Hawaii’s First Gas Light

Let there be light! Gas light, that is. On November 2, 1858, gas lighting would illuminate for the first time in Hawaii:

“On Tuesday evening last Mr. E. Burgess opened his spacious billiard saloon at the Commercial Hotel, which was well attended, no doubt the novelty of the room being lit up with gas proved a great attraction. There are four burners, two over each Billiard Table, and they filled the large room with a most brilliant light.”

Henry MacFarlane, the proprietor of the hotel, made this happen. Back in June 1858, he procured a gas apparatus from San Francisco and hoped that the nearby buildings will have lighting as well.

A few months later, the Polynesiandiscussed the gas light’s benefits over previous lighting technology:

“The preference of gas light over every other artificial light consists not only in its greater convenience, purity and brilliancy, but also in this, that its use greatly diminishes the risk of losses by fire and thus has a great influence on the insurance of buildings.”

In 1859, under a charter by the state legislature, the Honolulu Gas Company built gas works and placed pipes in Honolulu’s streets and buildings. The gas company received much more encouragement than initially expected and continued to receive applications for lighting.

On October 26, 1859, the gas company lit Honolulu for the first time:

“From the Bethel, the Polynesian office, the Advertiser Office, the principal hotels in town, the Odd Fellow’s Hall, and from numerous private dwellings, floods of brilliant light attested the success of the enterprise and the progress of the place. The lights at the corner of King and Bethel streets and at Nuuanu and Merchant streets were splendid, and we hope will suggest to the authorities and the next year’s legislature what the town can be, and what it should be, in regard to its streets during the dark nights.”

– Alice Kim

From Chronicling America

Polynesian, Nov. 6, 1858, Image 2

“Gas Lights”
Polynesian, Jan. 29, 1859, Image 2

Polynesian, Feb. 19, 1859, Image 2


2 Comments on “Hawaii’s First Gas Light”

  1. […] This week in history — November 2, 1858 – Hawaii’s first gas lights illuminated Mr. E. Burgess’ spacious billiard saloon at the Commercial Hotel. Read more about it in “Hawaii’s First Gas Light.” […]

  2. […] Read more about it in “Hawaii’s First Gas Lights.” […]

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