"Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things.
They are but improved means to an unimproved end.
We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas;
but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate."
Thoreau, Walden

Circa 1912, looking west on Santa Clara St.

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San Jose Light Tower, 1881-1915
1861 J.J. Owen, a New Yawka, settles in San Jose. He became the editor and publisher of the San Jose Daily Mercury.
1861 On Dec 24, gas streets lamps are turned on for the first time in downtown San Jose. It was a dark and stormy winter that year, the light was appreciated.
1879 J.J Owen visits the first electrical lighting station in the world in San Francisco, a degenerate metropolis to the north of San Jose.
("It's gonna burn" - my lead-bottomed Christian friends opine, when speaking of the Sodom to the north.)
1881 J.J., in a May 13 editorial, touts the plan of Nevada City (California) to use electrical lights. A new-fangled concept. He describes a tower design of his own invention.
1881 Bids for labor presented to John Gash, the San Francisco architect selected to supervise the project.
1881 George Roe's San Jose Brush Co. selected to supply power to the tower. (named after Charles Brush, inventer of the dynamo-generator and arc lamps that would be used).
1881 Foundation of the tower laid on August 11. A great work is at hand.
1881 Thomas Gillespie's planing mill on El Dorado St. (present day Post St.) chosen as site for George Roe's dynamo. The steam engine that ran the planer by day, would power the dynamo and tower by night.
1881 Ceremonial first lighting. December 13, 6:30 Tuesday evening. One thousand San Joseans in attendance.
1881 Spies from Paris, France visit San Jose and steal the plans of San Jose's tower. The plans find their way to Alexandre Gustave Eiffel.
1882 George Roe's San Jose Brush Co. re-organized as the San Jose Brush Electric Light Co.
1882 J.J. Owen sells Light Tower to San Jose Brush Electric Light Co. to satisfy an outstanding debt.
1884 J.J. Owen sells his interest in the San Jose Daily Mercury.
1884 Generators are moved from Thomas Gillespie's planing mill to 52 to 56 North Fourth Street. Tower no longer used for downtown lighting - ceremonial purposes only.
1885 J.J. Owen dies shortly after moving to San Francisco.
188? Electric Improvement Co. formed and wins the street lighting franchise for San Jose. San Jose Brush Electric Light Co. refuses to grant tower use.
1889 San Jose Brush Electric Light Co. renamed San Jose Light & Power Co.
1889 Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, using stolen plans of San Jose's tower, constructs the copy-cat Eiffel Tower.
1891 Electric Improvement Co. (Harry Edwards) granted rights to light the tower. The tower rewired and relit - much to the chagrin of San Jose Light & Power Co.
1891 Manager Thomas Gillespie of the San Jose Light & Power Co. cuts wires on the tower and removes the lamps to thwart the efforts of the Electric Improvement Co.
1891 Harry Edwards and James W. Rea of the Electric Improvement Co. brave stormy weather and valiantly reconfigure the tower to thwart the efforts of the San Jose Light & Power Co.
1902 United Gas and Electric Company is formed, buys the Electric Improvement Co. and the San Jose Light & Power Co.
Peace is restored to San Jose's utilities.
1915 San Jose Electric Light Tower is badly damaged in a February storm.
1915 On December 3 at 11:55 a.m. the San Jose Electric Light Tower collapses in gale force winds. No one is injured.
1960 The Tower Saloon, a final reminder of the Light Tower at the intersection of Santa Clara and Market Street is shamefully demolished.
1977 A half-size replica of the light tower is constructed by the San Jose Historical Museum in Kelly Park. Masterminded by the San Jose Real Estate Board with Irene Tolbert heading the project. Why not full-height???
1990 San Jose sues Paris for copyright infringement, accusing Paris of stealing the idea for the Eiffel Tower from San Jose's Light Tower.

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