History / Inspiration
San Jose was the first city to go electric — the original light tower was named the “Seventh Wonder of the West” and was meant to replace the city’s gas lighting system. It was hailed as a great democratic symbol — where other monuments were meant to glorify wealth and power, this one provided a service for everyone in the city. The height of the tower meant that one enormous light could illuminate the entire downtown area … at least in theory. In reality, it wasn’t quite bright enough, and the city experienced some bizarre side effects.
After last call, tipsy citizens would try to scale the tower. The light also proved fatal for hundreds of local birds, who were attracted to (and then electrocuted by) the beacon. Local policemen actually pocketed extra cash by selling unlucky geese and ducks to local restaurants — the side business was so profitable that officers competed fiercely for the night beat. Within a few years, the tower was relegated to “ceremonial purposes,” before blowing down in a windstorm. The version that stands now is a half-sized replica of the original. Still, it symbolizes San Jose’s legacy of bringing the world’s latest inventions to the people — something the city still excels at today, even if the original prototypes don’t always work out.
Proceeds from this shirt go to: San Jose History Museum.