In 1417, the mayor of London, Henry Barton, issued a decree according to which the streets of the city were supposed to be illuminated with lanterns on winter nights. Now it was easier for residents of the English capital to move around in the dark, and street crime has significantly decreased. Time passed, and the example of London turned out to be "contagious". In the 16th century, street lamps appeared in Paris. It was under King Louis XIV. They say that it is for this reason that they began to call him "The Sun King".
Lanterns were required to light and extinguish in a timely manner, refuel, make necessary repairs, and so on. So a new profession appeared - a lamplighter. And the work, I must say, was not easy. In any weather, the lamplighters bypassed their areas. At the same time, it was necessary to carry a ladder, a container with fuel and a tool. As a rule, retired soldiers accustomed to discipline went to the lamplighter.
For a long time, the streetlights were filled with hemp oil. And this gave the lamplighters the opportunity to hide some part for themselves, for example, in order to fill their porridge. With a meager salary, this made it possible to save at least a little. To suppress such a source of unearned income, the city authorities often issued decrees - to add turpentine to the oil. After such a procedure, the oil became unsuitable for adding to the porridge. And in the nineteenth century, oil was generally replaced with kerosene.
In Russia, the first lanterns, like lamplighters, appeared at the end of the 18th century. The first eight lanterns were installed in Moscow in 1698 next to the royal palace. And at the beginning of the next century, they were no longer a rarity in St. Petersburg. The city was served by 64 lamplighters. The Academy of Sciences even compiled "tables on dark hours." In accordance with the instructions of the scientists, a schedule was drawn up for lighting and extinguishing the lanterns. In 1730, Empress Anna Ioannovna ordered to light the streets of Moscow as well.
In 1770, a special lamppost team was created in St. Petersburg, consisting of 100 recruits. And in 1808, this team was assigned to the police. If earlier street lamps often became victims of hooligans or robbers, now criminals did not dare to contact police officers often.
By the end of the eighteenth century, 3, 400 lanterns were installed on the streets of St. Petersburg, such a number was not found in any other city in the world. Moreover, the lanterns in the city on the Neva were real works of art, they were designed by the most famous architects - Rastrelli, Montferrand and Felten.
An interesting story was told in St. Petersburg during the reign of Emperor Nicholas the First. Once the monarch was walking along Nevsky Prospekt, a lamplighter timidly approached him and asked: is a lamplighter's pension, and after what period of service? Nikolai promised to clarify this issue. The next day, the adjutant wing came to the lamplighter and said that the lamplighter, who was assigned to the fire department, was entitled to a pension after 25 years of service. It turned out that the experience of a lamplighter had already exceeded this period by 4 years. The emperor ordered to pay the pension over these years.
On July 11, 1873, a significant event took place in St. Petersburg; the first test run of an electric lantern took place in the city in a solemn atmosphere. At present, a memorial plaque reminds of this. And for the street lamps it was the first wake-up call, and soon St. Petersburg needed their services less and less. The first electric lights appeared in Moscow a little later, in 1880.
It is almost impossible to meet a lamplighter on city streets in the 21st century; this profession has long since disappeared into the past. But, there are no rules without exceptions. For example, in 2009, several kerosene lanterns appeared in Brest on Sovetskaya Street. They are ignited by a lamplighter, like many years ago, by hand. To do this, he has to carry a heavy ladder with him. These lamps, of course, cannot be compared with electric ones in power, but they create a unique atmosphere of the nineteenth century.
It is difficult to remember a Russian classic whose works would not mention the lamplighters. Gogol wrote about them in "Nevsky Prospect", Alexei Tolstoy in the novel "Peter the First", Maxim Gorky in his work "Mother". And, of course, from school, everyone remembers the line from the poem by Alexander Blok "Night, street, lantern, pharmacy".
In many cities of the world there are even monuments to the lamplighters. For example, in St. Petersburg, it was opened on Odessa Street in 1998. It was on this street that the first electric lantern appeared. The initiator of the creation of such a monument was the St. Petersburg ethnographer S. Lebedev. The sculptors O. Pankratova, B. Sergeev and the architect V. Spiridonov worked on the monument. There is even a sign that if you touch the boot of a lamplighter, then there will be prosperity in the house.