On December 13, 1881, the ceremonial first lighting of
the San Jose Electric Light Tower took place. The San Jose
Daily Herald set the scene thusly,
"Today San Jose may be more proud of her tower than Egypt of its Sphinx and obelesques, than Pisa of her Leaning Tower, England of her monuments of war, New York of her Cleopatra's Needle. These are monuments of pride and raised by a proud and haughty aristocracy. This is a monument to progress and the diffusion of light in our midst."
Comparing San Jose's tower of pipes to the Sphinx is a triumph of marketing. And what in the heck is Cleopatra's Needle? Any New Yorkers out there who could straighten me out?
On November 30, 1999, I received this response
regarding Cleopatra's Needle from Paul Bernal, official historian
of San Jose:
To get it to New York, the robber-barons
(who called themselves archaeologists) designed an ingenious
boat that completely surrounded the mighty obelisk (like a cigar
with pointy ends) and then tugged across the Atlantic. In this
way, the stolen artifact could roll, twist, lurch any way it
wanted, with little stress to the actual one-piece stonary concealed
inside. It almost made it. As it neared America, the thing cracked,
but barely made it. It was re-erected in Central Park along with
translations of the hieroglyphics. I think there was a third
obelisk, whose vessel breached and sank and still lays buried
in a watery grave.