The electrification of cities and public lighting has been a challenge and an improvement for all societies.

We are going to talk today is the coal or arc lamp.

It was very important in the nineteenth century , since they were the first streetlights used on public roads.

The arc lamp was the first form of lighting that worked on electricity.  It was already developed in 1810 by Sir Humphry Davy and the bulb was therefore more than 50 years ahead. It was instantly accepted as a good idea and a good replacement of expensive gas lamps with cheap electricity. Over the time, various types of arc developed. A lot of the arc lamps were later supplanted by other types of lighting, and it would really be wrong to forget them, because they have done of about a half century of faithful service.

The arc Lamp: Use

Despite the imperfections were nevertheless necessary applications for the arc lamp. That was because the long distance was the strongest light that was available. Because of the fumes it was mostly for outdoor lighting. The applications were:

  • Lighting of factory and railroad yards .
  • As street lighting . This is done to a limited extent and only in the early 20th century. Previously it was not possible to use arc lamp on the street because there was no electricity grids. Apart from that it was clumsy for streetlights that the carbons after 6 hours had to be replaced again. Therefore they were only used where more light than average.
  • In optical systems such as fire towers and spotlights in theaters. The arc lamp was particularly suitable for use with lamps that were reinforced with mirrors or lenses, because it delivers a high light supply from a small plane
  • In combination with a so-called portable . The Locomobile was a portable steam plant where it could be generated. It consisted of a boiler with a steam engine and dynamo, such was also used to farm machinery to drive them.


The different types of arc lamps were used since other sources were much weaker. Eventually, sooner or later they’re all replaced. Or electric lights, from World War II, by discharge, such as the Xenon lamp. Eventually the oldest lighthouses still continue to use arc lamps. Some lighthouses were replaced only in the 80s of last century. Often thought that a gas discharge arc lamp, but the effect is still significantly different. It is true that in using the arc lamp clearly a predecessor of the gas discharge.