What city had more electric lights than New York in 1883?
That was sort of a trick question, but the correct answer is Louisville, Kentucky!
Louisville was host to the Southern Exposition, which opened in 1883—one hundred thirty years ago. This show, which ran for about 100 days each summer for five years, showcased the agriculture and industry of the South. It was, in effect, a five-year series of world’s fairs.
This exposition was larger than any previous American show, except for the Centennial Exposition of 1876, held in Philadelphia. President Chester A. Arthur opened the first annual exposition in Louisville on
|Pres. Chester A. Arthur|
|Robert Todd Lincoln|
The exhibition grounds covered 45 acres. The main building alone covered ten acres and was 600 feet wide and 900 feet long. It formed a huge rectangle, with pavilions in a cross shape in the center and four large open courts. The buildings were dismantled at the end of the five-year spectacular, and the materials used for other structures. Many beautiful homes were built in the area where they had stood, now part of the Old Louisville Preservation District.
The lighting was a highlight of the event. The company owned by Thomas Edison, who had previously lived in Louisville, was contracted to install the lighting. The Louisville Board of Trade contracted to buy 5,000 incandescent lamps, 4,600 of which lit the exhibition hall and 400 the art gallery. It took one100 men a month to do the wiring.
“The Exposition was the first large space lighted by incandescence,” George H. Yater wrote in his book Two Hundred Years at the Fall of the Ohio. “…many electrical pioneers felt that the Louisville success did more to stimulate the growth of the interior electric lighting than any other Edison plant.”