Traffic Then and Now — Cynthia L. Simmons

Today I’m happy to welcome author Cynthia L. Simmons as she shares a fascinating little piece of history regarding traffic lights.


Do you ever get frustrated with traffic? Sometimes when I sit in bumper to bumper traffic, I stew while thinking I could go faster in a horse and buggy if the way wasn’t clogged. However, roads had different issues in the past. Recently, I found a video on YouTube of a Berlin street in 1900. I was amazed to see horses, street cars, cars, and horse-drawn carriages traveling together. People also meandered between the vehicles, and everyone dodged each other at intersections. The road had no lines, and only the busiest crossroads had a policeman. I couldn’t see anyone demanding the right of way, but I wondered what might happen if a horse spooked.

That film made me wonder when they started using traffic signals. Obviously, cars got better, went faster, and car accidents became a problem. At first, governments used semaphores like those employed by the railroad. J.P. Knight installed the first gas operated red and green light outside Parliament in 1868. However, the gas leaked and exploded, killing a policeman.

In 1912 Lester Wire, a Utah policeman, developed the first electric traffic light. He had first-hand experience directing heavy traffic and believed the job too dangerous. He made a wooden box, painted it yellow, mounted it on a pole, and added red and green lights. A nearby policeman flipped a switch to change the color.

Of course, now we have road signs, traffic laws, road markings, rumble strips, and synchronized traffic signals. Now when I get stuck in traffic, I remind myself to praise God for the advantages I have today. Cars are more reliable and comfortable, and I can listen to an audiobook while waiting. Road markings make lanes clear, and I don’t have to worry about the behavior of the horse in front of me.



Uneasiness permeated Chattanooga where Mary Beth Roper grew up. Every conversation she overheard is heated, yet her banker-father was hesitant to reveal the facts. Will Tennessee secede and force them into a war? She was an adult and demanded he tell her the truth, yet she feared the angry politics she’d seen. Then she learned a rogue customer threatened their bank. Somehow, she must find a way to work with Peter Chandler, her father’s partner, even though she can’t bear to be near him. As she unraveled an impossible puzzle, she learned to value her faith.  


About Cynthia:

Cynthia L. Simmons is a former homeschool mother of five and president of Christian Authors Guild where she led a writing conference for six years. Cynthia has a special place in her heart for moms and homeschool moms in the trenches. She has written historical fiction, curriculum, devotions, and nonfiction. Currently she serves as columnist for Leading Hearts Magazine, produces Heart of the Matter Radio, does ‘Cynthia Chats’ and ‘Momlife encouragement’ videos for young moms, and offers an other-centered calendar each month for her followers.  For more information see her website:  

About historythrutheages

I write stories of His Story Through The Ages that offer tales of hope and redemption.

Posted on November 10, 2020, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Thank you for sharing the information concerning our current traffic laws and traffic lights. Thank you for sharing your talent and time.

  2. Wow! I had no idea about the history of traffic laws & lights! Very interesting! Thanks for sharing!

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