The invention of the affordable safety bicycle in 1885 created an unprecedented sense of freedom, appealing to all classes and especially women. Soon to follow was a market for lamps that lit the way. Many fortunes were won (and lost) as the demand for weather-dependent kerosene lamps was overtaken by those powered by acetylene gas. This new brilliant white light was as much as 12 times greater – the intensity of the flame could be regulated by a valve as light was projected forward by a reflector.
These lights were so bright that they were visible from the air, and were banned for safety purposes during wartime; a rare find is a modified hooded version of these lamps that directs light downwards.
The reaction of water dripping from the upper chamber of the lamp onto calcium carbide below creates acetylene gas. The product of this reaction is lime. This method of illumination was also employed in theaters in this era, used to direct light at center stage, hence the term in the limelight.