'Gaslight, Progress, and the Old South, 1801-1865'

Phillip Richardson, University of South Carolina


Despite recent interest in the efforts of antebellum southerners to modernize their society, the role of gaslight technology in the southern campaign to modernize on their own terms has remained wholly neglected in the scholarly literature. Most scholars of lighting technology are aware that in 1802, separate inventors in England and France unveiled their gaslight innovations to celebrate the Peace of Amiens. Often, however, scholars remain unaware that at the same time inventors in the American South had independently developed their own technologies for producing artificial light from gas.