Wednesday, January 8, 2014
The streets of Madras were first lit up by oil lamps in 1785. I have not been able to find much information about what kind of lamps they were, but they were surely engineered very well, to be able to continue to burn brightly even through the strong sea breeze that would set into the city every afternoon.
It was a little over a century ago that street lighting in Madras was electrified. In 1910, when electric lamps were introduced on to the city's streets, they had to replace about 6,500 oil lamps. The lamplighters now had to ensure that the switches were turned on at the right time. Or maybe, like it still happens in some of the semi-urban and rural areas, they had to plug in the fuse carrier at dusk and yank it out again at dawn.
What you see in the picture (you can click on it to blow it up) are two lamp-posts from the early days of electrical street lighting. No, not the fixtures - as you can see, they have been crudely fastened on to the old posts. But I do not think that all the posts were quite so short, for I have seen at least one that is taller. What with the kind of cherry-picker trucks these days, today's lamp posts don't require the crossbar that you see on these; without that support, the lamplighter would not have been able to place his ladder firmly on these posts!