In 1907, when W D’Arcy Ryan of the General Electric Company designed a far more powerful illumination of the Falls, the spectacle ran for several weeks and prompted an extravagant outpouring of enthusiasm. According to the New York Tribune of 5 September 1907, the Falls looked far better lit up at night than they ever had during the daylight. The dramatic effects of the multi-coloured lights were such that “words fail to describe the magnificence of the spectacle”. Another observer wrote: “It was a riot of glorious beauty, so new, so strange, so marvelous – so like some unearthly and unexplained magic that it held the spectator startled, then spellbound, speechless and delighted.” By the 1920s the Niagara illuminations had become a nightly exhibition and drew visitors from across the country.
Corporate and civic organisations were also drawing attention to their buildings with lighting effects that functioned as a form of publicity. By emphasising awe-inspiring architectural features, such as grandiose classical facades or the soaring height of skyscrapers, they harnessed the symbolic values expressed by light in general and by electric illumination specifically – progress, evolution, modernity and technological advancement. These values were likewise embodied in the industrial manifestations of electricity – power stations, generators, transmission towers – that began to materialise in the urban and rural landscape as the 20th century approached.