February 17, 1817 — Baltimore is the first US city to be lit by gas street lamps today.
At the corner of North Holliday Street and East Baltimore Street, local businessmen and socialites gathered outside the museum of artist Rembrandt Peale for a demonstration under the glow of artificial light. Forward-thinking Peale aimed to form a business around his gas light innovations, the exhibition targeting potential investors.
The gamble worked, and several financiers aligned with Peale, forming The Gas Light Company of Baltimore (the precursor to Baltimore Gas & Electric). Less than a year later, the first public gas street lamp was lit in a ceremony one block south of City Hall. The Gayety Theatre is across the street.
Words of Wisdom for February 17, 2017
“Gas lights, without oil, tallow, wicks or smoke. It is not necessary to invite attention to the gas lights by which my salon of paintings is now illuminated; those who have seen the ring beset with gems of light are sufficiently disposed to spread their reputation; the purpose of this notice is merely to say that the Museum will be illuminated every evening until the public curiosity be gratified.”
— Artist Rembrandt Peale, 1817, on why he installed gas lights to attract paying visitors to his Baltimore museum of portraits and natural history exhibits.