When and how were lanterns invented

History of Berlin gas lighting

Gaslight Culture e.V.

Origins. It is not surprising that the technology for serial lighting of public roads with gas first matured in Great Britain, the birthplace of the industrial revolution. The Scottish inventor William Murdoch and his assistant William Clegg set up the first gas lamps on Pall Mall in London in 1807. When Clegg later introduced improvements such as cleaning the gas with milk of lime and a gas measuring device, the technology spread across the board. In the German-speaking countries, Hanover - at that time closely linked to the monarchy of England - was the first to adopt the new type of lighting, followed shortly by Berlin. The London-based Imperial Continental Gas Association (I.C.G.A.) supplies gas to cities across Europe through its branches. Berlin, for example, obtained its gas from the British I.C.G.A. gas works for almost eighty years, from 1826 to 1904. in Berlin, but no longer alone from 1847: In this year the municipal gas company is founded and the I.C.G.A. from.



Gasopolis. In the 19th century Berlin not only developed at a rapid pace into a political and cultural metropolis, but also into a European center of gas lighting, the "Gasopolis": The city itself is completely gas-lit, and numerous companies in the gas supply industry are also based here Many important inventions in gas lighting technology come from here, such as the pressure wave remote igniter, compressed gas lighting or the gas series lamp. Evidence of this era are, for example, the gasometers in Schöneberg and in Kreuzberger Fichtestrasse or the small, former administration building in Gitschiner Strasse 22 at the Prinzenstrasse underground station. There, on the area south of the elevated railway, where the Prinzenbad is located today, the headquarters of the I.C.G.A. were still located around 1900. and a solid masonry gasometer.



History of gas lighting in Berlin. The first gas lanterns in the Berlin area shone in 1826 in the street Unter den Linden. Back then, the light came from a palm-sized open gas flame from a so-called cut burner and was quite weak compared to today, but at the time people were enthusiastic about its brightness.

The "mantle" used today, invented by Carl Auer von Welsbach in 1885, was not used until 1894. The heat of combustion causes a gauze fabric soaked in various substances to glow - hence the title "stocking" - which brings significantly more brightness. Initially standing on the floor of the lantern, the mantles were then used from 1905 - as is customary today - hanging, which enabled the construction of so-called hanging lights.

The compressed gas lighting invented in Berlin in 1907, in which the gas was supplied under increased pressure, brought about a further increase in brightness. This innovation, which was subsequently introduced across Europe, was reserved for main roads due to its separate gas network; Due to the destruction of the war and the electrification of many main streets, this technology only existed in Berlin until the 1960s.

Another innovation in Berlin made all lantern lighters superfluous due to its widespread introduction as early as 1925: the pressure wave remote igniter invented in 1905, by means of which the lanterns could be switched centrally with the help of pressure increases in the entire gas pipeline network.

The number of gas lanterns in Berlin rose steadily - it reached its highest level with 88,000 lanterns before the Second World War. There were only 22,000 electric lanterns.

After the reconstruction, there were still more than 70,000 gas lamps in Berlin. Thanks to the widespread introduction of new forms of luminaire, Berlin gas lighting in the western part of the city was able to keep pace with the development of electrical lighting in the 1950s - initially with the introduction of the top-mounted luminaire developed in the 1920s, which used most of the hexagonal luminaires still predominant at the time the so-called model lights or Schinkel lights - replaced from 1952 with the innovative gas row light on the whip pole developed in Berlin the year before, which is equal in light intensity to the electric linear light and was set up in numerous main traffic and collecting streets instead of the gas lanterns there .

In the eastern part of the city, less was invested in gas lighting, but here too the model lights were replaced by new post-top lights, and new concrete pole shapes were constructed for hanging and post-top lights. However, from the 1960s onwards, electricity was replaced across the board, and even more so from 1977 when the switch to natural gas began, so that by 1990 only about 1,200 of the original 26,800 gas lamps existed.

In the western part, too, gas lighting has been replaced by electric lighting in some of the streets since the late 1960s, especially in the inner city area and in selected districts (Schöneberg / Friedenau, Heiligensee / Konradshöhe, Wannsee, Mariendorf, Britz), but the ones that had become vacant Gas lanterns mostly set up again in other streets to densify the existing stock, so that their total number only decreased slightly. In 1990 there were around 42,000 gas lamps here.

In 1989 and 1992, respectively, it was decided to keep the Berlin gas lighting in principle.

The nationwide introduction of modern twilight switches in connection with the complete conversion to natural gas operation by 1995 brought a comprehensive modernization push, often combined with the installation of additional lanterns to reduce the mast spacing, especially in the eastern part of the city. An electric igniter replaces the pilot flame, minicomputers react individually to the specific brightness with the help of a light sensor, detect misfires and, if necessary, automatically trigger follow-up ignitions. For several years now, they have been operated in the most modern form with electricity from solar cells that capture daylight on the roof and the light under the lantern, which it emits at night! So this is where tomorrow's technology works. In addition, the gas pipeline network was extensively renovated. Some streets that were newly built around the year 2000 were even equipped with new gas lamps; a modern gas lantern shape, the cylinder lamp, was specially developed for this purpose. In 2009 there were almost 44,000 gas lamps in Berlin.

Unfortunately, there have been efforts since 2005 to completely replace Berlin's gas lanterns with electric street lighting. This was preceded in 2002 by the privatization of gas lamp maintenance and in 2004 by the relocation of mantle production, which has always been based in Berlin, to India. In 2009 it was decided to demolish the gas row lights, which started on a large scale in 2012 and is to be completed in 2015. Since 2011 the plan has been to remove all Berlin gas lanterns by 2020. In June 2014, as part of a pilot project, the replacement of around 600 top-mounted lights with LED-powered replicas began, but no funds have yet been approved for a Berlin-wide conversion.

It is thanks to the commitment of many associations and initiatives, such as the organizations united in the Gaslicht ist Berlin action alliance, international organizations such as Europa Nostra and WMF, as well as the citizen protests in the form of petitions, resident applications and demonstrations, that it was decided in 2014, at least a small part of the Gas lanterns - 3,300 lanterns, i.e. 7.5% of the inventory from 2009 - to be preserved in important monument areas. In addition, Berlin's gas lanterns are now on the red list of the most threatened cultural assets - together with Venice or the citadel of Aleppo - and a report confirms their potential as a world cultural heritage!

At the beginning of 2015 there were a good 36,000 gas lamps in Berlin, around 1,800 of them in the eastern part. In many districts, gas lighting still accounts for 75% and more - in Frohnau, Hermsdorf, Grunewald, Schmargendorf, Dahlem, Nikolassee, Lichterfelde and Lichtenrade. Even in the inner-city districts of Wedding, Tiergarten and Charlottenburg, around 70% of the streets are gas-lit.

There are around 70,000 gas lanterns around the world. You don't have to be very good at math to understand: Over half of them are in Berlin! Berlin is the world metropolis of gas lighting, has more gas lamps than all other cities in the world combined!


Basic types. A fascination of Berlin gas lighting is its relatively clear structure. Today there are only five basic types. The historically oldest form is (a) the model lamp, introduced in 1893/94. Their shape goes back to designs by Karl Friedrich Schinkel. The original model lights had a floor-standing light burner, after the introduction of the hanging light bulb they were 2-burner, i.e. equipped with two incandescent mantles. In the 1950s they were converted to the 4-lamp variant that is widespread today, but mostly replaced by the new top-mounted lights. There are still around 1,200 pieces, especially in Charlottenburg in the districts south of the palace, in Spandau's old town or around Kreuzberg's Chamissoplatz.

(B) Pendant lights have been installed since 1905; they achieved their greatest distribution in the 1920s to 1950s. Because of the higher position of the light point above the road, they are also suitable for busy streets. The type BAMAG A11, which is predominantly used today, has been in use in the western part of the city since the 1940s.

The (c) top-mounted luminaire, developed in the 1930s, is the most widespread and defining the cityscape. Many Berliners who have been away from home have their characteristic silver bonnets to this day, clearly showing that they are back home. There are around 30,000 pieces in all of the western districts.

A Berlin innovation from 1951 were (d) the row lights, which are so called because their incandescent mantles (four, six or nine) are arranged in a row in a stair-like manner, which achieves optimum brightness. Mounted on whip poles, they illuminate collecting roads and smaller main roads in West Berlin. Until a few years ago, there were still 8,000 pieces, but their number is rapidly dwindling, because they are said to be the first to disappear from the cityscape. There are not even 1,000 pieces today.

A modern form that was newly developed around the year 2000 is the (e) cylinder lamp. Of the almost 100 pieces, most are in the Havelblick development in Gatow, which was opened up after 2000, e.g. in Jürgen-Schramm-Straße.



Mast shapes: architecture in the street space. The gas lanterns shape urban space not only because of their light and their characteristic light heads, but also - as a building - because of their masts. And there is lively diversity here. The classic and at the same time standard for post-top and model lights is the bundle pillar mast, which bears this name because several struts appear to be bundled into one mast in it. It exists in different forms. In addition, there are multi-armed cast-iron jewelry candelabra for the model lamp and various pole shapes made of steel for the top-mounted lamp, as well as poles made of plastic and occasionally even concrete. The most varied, however, are the pendant lights: there are gallows-like and bishop-like decorative masts from 1905, bundle pillar masts with decorative attachments from around 1910, steel masts with a cast base from the 1920s and steel masts from 1930 to today. Even the whip-shaped row lamp mast - which was originally developed for gas lighting and was later adopted by the electrical industry - exists in eight different versions.



Witness of division. Criticism can often be heard in Berlin today that the wall was torn down too quickly and too radically after 1989. Tourists wander around in search of relics, but apart from East Side Gallery and Bernauer Straße, they can hardly find any authentic parts of the Wall. Anyone who tears off Berlin's gas lighting blurs another evidence of division. On satellite images you can clearly see that the city is still lit differently today. In the eastern part, the extensive demolition of gas lighting began as early as the 1960s and was almost completed in 1989. This was mainly a consequence of the lack of hard coal from which the gas was produced in the GDR - lignite is unsuitable for gas production. In the western part, on the other hand, the gas lighting was largely retained. After the blockade shock of 1948, it was vital for West Berlin to be as independent as possible of the East in terms of energy. The island city was dependent on electricity supplies from the GDR, especially from Lusatia. On the other hand, the raw material for gas generation, hard coal, can be easily stored. The gas street lighting therefore not only tells directly about the history of technology, but also indirectly about the political history of this city.