San Jose Postcard


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San Jose's Electric Light Tower is seen at top left of this old San Jose post card. The tower was conceived by J.J. Owen, editor of the San Jose Mercury News, and was called Owen's Folly by some negative types at the time (gas people). It was duly noted that the tower did not light up all of downtown as advertised.

Those versed in San Jose''s history will date this photograph between April 18, 1906 and December 3, 1915. The 1906 earthquake toppled the tower from the U.S. Post Office - note topless Post Office in photo, and in 1915 the San Jose Light Tower would crash down, a casualty of rust and heavy gusts.

The Light Tower, erected over the intersection of Market and Santa Clara Streets in 1881, was a landmark feature of San Jose for 34 years. It was designed to light downtown San Jose using six carbon arc lamps at the top of the tower - 24,000 candlepower. The tower was constructed of iron pipe and brace rods and stood 237 feet (counting the 30 foot flagpole), and was described as the seventh wonder of the West.

At Christmas the tower was decorated with lights, and on the 4th of July, fireworks crackled from its precipices.

A Parisian delegation took copious notes of the tower and skulked back to France to build the Eiffel Tower. San Jose would later sue Paris, unsuccessfully.

Ralph Rambo describes the demise of the tower, "... finally the the old tower felt the weight of years and on Dec. 3, 1915 at 11:55 A.M., a wind storm spelled doom. With loud warning groans, the rusty 200 foot skeleton slowly folded like a jack knife and eased its weary bones to the street below."


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