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What is the history of Philadelphia Gas Works?

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Quick Answer

Philadelphia Gas Works, or PGW, was established in 1836 in Philadelphia to provide gas lighting for streets, businesses and homes. On Feb. 8, 1836, the company lit 46 natural gas lights along the city’s Second Street. In 1972, the Philadelphia Facilities Management Corporation took over the operation and management of the company.

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Full Answer

Samuel Vaughan Merrick, an engineer and entrepreneur, initiated the development of a municipal gas works in Philadelphia. Merrick was a member of the city’s Common Council. PGW’s original plant, located on the Schuylkill River near Market Street, was powered by coal. In 1841, the Philadelphia government acquired the ownership of PGW. In 1856, the company constructed a natural gas holder at its Point Breeze Plant in South Philadelphia.

Following political changes in 1860, PGW’s service and performance started declining and by late the 1880s, the company’s operations nearly broke down. To improve the situation, the Philadelphia government leased PGW to the United Gas Improvement Company on a 30-year contract. In 1926, a three-person Gas Commission was created to regulate PGW.

In 1945, the company developed single-point burners for gas cooking. In 1955, the Northern Liberties Gas Company becomes the last of the 10 independent gas companies to merge with PGW.

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