August 5, 2015
101st Anniversary of the First Electric Traffic Signal System
The early twentieth-century intersection was a strange scene. While the world’s largest automobile manufacturer sold over 20,000 cars a month in 1914, horse-drawn wagons and carts still crowded the streets, and accidents became increasingly frequent. Intersections in major cities were congested, and traffic was directed by police officers who stood in the middle of chaotic highways waving their arms--an unenviable beat, to say the least, especially during a blustery winter in the Midwest.
A solution to the problem was woefully overdue. Gas-lit stoplights appeared in England before the turn of the century, but these had a tendency to explode, and mechanically operated signs that displayed the words “stop” and “move” still relied on traffic attendants. Enter the inspiration of today’s Doodle, the electric traffic signal, which was first installed at the corner of 105th and Euclid in Cleveland, Ohio on August 5th, 1914.
Doodler Nate Swinehart hearkens back to an earlier time with shades of black and white, and uses the background colors to make the red and green signals particularly luminous. It’s not an artistic coincidence that the cars leap forward and screech wildly to a halt, either--the yellow light wouldn’t appear for several years, and overzealous motorists had to stop on a dime.