The Day the Lights Came On
In Gloversville

By William Loveday, Jr.

William Loveday, Jr. is our Fulton County Historian, and kindly shared this article with us.  Amidst his other priorities, he enjoys writing and publishing articles like this one, through his column titled "Tales of Yesterday", in The Leader Herald, which appears every other Monday.  This article was published on Monday, February 25, 2002 on page 9.


To say that 1890 was an eventful year for the people of Gloversville is a gross understatement.

Many positive events occurred, including the signing of a bill by then-Gov. David Hill on March 19 that provided the city with its first well-deserved charter.

There was cheering in the streets, bells rung and even cannons fired.

But as momentous as this event provided to be, there was another event earlier in the year which left the citizens in awe and full of jubilation and pride for their city.  Electric streetlights were turned on for the first time in the history of the city.

Now, this was quite an event back in 1890 as many people were still marveling at the recent invention of electrical power and lights and were mystified at what made them work.

Some were even in fear of electricity and needed reassurance of its safety before they would put electricity into their homes.

It all started when, on July 30, 1889, the Gloversville Electric Co. was incorporated and formed with the sale of $80,000 worth of capital stock.

The company, with James Radford as president and John Bagley as manager, obtained a contract with the city to provide electrical street lighting and threw the switch on Jan. i, 1890.  Happy New Year!

The company office was located at 14 S. Main Street and their large plant was between West Center Street (now West Twelfth Avenue) and West Green Avenue (now West Eighth Avenue).  The electrical power was produced  by two 125 hp and 150 hp boilers supplying the steam to drive the "latest" in Westinghouse and Knowles generating equipment.  They had a capability of lighting 1500 incandescent lamps and 250 arc lamps.

Initially, the city did not tap the full capacity of the company and called for just 125 arc lamps connected to power plant by 130 miles of heavy power lines.

At that time, Gloversville had many streets, so lights must have been widely separated and dim, but to the people of that day, the change was phenomenal.  As time progressed, more lighting was added and the city continued to brighten.

The power cost was considered quite cheap, and in 1896 the contract was renewed for five more years.

The lights may have been dim and widely scattered, but for the citizens of Gloversville in 1890, this was the height of modernization and generated great pride in their city.



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Copyright 2002, William Loveday, Jr.
Copyright 2002, Jeanette Shiel
All Rights Reserved.

Last updated Tuesday, 13-May-2008 13:14:16 PDT