Electrical Illumination at The Pan-American Exposition

By Edward Hale Brush
Scientific American Supplement, January 19, 1901

There is much interest among electricians and that part of the public which gives attention to the progress of science generally in the electrical illumination to be effected at the forthcoming Pan-American Exposition at Buffalo. Much in the way of beautiful and sensational and novel effects in illumination has been promised. The test recently made of the lighting scheme for the Exposition shows that the prophecies made were not too alluring, for the success of the scheme is seen to be even beyond expectation

Now that one of the magnificent buildings, that of Machinery and Transportation, has been covered with countless lamps, which at night can be made to glow with a rich and soft radiance, a foretaste is given of what the grand ensemble will be when all the buildings surrounding the Court of Fountains, including the stately Electric Tower, are thus equipped and the electric current is turned on for their illumination.

The great advance made in methods of electric lighting during the past decade renders it possible to effect an illumination at the Pan-American more beautiful, more glorious, more wonderful, than anything heretofore conceived or even dreamed of by the human imagination, unless in flights of poetic fancy describing the divine illumination of the New Jerusalem.

A method has been devised for turning on the lights at this Exposition in Buffalo whereby the strength of the light is gradually increased, until the full candle power of the lamps is reached. From a glow that is scarcely perceptible the electric energy is increased in force until the extreme of brilliancy is reached.

This almost imperceptible increase in the power of the lights as they are turned on will constitute one of the charming effects of the whole scheme, of which the visitor will never tire. Mr. Henry Rustin, Chief of the Electrical and Mechanical Bureau, and his associates are studying to make a brilliant success of this feature of the Exposition. Mr. Rustin obtained some valuable experience in this field while in charge of the lighting effects at the Omaha Exposition.

The idea should not obtain that this illumination is to be of the nature of a fierce, dazzling glare of strong light from arc lamps. On the contrary, the lighting will be so soft and agreeable that while pleasing in the extreme the sensation experienced in viewing the illuminations will not produce any effect such as one gets in trying to look at too strong a light. This desirable end will be attained through the use of the incandescent lamp as the unit, in place of the arc light. At other expositions arc lights or large units of gas or kerosene lamps have been used,and consequently it was not possible to produce the thorough diffusion of light which will be attained at the Pan-American Exposition by the use of well distributed small units. Instead of a few intense points of light, there will be myriads of these small but nevertheless powerful incandescent lamps outlining the towers, pavilions, caves, and other exposed points of the principal buildings surrounding the Court of Fountains. Upon and about the Electric Tower the lights will be, of course, most brilliant and glorious, while the basin in front of the Tower, the cascade falling into it from a height of 70 feet, and the basin of the Court of Fountains, with its fountains and cascades, as well as the Plaza and Esplanade and buildings surrounding, will be grandly illuminated with these same incandescent lamps used in a way to intensify the charm of the whole magnificent scheme.

The wiring of the Machinery and Transportation Building for the illumination has been completed. That of several other buildings is nearly so.

When the lights were turned on the Machinery building a few nights ago, the effect was awaited with much anxiety and expectancy. The result was all that could have been desired; indeed, it surpasses expectations, for the charm of this kind of illumination I am sure has never been brought out in such a way before.

The Machinery bnilding is 500 feet long, and it is nearly 200 feet to the topmost points of the splendid towers surmonnting it, which remind one so strongly of a campanile of some ancient Mexican cathedral. With rows of lights outlining all the architectural features of this great structure and bringing out the beauty of its colors, which can be seen to even greater advantage than under the light of the mid-day sun, the effect is charming beyond the power of any words one can think of for purposes of description.

Bear in mind that this is but one of a large number of buildings which will be thus illuminated next summer, and that the Electric Tower will be the most glorious spectacle of all, rising as it will to a great height, and hearing upon its summit a statue of the Goddess of Light to crown the whole wonderful scene.

To give variety and novelty to the illuminations and increase the fairy-like effect at night, floating lights will be used in the fountain basins. In the basin in front of the Electric Tower there will be not only floating incandescent lamps, but also an illumination of most striking and fanciful character to be achieved by placing beneath the water of the basin 94 large-sized search lights, casting colored lights on the water effects, and also bringing out the fact that these colors are so arranged as to be constantly changing. This combination of electrical and hydraulic effects and introduction of ingenious devices for increasing the marvels of the scene will secure results such as are attained by experts in the production of spectacular scenes on the stage. But there will be. this important difference that instead of being confined to a space like the stage of a theater, 50 feet wide, we will say, and possibly 100 feet in depth, the space thus illuminated will be about 2,000 feet in length by nearly 700 in width, while some of the scintillating lights will reach an altitude of nearly 400 feet in their ambition to outrival in beauty the twinkling stars of the firmament overhead.

The fountain display will call for the use of 35,000 gallons of water per minute, and the number of incandescent lamps used in producing the illumination in and about the Court of Fountains, Plaza, and Esplanade will be over 200,000. This does not include the arc lamps used in the buildings and at some points on the grounds, nor the many incandescent lamps used by concessionaires on the Midway and by private exhibitors.

One of the Midway concessions, the Thompson Aerio-Cycle, will alone use 2,000 incandescent lamps. Other Midway features will be profusely lighted, increase the total number of lights nsed in the illumination of the buildings and grounds as a whole.

About 400 miles of wire will be used in the insulation of the lamps for the illumination in and around the Court of Fountains, which expressed in another fashion means about 250 tons of insulated copper wire. of all sizes.

The electric energy for the production of this vast illumination will be obtained partly from Niagara Fails. From the harnessed Niagara 5,000 horse power will be furnished for Exposition uses, and about. 5,000 more horse power will be generated on the grounds for the turning of the wheels and the lighting of the myriads of lamps. The service already arranged for contemplates the use of gasoline for motive power, of gas both under boilers, producing steam, and in gas engines, producing energy as well as the utilization of the water power of Niagra. Thus it can be see that the Pan-American exposition enjoys the advantage of a greater number of resources of power than has been possessed by any exposition of the past.

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