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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
Marshall Cohen—researcher and producer, CNN

Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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Gas lighting did much to make city living better.
GAS LAMPS. On April 12, 1855, citizens of Dubuque witnessed the erection of the first city gas lamps. One of the first stood in front of the Globe Building on the corner of Main and Fifth STREETS. Cast iron posts to support the lamps were manufactured by Farley and Rouse. (1) The first use of gas from Iowa coal came to Dubuque on January 18, 1865.

From 1865 to 1875, the use of gas for lighting as well as cooking made significant progress. The lamplighter became a familiar figure; once dark streets took on a warm, friendly glow. The 'Gaslight Era' became remembered as a period of unhurried, gracious living. In the latter part of the nineteenth century, natural gas replaced coal gas. Gas lighting of streets gradually began to be replaced by electric lighting in the early 20th century, but it took decades to complete.

Homeowners used combination gas and electric lighting for many years.
Many homeowners used lighting fixtures that could give light with electricity and gas as a dependable backup. Note in the picture the electric light inside the glass. To the right of the glass is the gas lamp that looks somewhat like an unlit candle. The gas could be shut off or turned on by twisting the small valve seen at the base of the curved support. Today many of these non-working gas fixtures are equipped with special bulbs that flicker like the old gas lights to create nostalgic feelings in a room.



1. Oldt, Franklin T. and Patrick J. Quigley. History of Dubuque County, IowaChicago: Goodspeed Historical Association, p, 106