Gas lighting

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Gas wall light for interior lighting
Street light in Lübeck 2008, with two leaning bolts for a ladder
Gas lantern in Dublin
Gas lantern in Dresden, January 2004, Käthe-Kollwitz-Ufer , in front of the reconstruction of the street (the gas lanterns were replaced by modern lighting).
Gas lamp for living spaces from Ehrich & Graetz (ceiling mounting on the pipe vertically downwards); Incandescent mantle and lampshade are missing
Post-war gas lantern as it was to be found in almost all residential streets in Frankfurt until the 2010s
Gas lantern with base in Bilbao
The lantern lighter (reading book from 1835, Vienna)

Gas lighting or gas light is artificial light that is created by burning gas (formerly town gas , now natural gas ). The gas is fed through a network of pipes to the luminaires, is in liquid form in a container near the luminaire or is generated in it.

Public gas lighting


Since the beginning of industrialization , the combustion of gas for the further development of traditional lighting has occupied the spirit of research in several European countries. In 1684 the Irish Reverend John Clayton noticed that a combustible gas could be obtained from coal . The same observation was made independently by the Briton Stephen Hales in 1727. The first working gas lamp was put into operation in 1785 in the Netherlands by Johannes Petrus Minckeleers . On September 21, 1799, Philippe Lebon received a patent in Paris for a gas-powered heating lamp ("thermal lamp"). The Scot William Murdoch and his assistant William Clegg were the first to produce illuminating gas on a large scale and also introduced gas lighting in their factories. In 1807/1808 Friedrich Albrecht Winzer succeeded in putting the first gas lanterns into operation for street lighting along Pall Mall , City of Westminster in London. The first gas company , the Chartered Company , was ratified by the British Parliament in 1810. In continental Europe, Wilhelm August Lampadius installed the first gas lamp on his house in Freiberg in 1811 . Since it was operated with an open gas flame without a mantle , it was very faint compared to modern gas lights. In 1816 he set up a facility for generating luminous gas in the Royal Saxon amalgamation plant in Halsbrücke near Freiberg, which was in operation until 1895. In 1817 Josef Johann Prechtl followed in the Polytechnic Institute in Vienna .

The date of the first public gas lighting is April 1, 1814, when oil lamps were replaced by gas lanterns in the London parish of St. Margareths . The new light soon gained general recognition for its benefits. When William Clegg introduced further technical improvements, such as cleaning the gas with milk of lime and a gas measuring device, the new technology began its triumphant advance through the civilized world.

The first municipalities with an independent gas industry on German soil were Hanover and Berlin , which were provided with hard coal gas by the Imperial Continental Gas Association . This company competed with the British gas industry, as did the company founded by Blochmann in Dresden in 1828 . In the same year Schiele and Knoblauch built a gas factory based on oil shale in Frankfurt am Main . Also in 1828, in the village of Burgk near Dresden, a gas generation plant based on local coal mining was put into operation and gas lighting was introduced in the first village in the world.

The new lighting quickly spread all over the world and was celebrated by the residents of the big cities as a technical advance. First, the gas lanterns were lit from lantern lighters. The process was later automated so that the job of lighter lighter was no longer necessary. The lantern lighter played an important role in literature, for example in the book “ The Little Prince ” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry . Despite all its advantages, the gas lighting was still very dim. Only the incandescent mantle , developed by Carl Auer von Welsbach in the late 19th century , multiplied the light output.

Most German cities already stopped using gas lighting in the 1960s. However, gas street lights are still on every night in some German cities - most of them in Berlin (30,000), followed by Düsseldorf (14,000), Frankfurt am Main (5,700), Mainz (<100) and Dresden (around 1600, mostly in historic districts ). The last lights in Essen were dismantled in 2009 when the Burgplatz was redesigned . It was a collection of different gas lights from different European cities. The last gas lamps in Augsburg are still in operation today in the Augsburg Fuggerei .

Gas lighting in Vienna

Around 45,000 gas lamps were recorded in Vienna around 1913. In 1920 the transition to electric street lighting began, for which economic reasons - the operation of a gas lamp resulted in costs averaging 1,300 schillings , while the electrical operation only required 310 schillings a year - and the light output - the electric lighting was three times the brightness - were decisive. Nevertheless, it would be more than 40 years before the last Viennese gas lamp went out. In Hietzing , Döbling , Floridsdorf and Favoriten , 4,836 gas lanterns combined to form “gas islands” were still in operation in 1957. It took until November 27, 1962, 4 p.m., before City Councilor Karl Lakowitsch put out the last Viennese gas lamp during a ceremony in Sauraugasse in Hietzing and an electric street light was switched on by Mayor Franz Jonas . Inspired by a song by Heinz Conrads , there was a real rush for the no longer needed gas lanterns, which were sold by the Vienna gasworks for scrap prices of 700 to 2000 schillings. Within a very short time, more than 2000 pieces of the mostly Art Nouveau lanterns were sold, with prominent names such as Gusti Wolf , Susi Nicoletti , Hans Moser or Hugo Gottschlich on the list of buyers. Viennese gas lamps were even exported to the USA, owned by Lotte Lehmann , to Japan , Italy , France and Spain . The northernmost Vienna gas lantern was found in Norway north of the Arctic Circle , while the southernmost was found in South Africa . According to sales reports, Viennese lanterns were even exported to South American countries.

For and against

There used to be no alternative to gas lighting because electrical lighting was either technically not available or not fully developed. The power grid was also not available across the board. The light output of a gas lamp is approx. 5 lm / W and is therefore on a par with that of an incandescent lamp, although the incandescent lamp requires considerably more expensive electrical power. However, in comparison with today's electrical light sources (gas discharge lamp, light-emitting diode - each well over 50 lm / W), the efficiency of a gas lamp is low and accordingly the primary energy requirement is considerably higher despite the conversion and transmission losses in the power grid.

The costs of gas lighting are, however, a multiple of the electrical lighting with gas discharge lamps or LED lights , mainly because of the higher maintenance requirements . Incandescent mantles have a lifespan of 4000 hours, which is also less than the lifespan of gas discharge lamps or even LED lamps.

In Berlin, for example, after a long period of planning in 2011, it was decided to completely replace the 44,000 gas lights at the time with electrical lighting.

In 2018, however, there were more than 30,000 gas lamps in operation in Berlin.

In Düsseldorf, Frankfurt am Main, Dresden and Mainz, too, there were considerations to abolish gas lighting.

In 2009, Düsseldorf campaigned for the preservation of gas lanterns, as the city considers the continuous light spectrum and the originality that characterizes the cityscape to be worth preserving, especially in historic and older districts.

In principle, gas light is flicker-free and is not affected by power cuts - the long-distance gas network and storage facilities buffer regional and seasonal fluctuations in production and consumption.

Prague and Warsaw are also renewing and modernizing their gas lamps. In Prague gas lighting had largely disappeared in 1985 and in 2011 still consists of around 500 automatically igniting lanterns.

Function, technology and variants

Today gas lights are operated almost exclusively with a mantle. The mantle converts the chemical energy of the fuel directly into light and such lamps are therefore much more efficient than flames and incandescent lamps.

Public room

Gas lanterns for public lighting were switched on and off or ignited by hand until around 1939. Ignition clocks were later developed that switched on and off at fixed times, but had to be wound up on a weekly basis . Remote ignition was already available from 1936. A pressure wave generated by the gas supplier is used for the control. For this purpose, a mechanism operated by membranes is housed in each lantern, which switches over with each pressure wave. The pressure was z. B. increased for about 3 ... 5 minutes from 13 mbar to about 21 mbar, so that it was present in the entire pipe network.

The gas lights had a permanently burning pilot flame - only the main valve was remote-controlled.

Today's gas lights in public spaces are no longer remotely controlled, but each have their own electrical ignition and valve control that works depending on daylight. The energy source is a battery or a solar cell with a rechargeable battery. Like modern gas stoves, the devices have a flame sensor to prevent gas from escaping if the ignition fails.

House lighting

Gas lights were also used on and in residential buildings and rooms. Like the gas stoves, they were fed from the gas network, hung from the ceiling or were mounted on the wall and had a shut-off valve that could be operated by means of two small chains and that was attached directly to the lamp in the pipe that fed and at the same time carried it. In old townhouses, outlets of a flush-mounted gas pipe installation with typically 20-30 mm outside diameter can still be seen, especially in house passages and corridors.

Mobile gas lights

When camping , gas lamps are common, which get their gas from gas bottles or attached gas cartridges . It is a liquid propane / butane mixture. Due to the reduced boiling, these lights or other devices operated with cartridges are no longer functional in severe frost, depending on the gas mixture ratio propane to butane.

So-called high - intensity lamps do not have this disadvantage, but they have to be ignited with greater effort; they work with liquid fuels such as gasoline or kerosene, which must first evaporate in a pipe heated by the flame or in a sleeve. The evaporator must first be preheated using an open flame. The fuel is pumped out of the tank by pressure using a small hand air pump.

Carbide lamps

The carbide lamp is a mobile gas lamp that is of almost no importance today . It works without a mantle - only the carbon-rich, hot flame lights up due to the soot particles when the ethine produced in the lamp burns . The gas is created by hand-dosed addition of water to a carbide supply. Carbide lamps were used for vehicle lighting and in underground mining . Today it is only used in caving or in developing countries.

Two outflow openings of a ceramic nozzle directed at an angle to each other (gas throughput approx. 14 liters / hour) result in a 2 ... 4 cm² large flat flame, which geometrically preferably shines in two opposite horizontal directions. It is therefore well suited, for example, for double-sided internal lighting of the signal lantern of a railway switch or as vehicle lighting that protrudes from the side.

Small nickel-plated carbide lamps were made for bicycles and assembled from wire and sheet metal parts by means of a spring-loaded parallelogram to avoid bumps. Vibrations would have caused the unintentional injection of water into the gas generator space and, as a result, excessive gas development. Carbide lamps from WWII are made of Bakelite, brass and aluminum and have glass windows and a glass arched mirror in the lantern housing. With an estimated 120 g of granular carbide filling and 100 ml of water in the tank, the lamp can be operated for about 8 hours.

Gas lantern open-air museum Berlin

In 1978 the Senate Department for Building, Housing and Transport opened the gas lantern open-air museum in cooperation with Gasag (Berliner Gaswerke Aktiengesellschaft). The exhibition is located in the immediate vicinity of the Tiergarten S-Bahn station , currently (2009) contains 90 exhibits from 25 German and 11 other European cities, making it the largest in Europe. The museum is scientifically supervised by the light working group on behalf of the German Museum of Technology in Berlin .


The De Monn memorial with da long stong on the old market in Dudweiler is a reminder of the earlier gas lighter.

In the political poem Der Revoluzzer by Erich Mühsam , written in 1907, gas lamps play a central role.

See also


  • Hilmar Bärthel: The history of the gas supply in Berlin. A chronicle. Published by GASAG, Berliner Gaswerke, Aktiengesellschaft. Nicolai, Berlin 1997, ISBN 3-87584-630-3 .
  • Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin: Fire and flame for Berlin. 170 years of gas in Berlin. 150 years of municipal gas works. Nicolai, Berlin 1997, ISBN 3-87584-641-9 ( series of publications by the German Museum of Technology Berlin 16).
  • David Gledhill: Gas Lighting. 2nd edition. Shire, Princes Risborough 1999, ISBN 0-7478-0394-3 ( Shire Album 65).
  • Hans Heckmann, Herbert Liman, Sabine Röck: The gas lantern open-air museum Berlin. (A museum guide). Published by the German Museum of Technology Berlin and the LICHT working group of the friends and sponsors of the German Museum of Technology Berlin. Deutsches Technikmuseum, Berlin 2007, available in the bookshop of the Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin.
  • W. Licht: 100 years of Berlin gas lighting. In: light and lamp. 15, 1926, ZDB -ID 545083-4 , pp. 341-342.
  • Herbert Liman: More light. History of Berlin street lighting. Haude & Spener, Berlin 2000, ISBN 3-7759-0429-8 .
  • Erich Mulzer : The lanterns of the oil and gas lighting in Nuremberg's old town. In: Nuremberg Old Town Reports. Issue 2, 1977, ZDB -ID 539461-2 , pp. 47-61.
  • Wolfgang Schivelbusch : Bright spots. On the history of artificial brightness in the 19th century. Hanser, Munich et al. 1983, ISBN 3-446-13793-9 .

Web links

Commons : Gas Lights  - Collection of Pictures, Videos and Audio Files
Wiktionary: gas lighting  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Radio feature WDR- ZeitZeichen on September 21, 2009
  2. Gas lamps in Berlin (as of December 2018) at, accessed on December 29, 2018
  3. Is there a motorway sign for the Düsseldorf gas lamps? , Westdeutsche Zeitung from August 31, 2018
  4. Mainova Group 2007 Annual Report ( Memento from December 19, 2010 in the Internet Archive )
  5. MAINZ - HAPPY END FOR A PAIR OF GUEST LIGHTS? , The ignition spark number 65, issue 3–4 / 2016, ProGaslicht eV, accessed on January 5, 2019
  6. Nico Wolf: FOUR FRIENDS AND ONE GRANDIOSE IDEA - THE ESSEN LATERNENMUSEUM. In: The ignition spark 01-2015. pro Gaslicht eV, January 25, 2015, accessed on October 22, 2019 .
  7. Die Gaslaternen light , Stadtwerke Augsburg, accessed on September 9, 2019
  8. Vienna City Hall correspondence of March 23, 1968: Old gas lanterns as Viennese souvenirs - gas works still sell around 100 candelabra at the scrap price.
  9. ^ Austria / gas lanterns: sell-out in romance . In: Der Spiegel . No. 15 , 1962, pp. 80-81 ( online - 11 April 1962 ).
  10. ^ DIE ZEIT from January 15, 2009
  11. Tagesspiegel from April 9, 2008
  12. Stadtbild Berlin, light concept ( Memento from April 13, 2014 in the Internet Archive ). (PDF; 20.9 MB)
  13. Hellmut von Laer: Capital City Illumination: Save Berlin's Gas Lanterns! In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung . June 20, 2015, accessed February 15, 2018 .
  14. company publication of BRAUN Lighting Solutions eK, accessed on January 16, 2020
  15. ^ Christine Holthoff: Düsseldorf council decides on gas lanterns in December. In: Neue Rhein Zeitung . October 23, 2015, accessed February 15, 2018 .
  16. FNP of March 29, 2014
  17. Allgemeine Zeitung of June 16, 2014
  18. ^ NRZ of August 22, 2009
  19. Markéta Kachlíková: The lamp keeper lights gas lanterns on the Charles Bridge. Contribution to Radio Prag International on November 26, 2011, accessed on January 16, 2020
  20. a b c The remote ignition , article by the Gaswerkfreunde Augsburg eV association, accessed on January 16, 2020
  21. Company brochure of Braun® Lighting Solutions eK, Berlin: Switchgear for gas lights BS-N 5: Installation instructions and functionality , accessed on January 16, 2020
  22. company publication of naturzeit GmbH & Co. KG on gas cartridges, accessed on January 16, 2020