Throwback Thursday: When Dayton's Old Courthouse was first set aglow

“America’s Electrical Week,” a nationwide event, was held in 1916 to spark consumer use of electric devices across the country.

The first electric light was switched on in Dayton in 1883, but more than three decades later, the modern convenience continued to electrify the city in ways never seen before.

The Old Courthouse at the heart of downtown Dayton and Private Fair on top of the Soldier’s Monument at Main and Monument Streets were illuminated for the very first time during that special week in 1916.

A front page story in the Dec. 3, 1916 edition of the Dayton Daily News published a photograph, taken with a 45-minute exposure, of the Old Courthouse lit up by “four great flood light projectors having a capacity of 400,000 candle power.”


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“Pedestrians and autoists – strap-hangers too – were concerned Saturday evening with the unfamiliar appearance of the front of the old court house, which seemed to be illuminated as if the sunlight were falling in streams upon it,” wrote a reporter for the newspaper.

“Those who had the time to investigate the unusual phenomena discovered that the streams of light, or flood of light, rather, proceeded from large projectors which had been placed so as to cast their rays with full intensity on the front side of the court house, as well as on the figure which surmounts the monument.”

“The beauties of both are not usually apparent in the evening, but under the full gleam of the 400,000 candle power flood lights the creations of the architect and the sculptor were displayed in all their glories.”

Local businesses took advantage of the nationwide jolt to post advertisements touting the benefits of electricity.

“Electrical wiring transforms any home, makes it better, brighter happier - takes the drudgery out of woman’s life and gives her more time for recreation and the things she really wants to do,” read an ad for Dayton wiring contractors Wollaston & Waxler.

“Do It Electrically With Delco-Light” was the slogan on an advertisement touting the benefits of “every man’s electric plant” for farm and rural areas of Dayton.

Delco-Light generators could pump water, churn butter, separate cream and furnish “safe, economical electric power to take away the drudgery of farm work,” read the endorsement.

“So simple a child can care for it – thoroughly dependable and trouble proof.”

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