The Pennsylvania State University
Cover for the book Cities of Light and Heat

Cities of Light and Heat

Domesticating Gas and Electricity in Urban America Mark H. Rose
  • Copyright: 1995
  • Dimensions: 6 x 9
  • Page Count: 248 pages
  • Illustrations: 18 b&w illustrations
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-271-01349-7
  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-271-02482-0
“In Cities of Light and Heat Mark Rose has done for electric and gas systems what Sam Bass Warner did for streetcars. He demonstrates both that utility systems helped determine the character of developing cities and that the unique politics of each city determined the character of its utility system. Rose has tapped an uncommonly rich trove of archival sources from Denver and Kansas City to provide us with an uncommonly rich portrait of the men and women who shaped first the utility system, and then the profile of each city.”

Cities of Light and Heat takes us to Kansas City and Denver during the late nineteenth century when gas and electricity were introduced to these "instant cities" of the west. With rich detail, Mark Rose shows how the new technology spread during the next century from a few streets and businesses within the city limits to countless private homes in the suburbs. In Kansas City and Denver, as in most communities throughout the U.S., business executives, city leaders, and engineers acted as early promoters of the new technology. But by the early 1900s educators, home builders, architects, and salespersons were becoming increasingly important as gas and electric utilities and appliances reached more and more American homes. But these voices for the new technology brought with them their own social attitudes and cultural values. By mid-century, whether in the classroom or in advertisements, Americans were regularly encouraged to fit the new technology within prevailing notions of cleanliness, comfort, convenience, and gender.

Although in hindsight the spread of modern technology might seem inevitable to us, Rose shows how even the leaders of the nation's great gas and electric corporations with their vast production and distribution facilities were subject to geography, competing ideologies, urban politics, and even the choices of ordinary consumers. Rose thus locates the driving force behind the diffusion of technology in the neighborhoods, kitchens, and offices of the city. Cities of Light and Heat shows the importance of culture, politics, and urban growth in shaping technological change in the cities of North America.

Mark H. Rose is Professor of History at Florida Atlantic University. He is the author of Interstate: Express Highway Politics, 1939–1989 (1992) and the co-author of Energy and Transport: Historical Perspectives on Policy Issues (1982).

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