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Today's cities shine brightly at night, illuminated by millions of street lamps, neon signs, and incandescent and fluorescent bulbs burning in the windows of office blocks, apartment buildings, and homes. Indeed, the modern city is in large part defined by this brilliance. In contrast, cities before the end of the 19th century were dominated by shadows and darkness, their oil lamps mostly ineffectual against the night. The introduction of modern lighting technologies in the 1870s--at first natural gas and later electricity--transformed urban life in America and around the world.
This promethean story and its impact on the shape and pace of life in the American city is engagingly recounted by John A. Jakle in City Lights. Jakle reveals how artificial lighting became a dynamic instrument that altered every aspect of the urban landscape and was in turn shaped by the growth of America's automobile culture. He examines the technological and entrepreneurial innovations that made urban illumination possible and then explores the various ways in which artificial lighting was used to enhance -- for reasons of commerce, safety, aesthetics, and mobility -- such public spaces as streets, festivals, world's fairs, amusement parks, landmarks, and business districts. From the corner street lamp to the dazzling display of Broadway's "Great White Way," City Lights offers a lively and informative investigation into the geography of the night.
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An illuminating look at how artificial lighting transformed urban life in AmericaFrom the Publisher:
"Landscapes, as people make and utilize them, change in fundamental ways when natural solar illumination fades with dusk and darkness replaces visibility. Our extant literatures on landscapes largely presume a visible, daylight purview, and yet, depending upon latitude and season, we interact with naturally illuminated landscapes only one-half of each day. John Jakle brings us one of the first systematic, book-length studies of night landscapes. This path-breaking work promises to open an extended scholarly dialogue, almost entirely absent during the past three centuries of evolution in lighting technology and applications, concerning a host of questions that relate to how people have chosen to light the night, and what the consequences of illumination have been."—Karl B. Raitz, University of Kentucky
"This is a novel, path-breaking work that offers an excellent survey of the way lighting technologies have transformed the appearance and activities of the city since the early 19th century." —Kenneth E. Foote, University of Colorado at Boulder
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