A Brief Outline
of the
History of Stage Lighting

      Bel Geddes, Norman. Miracle in the Evening. Garden City, NY: Double Day and Co., Inc. 1960
      Bergman, Gosta Mauri. Lighting in the Theatre. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell International. 1977
      Fuchs, Theodore. Stage Lighting. New York: B. Blum. 1963 (1929)
      Hartman, Louis. Theatre Lighting: A Manual of the Stage Switchboard. New York: DBS Publications. 1970 (1930)
      Owen, Bobbi. Lighting Designers on Broadway: 1915-1990. New York: Greenwood Press. 1991.
      Owens, Bobbi. Scene Designers on Broadway. New York: Greenwood Press. 1991.
      Pendleton, Ralph. The Theatre of Robert Edmond Jones. Middletown, CT. Wesleyan University Press. 1958

On the Internet:
      Kliegl Bros.Collector's Society
      The Lighting Archive
      Theatrical Lighting Database
      Strand Archive

Lighting Equipment - Lighting Designers - Lighting Educators - Time Line: 1880...

Lighting Equipment

General Illumination: Candle - Oil Lamp - Gas - Electric
Specific Illumination: Lime Light - Arc Light - Electric Spotlight

General Illumination
General illumination provides a diffuse, shadow less, wash of light over the entire stage space.

The Metropolitan Opera House, New York City

The above illustration of the "new" electrical system at the Metropolitan Opera House is from a 1913 Kliegl Brothers catalogue. Note the eight set of border lights above. the four sets of wing lights on the sides of the stage, the seven bunch lights mostly up stage, the switch board in the basement and the electrician standing in the "prompter's box."

Specific Illumination
Specific illumination, introduced by the lime light in the middle of the 19th century, provides a sharp, highly controlled shaft of light. These shafts were used to highlight a small area of the stage, a principal actor, or create the illusion of sunlight (or moonlight). These units were typically placed in the balconies of the auditorium or the galleries on the sides of the stage house. The 1903 electrical installation at New York's Metropolitan Opera included 14 lens boxes (spotlights), 12 powerful open faced carbon arc flood lights and 12- 12-lamp bunch lights (floodlights) in addition to the four color (white - amber - red - blue) foot lights, proscenium lights, and the eight sets of border lights.

Lighting Designers

Adolphia Appia - Normon Bel Geddes - Robert Edmond Jones
Abe Feder - Jean Rosenthal - Peggy Clark
Tharon Musser - Thomas Skelton - Jules Fisher - Jennifer Tipton
Beverly Emmons - Ken Billington

Lighting Educators

Stanley McCandless -- Theodore Fuchs -- Gilbert V. Hemsley, Jr -- John Gleason

Time Line: 1877...
The first reference to a designer is high lighted.
E-mail questions and comments to Larry Wild at
Revised: September 14, 2015
Copyright © 2001 - 2015 by Larry Wild, Northern State University, Aberdeen, SD 57401