Prairie Public NewsRoom
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Mercury Vapor Lighting

Ways To Subscribe

In recent years, we have grown increasingly aware of “green” terms, reducing carbon footprints, and improving energy efficiency, to the point where many of these environmentally-friendly terms have been added to the dictionary. But progress and energy efficiency have been goals longer than that.

On this date in 1953, the city of Stanley had just approved funding for a system of mercury vapor street lights, and within a few days, had issued calls for construction bids. The cost was to be covered by levies on the property where the new lighting would be placed, with 20% of the cost covered by city funds.

Plans for the new system consisted of 29 mercury lights, with twelve along the business section on steel poles, and seventeen on wooden poles, from the underpass to the school. It was expected that the project would give Stanley a “much brighter, more efficient lighting” than the old incandescent lamps.

The Mercury lamp was the first type of mass produced metal vapor lighting for general applications. These lamps had a relatively long life and were fairly easy to maintain, with a low system cost. With a nice white light, they were perhaps the perfect value back then, and they continued to be used across the world for decades.

Installing the new system was a big step, and though initially expensive, it would save money in the long run, as the old incandescent bulbs were less efficient and cost twice as much. The mercury lamps had already been installed in Williston, Kenmare and Crosby, and plans were also underway in New Town.

You won’t see these lamps installed today. Due to environmental concerns about mercury, the 2005 Energy Policy Act called for the manufacture and importation of mercury vapor lamps to be phased out by 2008.

Dakota Datebook by Sarah Walker

Mountrail County Promoter, Thursday, June 25, 1953

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Related Content