Old-school Lecture Hall Illumination

We attended a talk in the Taylor Hall Auditorium at Vassar College, which features lovingly restored lamps that illuminate the pull-up desks on each seat:

Vassar Taylor Hall - desk lamp
Vassar Taylor Hall – desk lamp

The housing consists of black-painted cast iron, with a 7 W (“Christmas tree”) incandescent bulb keeping it pleasantly warm to the touch. A metal conduit connects the lamp to the main conduit running parallel to the seat rows at the edge of each step. Another hole on the other side cast light upward toward the ceiling, perhaps providing general room light in the Good Old Days.

The restored seats are much wider than dictated by contemporary standards, perhaps allowing enough room for the classic conical skirts often seen in historic Vassar photographs:

Vassar Taylor Hall - desk lamp perspective
Vassar Taylor Hall – desk lamp perspective

That’s about 170 W of light down those two rows. I didn’t think to run the numbers at the time, but there’s gotta be a kilowatt of those little lamps in that auditorium!

And, yes, male pattern baldness affected a remarkable number of attendees…