12 1/2 cents per pound. Other expenses for lighting included 50 cents for one pair of candlesticks and 25 cents for one pair of candlesnuffers.
Petroleum products came into being shortly before the Civil War. The first oil used in lamps in this time period produced a certain brightness to the lamps, but an extremely offensive odor was given off. Short time later newer oil refinement procedures were discovered.
At this time it was considered by far the best illuminating oil in the world.
The use of the coal oil lamp replaced all other oil burning lamps and greatly decreased the use of the candle.
Street lighting never came into existence until more than half a century after Lebanon was founded. The progressive operation of artificial streetlights was by gasoline lamps, coal gas, incandescent lights and arc electric lights. A time element of almost ten years divided the methods.
The first attempt to bring a street lighting system into Lebanon was on May 3, 1869. An experiment to purchase ten gasoline lamps to be mounted on oak posts nine feet high was given the O.K. by the town council. Gasoline was a cheap product in those days.
Additional lamps and posts were soon ordered and the streets were reasonably well lighted. The town lamp lighter began his rounds of filling and lighting the lamps in a one-horse wagon long before sundown.
Gas works were put into operation in 1879 and the streets were lighted with coal gas.
An electric light plant was built in 1889 and the streets were lighted with incandescent electric lights placed on the lampposts. Lebanon was one of the first towns in Ohio to use this lighting system for street lighting; other towns used arc lights.
In 1898 incandescent lights were replaced by electric lights. On June 28 of that year the town voted for a sum of $20,000 in bonds for the purchase of a new electric light plant. The citizens voted more than ten to one for the new municipal plant.
Possibly the reason for this move was that the town already had a water works and the voters thought both should be run by the town.
On June 3rd, 1913, another item was placed on the ballot requesting that the town purchase and operate the existing gas works. The vote was three to one in favor of buying. At this time it was likely that no other municipality in Ohio had owned so many public utilities.
Another milestone in the annals of town lighting was voted for on July 8, 1919. A special election was set up with the question of issuing bonds to the amount of $120,000 for a new electric light plant. The vote cast was: yes, 491; no, 28. The new plant was put into operation on Sunday, July 20, 1921.

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This page created 14 September 2004 and last updated 28 September, 2008
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