As twilight faded over Pasadena on September 9, 1894, an artificial sun flickered to life for the first time. High above town in the San Gabriel Mountains stood a wonder of the new electric age: a 60-inch General Electric searchlight, by many accounts the largest in the world. This massive projector first dazzled audiences at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. Now it would perform its nightly spectacle in the mountains above Los Angeles.
Up above, on the summit of Thaddeus Lowe's Echo Mountain resort, tourists wrapped themselves in blankets and huddled around the searchlight as its operator fired it to life. When running at 200 amperes—a current generated by a Pelton water wheel in a nearby canyon—the carbon arc lamp burned with the intensity of 90,000 to 100,000 candles. A massive reflecting lens mirror, built in France, magnified that blaze to 375 million candlepower.