Today I was in Ashville Ohio where the World's Oldest Traffic Light is displayed each year as part of the town's 4th of July celebration. Despite claims that it is the oldest I have found no clear statement of just how old it is. The closest are comments that it hung in Ashville for fifty years and that it was in use until 1982. That indicates a 1932 birth date. It seems to be generally (but incorrectly, see below) accepted that Garrett Morgan invented the first automatic traffic in Cleveland in 1920 but, I assume, no examples of that exist today.
A movie of the light in operation can be seen here. Click on the picture of the light at the right-hand side of the page. The "hand" rotates about every 20 seconds. I do not know whether or not that is the same amount of time as when it was in use. When it reaches the bottom, it appears that a half-red half-green cylinder rotates so that all four sides change simultaneously.
Additional pictures show bits of the festival behind the light and the museum where it is normally displayed. I was in the area for an SCCA race just north of Columbus at Mid-Ohio. Ashville is just south of Columbus. I take the economy route when I'm at the track by myself so, for those who question whether they could be happy living in a Pontiac Vibe, just feast your eyes on these accommodations.
ADDENDUM: 7-Feb-2006, I recently discovered a website that refutes the claim that Garret Morgan invented the first traffic light. There is no question that Morgan earned a patent for a traffic signal; It just wasn't the first. Check out that side of the story here.
ADDENDUM: 14-Jan-2008, Little did I know, as I watched the traffic light switch from green to red and back again, that I was watching the end of an era. According to RoadsideAmerica.com, 2005 was the last year that the light was allowed to leave the museum and operate for a few days in its natural environment. Fearing theft or worse, the light's caretakers have decreed that it will remain safe inside the museum even during the big to do over the 4th of July. Whew! I made it just in time.
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