I found this article on the NY Times website. Originally published on December 11, 1917, I’m reprinting it here to give a little historical perspective on environmental issues that municipalities have had to work with. In this case, the 1917 "Fuel Administration" was asking for lights out in order to save coal for the war effort.
It makes some interesting comparisons with what was going on in London at the time, I suppose to help people understand that they’re not the only ones having to deal with this? What was going on physically in London was very different from what was happening in New York City at the time, but both cities were impacted by the war.
What I’m most struck by here is that this article is pointing out the fact that because asking nicely did not work, a mandate was being considered to get people to turn off their lights.
In those days, outdoor lighting did not light up the night sky the way we’re used to today. I hope you find this article as enlightening (pardon the pun) as I have.
3 LIGHTLESS NIGHTS A WEEK ADVOCATED
Food Administration Considers
Plan to Darken All of the
"White Ways" Then.
OLD ORDER IMPRACTICABLE
Only Street and Police Illumination
Would Be Permitted by the
Special to The New York Times.
WASHINGTON. Dec. 10.—There are to be real "lightless nights" along Broadway and on the White Ways, of all large communities in the country if a plan now under consideration by the Fuel Administration is adopted. Under this plan, on Sunday night, and perhaps one or two other nights of each week, the order "lights out" would be given, and refusal to obey would mean shutting off coal supplies to the offending plants.
Street lights and special lights needed for police purposes would be the only outdoor lighting permitted. Theatre signs, advertising signs, even the electric signs directing patrons to moving picture houses and stores would be out on the nights named in the Fuel Administration’s proposed order.
The plan has been proposed because compromises which have been suggested have not accomplished any appreciable fuel saving and have not met with a hearty spirit of co-operation. Many theatres and business houses had endeavored to avoid the consequences, it was said today, and there seems little or no doubt that the new regulations will be put into effect soon.
If they are, Broadway will get a real taste of war conditions, so far as lighting is concerned. Conditions will be much the same as they have been in London, where aircraft raids have made necessary the most severe restrictions. On the nights when the "lights out" order was not in effect, however, there would be no restriction on the present conditions in New York.
The Fuel Administration issued this statement today, regarding the proposed order:
"The United States Fuel Administration has under consideration a definite plan for ‘lightless nights’ throughout the country, somewhat similar to ‘wheatless’ and ‘meatless’ days.
"It is now proposed to darken all outdoor lighting, other than street lights and special municipal lights needed for police purposes, on certain nights of each week. On other nights, according to the plan, signs would be permitted to burn.
"The plan under discussion provides for radical changes in the order put out on Nov. 9 last, which restricted illuminated signs to certain hours, making such exceptions of merchants’ and theatre signs as seemed reasonable. In actual application, it now appears, this order is impracticable.
"The evidence of ail eyes is that the streets of cities are virtually as light as before these special signs were darkened. State Federal Fuel Administrations in New York, Illinois, and other States have reported in detail on the impossibility of getting results from the old order. They say it is the tens of thousands of small signs that count.
" ‘Lightless nights’ would save coal In large quantities, according to the figures before the Fuel Administration. It would be a part of the plan to show every citizen the war necessity and have him join in the saving. In every residence, apartment house, and office building people would be asked to use not more than one-half the usual lighting.
"Under the conditions noted in the November order the ‘White Ways’ have kept their brilliancy, and the coal saving has not been large; under the new plan the ‘White Ways’ would disappear entirely on certain nights."
The New York TImes Published: December 11, 1917
Copyright © The New York Times