Charles Brush Biography

from the Ohio Historical Society

Charles F. Brush was the inventor of the arc lamp. He attended the University of Michigan and then resided in Cleveland, Ohio. He spent much of his life attempting to understand electricity and how to make it useful to human beings.

In 1879, Brush succeeded in creating the first arc lamp. After some more experimentation and modifications, Brush created a lamp that burned as brightly as four thousand candles. Such a bright light, obviously, could not be used inside of people’s homes. Brush decided to market his invention to cities, so that they could light their streets at night. On April 29, 1879, Brush made a presentation of his invention to Cleveland residents. He had placed twenty arc lamps in the city’s Monumental Park. Not sure of what to expect, people in attendance wore smoked glasses to protect their eyes. After the demonstration, numerous women complained that the lights would make it impossible for them to conceal imperfections on their skin. Cleveland officials, however, were impressed, and soon Cleveland had lights across the city. Cleveland was the first city to have electric street lighting in the United States.

Brush continued to experiment with electricity for the remainder of his life. He was responsible for numerous discoveries involving electricity’s uses and received several dozen patents for his inventions.


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