The lighting of city streets has been documented to go back as far as the 17th century in Europe.
Technology advanced from candles and oil, to gas, and then to electric at the end of the 19th century in cities throughout the United States. The electric lighting installed on Broadway in New York in 1880 led to its nickname “The Great White Way” and soon cities all over the world soon sought to install electric street lighting. This included Frederick where in 1887 the first electric lighting was hung from wires across key intersections.
The worldwide proliferation of electric street lighting contributed to the development of one of Frederick’s most prominent industries, the Morris Iron Works, at the beginning of the 20th century. The site of the long standing and successful foundry is between 7th and 8th streets adjacent to East Street, where there was, at that time, direct access to the railroad. The property is today known as the Dairy Maid Dairy, which purchased the property from a successor company in 1989.
The Morris Iron Company had its beginnings with brothers William and Tom Diven who started a small machine shop in Laurel, Maryland in 1890. When they moved operations to Frederick in 1897, they organized as the Montrose Iron Works. In early 1911, the Morris Iron Company was formed from the Montrose Iron Works and the Elmer P. Morris Company of Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania and began a substantial physical expansion to three times its original size which included the addition of an industrial tramway and electric power produced onsite. Production was expected to more than quadruple. The new company would make a specialty of the manufacture of street lighting poles that the Elmer P. Morris Company had previously been erecting in cities all over the country.
By February 1911, the company received contract for 500 lighting poles for New York City that would be used for tungsten park lighting, as well as orders for Dallas, Texas. In May 1911, Frederick’s Central National Bank, then at the northeast corner of Church and Market streets, erected the City’s first modern light pole manufactured by the Morris Iron Company. It was reported upon favorably and noted “By some it is thought that this pole will be the starting of the ‘Great White Way’ on a block or so of Market street, which has been agitated by a number of prominent businessmen in this section. It is argued that this modern method of intensified street lighting will be an advertisement to the city and for the business houses that are located in these blocks.”
By July 1911, the plant had enough work to be kept running for the coming five to six months without stopping. Reportedly orders were shipped to Brazil, Ecuador, Argentina, Capetown, Zanzibar, China and Japan, and included a combination lighting and trolley pole that was an original design of the company.
In October 1911, it was reported that Dr. A.L. Pierce, a well-known pharmacist on South Market Street and…