Did You Know…
This Week in Sapulpa History – Let’s Get This Glow on The Road: Sapulpa’s First Electric Lights Were Proposed
Rachel Whitney, Curator, Sapulpa Historical Museum
A Mr. Arthur W. Tucker moved to Sapulpa just before statehood in 1907. With him, he brought his 1905 Gale automobile - named for the automobile plant it came from in Galesburg, Illinois. This would be known as the first automobile in Sapulpa.
Tucker stated, “during this time, there were no licenses for the cars, no paved highways, no highway signs, no electric lights for cars, no self-starters, no radiators, and no paved streets in Sapulpa.”
There would be a lot of firsts that year in 1907, including electric street lights and electric lights for homes and businesses.
This week in history, it was announced that there had been two bids that came forward to install an electric plant in Sapulpa. On September 7, 1906, a Mr. James A. Boyd promoted that he and his company were the same ones who had installed Tulsa’s lights, and he wanted the same for Sapulpa.
The City Council met within that week to discuss the two bids.”Mr. Boyd’s proposition is a splendid one, and has been before the Council. In granting this franchise, the Council has greatly pleased the people and it is a step toward ‘civilization’ that has been needed for many months.”
Mr. Boyd and his company had been looking for a place to call home in Sapulpa. They built their plant, the Sapulpa Light & Power Co., at 105-107 S Water St. Once the plant franchise was to be installed, it would be in operation within seven months. It was agreed that thirty street lights were to be taken by the city the first year, and raised to fifty within two years.
The light plant was in a one-story building that was large enough to house the two gas engines and the one generator, but could comfortably hold one more each, if needed.
Sapulpa’s first street light had not been an electric light, however. It was a gas light, erected on a pole at the corner of Main St and Dewey Ave. That light was ignited by “gas prospectors, who wanted to convince the young town that gas could be piped here for domestic use. The gas light system was never enlarged for street lighting purposes,” however. Mr. Boyd stated that “electric lights will be glowing our streets before spring.”
The lights the Sapulpa Light & Power Co. were producing were equivalent to a sixteen-candle power and it would cost only 35 cents per month*. The company would not stop at just street lights, but include businesses and homes, too. “Electric lights would be furnished in stores soon for a very low rate.”
*Note: the cost of just 35 cents in 1906 would be less than $12 today.
The first week of October in 1906, Boyd said that “power has been ordered for the plant, and that the negotiations for wire, poles, and other material are on.” With this new power contract, people had hopes that “Sapulpa may have electric lights by Christmas, but will have no later than March.”
By mid-November in 1906, the Sapulpa Light & Power “is now in a position to install electric wiring for electric lights in residence, storerooms, and business houses.”
Arthur Tucker joined the Sapulpa Light & Power Co. when he moved here in 1907. AW Tucker, JA Boyd, Fred Pfendler, Ed Reynolds of the power company said that they “will wire any building you may have for actual cost of time and material.”
If people were skeptical, the company stated “A great many people do not realize all the advantages in using electricity. Electricity may be used in the residence for light and heat. It may be used to operate a sewing machine, washing machine, or wringer. It is the cheapest and best for sad irons, curling irons, and etc.”
Advertisements for electricity stated, too, “be progressive, why tinker with matches lamp globes, and oil, use electric lights.” In other words, “be comfortable, its just as easy for you to keep cool as it is to do any other way, use electric fans.”
By spring of 1907, the company installed 20 streets around the town. Although, it is unclear a specific date or location of said street lights, it is said that there was an event by May 1907 where an electric display showed beautifully down Main Street for three blocks. “Lights dazzled the eyes of all.”
Around the same time, the first business to switch on their electricity was a printing shop. Tucker stated, “a man by the name of Mr. Johonnis* who had a small printing shop and had been using water to run his press machine.” With his order for electricity and a motor for his printing press, the Sapulpa Democrat began producing their papers “electronically.”
*Note: the name “Johonnis” was misspelled in the article. The gentleman’s name was Fred Johannes, of the Johannes & Dye printing co., owners of the Sapulpa Democrat with Harry Dye.
Tucker remembered other businesses that were first to install lights. The Harvey House ordered thirty lights. “We were kept busy installing lights in the different business houses as well as electric signs. Had one picture show that started up and was located on the second floor over a clothing store owned by Max Meyer.*”
*Note: in 1907 City Directory, although it doesn’t list Max Meyer (he moved to Sapulpa in 1907, and wouldn’t be listed until 1908) the same building his business would be in at 28 E Dewey said that at 28 ½ (usually that’s the second floor) was the Empress Theatre.
Tucker remembered his little time he was able to spend in Sapulpa. “When I first came to Sapulpa, most people lived out from the business part of the city carried lanterns at night on their way home until we got the street lights installed.” He spent the next three or four years making sure the town had its lights before moving to Tulsa.
The information found on this page has been researched through Sapulpa (and area) newspapers, Sapulpa Historical Society archives, books, and photographs, Sapulpa yearbooks, city directories, and other local authors. Any other sources will be labeled and named as the research continues. Any mistakes will be noted and adjusted as needed.