When and Where Did Electricity Debut in Michigan?
We take electricity for granted...no question about it. How could we ever hope to survive without it? Well, our ancestors did, otherwise we wouldn't be here, right?
Before it became a state, Michigan's first step to using electrical power began in 1834 in Detroit. Between Cass & Randolph streets along Jefferson Avenue, an attempt was made to light the dark street with whale oil lamps. A lamplighter was a necessity but even so, after three months they realized this wasn't going to work out as well as they hoped.
Fast-forward to 1851 – shopkeepers now had new lights, thanks to the newly-formed gas-lighting companies. This was a big deal and was the sensation of the day. These gas lights made headlines throughout the country and any city without them was thereby considered uncivil and backwoods.
Fast-forward again to the late 1870s. Countless homes and shops were using gas lighting. Even so, electricity was on the horizon. The gas companies did their best to improve their product in an attempt to keep electric lighting from cutting into their business, all in vain.
According to the Model D website, when a circus came to Detroit in 1879, it displayed a dazzling display of electric chandeliers to the “oohs and ahhs” of the Detroit populace. Taking a cue from this, local businessman Wells Leggett used the Detroit Free Press engine to light up a string of downtown shops. Then, in 1883, Edison's light bulb came to town. Detroit got its first glimpse of its power when an Edison bulb turned on for the first time at the Metcalf Brothers Dry Goods store on Woodward Avenue.
In 1886, the Edison Illuminating Co. of Detroit was formed and began supplying Detroiters with lighting and electricity.
During the remainder of the decade, electric light towers, arc lights, and other forms of lighting dominated Detroit. So much so, that Detroit was touted as being the best-lighted city in the entire world. Woodward Avenue led the way.
Then in 1903, Detroit Edison (now DTE) began operations after acquiring the Edison Illuminating Co. and Peninsular Electric Light Co...and it was a nonstop progression from then on.
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