Aug 21

21 August 1883: First Shipboard Electric Lights

Saturday, August 21, 2010 12:01 AM


Today marks the 127th anniversary of the installation of electric lighting in the steam frigate USS Trenton – the first such installation in a US warship. Of seven electric power companies asked by the Bureau of Navigation to bid on the project, only the Edison Company for Isolated Lighting did so, asking $5500 for a dynamo, engine, over two hundred lights, wiring and associated equipment. This experiment was a success, and the next year the Navy contracted for the lighting of three more ships.

In 1886, the Bureau of Navigation reported that “[t]his method of lighting ships of war, owing to the small amount of heat given off, the absence of disagreeable odors, and the more perfect illumination, adds much to the health and comfort of the officers and men, tends to make them contented and happy during their long absences from home and friends, promotes discipline and prevents crime.”

  • Hi,
    Nice factual information which has helped me to date some large, brass US Navy candlesticks which I obtained with some other naval artifacts which dated to the early 1880’s.
    QUESTION: Has the US Navy ever performed any historical analysis and documentation on naval tableware and dinnerware used by the navy throughtout the 19th and 20th centuries?
    I have lots of pieces of antique and vintage Navy plates, cups, bowls, flatware, etc etc some dated ca 1860’s through pre-WWI eras.
    Many of the pieces are made of fine china and have beautiful topmarks (insiginia’s) that can be traced to the current Dept of Navy Seal.
    Any comments would be most appreciated, especially of any historical documentation performed by the Navy or interest in doing so.
    Kind Regards,
    Michael N.

  • Chris

    Hi Michael:

    Saw your question from 2010, and wondered if you’d gotten any replies on that. I am very interested in the history of naval tableware and it is very difficult locating historic documention of items used on various ships and bases.