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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

What is the Smaller Light on the Horizontal Pole on the New Optic Traffic Lights?

“I’ve noticed that on the new style of optic traffic lights in town there is also a smaller light on the horizontal pole.  It is encased in wire.  Do you know what it is called and why is it there?” The Newton Falls Public Library staff had also noticed the bulb about which our patron was asking and like him had no idea.

These are very new lights, so we began our search online using the terms “traffic light components.”  The website,, had interesting information about how traffic light control systems work. Others had the field components of traffic systems, but not the information wanted by our patron.

We did find the website,  The company, Traffic Parts, Inc., supplies traffic control equipment. Having been unsuccessful in our search so far, we emailed the company to ask them if they knew the name and purpose of this smaller light. Danny Miller, Regional Sales Manager, contacted us back with an answer, but also asked for a photograph to make sure he was giving us the correct information.  Our patron was so curious, he was more than happy to take one to attach to the responding email. It is “a confirmation light. This light is used to indicate that the signal is red. With this light, police enforcement can tell if someone is running a red light even if they cannot see the face of the signal to see that it is red.” Mr. Miller also passed along some additional information that he felt our patrons would be interested in knowing: “The cameras that are on the horizontal arm that point down at the vehicles (usually they are mounted on a pipe that extends 2 to 3 feet above the arm) are there to tell the traffic controller that there is a vehicle present and it needs to give that side of the intersection a green light. The other thing that might be mounted on the arm is a dome type camera like the ones you might see at a department store. These cameras are for the traffic control centers to monitor traffic.”

An interesting bit of trivia about traffic lights can be found in World of Invention: History’s Most Significant Inventions and the People Behind Them.  Garrett Augustus Morgan of Cleveland, Ohio developed “the automatic three-stage electric traffic light . . . This was the precursor to the red, yellow and green lights in use today. Morgan patented his traffic light in 1923, and then sold the rights to General Electric for $40,000” [p.535]. How Ohio Helped Invent the World: From the Airplane to the Yo-Yo by Curt Dalton states on page 58, that Morgan also invented an earlier signal that was “the first electrical traffic light ever built to control conflicting streams of traffic.”  It was erected on August 5, 1914 at Euclid Avenue and 105th Street in Cleveland. 


The City of Newton Falls Electric Department requested that we clarify the information in the article about the new traffic lights.  When Mr. Miller of Traffic Parts, Inc. spoke about cameras, it wasn’t meant to imply that there were cameras monitoring the traffic in Newton Falls. He thought our patrons would be interested in the many uses of the horizontal bar.

In Newton Falls and the surrounding communities, the additional items on the horizontal bars are used for emergency traffic control.  They pick up information, from the GPS in emergency and police vehicles, that there is a situation needing other traffic to be stopped. When this occurs, the traffic control system is informed to turn all the lights to red, with the exception of lights in the direction emergency vehicles are traveling. The confirmation light informs the drivers of the emergency vehicles that the information has been received, and the lights have changed to ensure that they can safely travel through the intersection.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

What Was the Name of the Drug Store Near Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C.?

“I’m trying to remember the name of a drug store chain from the 1950s, 1960s.  There was one near where I lived in Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C., and I remember there was also one in Youngstown.  The one in Washington was replaced by Gray Drugs. Can you find the name of the store for me?”  Questions such as this one are always intriguing, requiring extra thought as to how to approach finding something which has since been replaced by something else.

Initially our online search took us to the article, GRAY DRUG STORES, INC. - The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History.  This was a joint effort by Case Western Reserve University and Western Reserve Historical Society.  According to the article, Gray Drug purchased Rinks and Drug Fair, before it was taken over by Sherwin Williams. Their Gray Drug division then took over Cunningham Drug Stores. None of these chains were the one for which our patron was looking.

Continuing the search, we changed our focus from the history of Gray Drug, to the 1950s drug stores located in Dupont Circle.  The website has the article, Then and Now: Dupont's drug store by Kent Boese  [March 25, 2009]. Boese writes about the Peoples Drug at P street and Dupont Circle in 1968. Another site,, posted the article The Once-Ubiquitous Peoples Drug Stores on December 5, 2011. In 1974, the Ohio-based drug store chain, Lane Drug Corporation, not Gray Drug, gained a controlling share of Peoples' stock. These stores have all been renamed and are part of CVS. Streets of Washington has some wonderful photographs of the old Peoples stores. We spoke again with our patron and as soon as we said Peoples, her response was positive.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

What is the Breed of the Large White Dog I Saw?

“I saw these large white dogs, and the owner said they were not Great Pyrenees.  The name began with a k.  Can you help me find what kind of dog they are?”  Many of the Newton Falls Public Library staff are dog lovers, so it was enjoyable browsing through the books in this area of our collection. The Complete Dog Book is an Official Publication of the American Kennel Club. The index listed only four breeds beginning with that letter, and the patron recognized Kuvasz as the name given by the dog owner.

Looking at color photographs in The Complete Dog Book: A Comprehensive, Practical Care and Training Manual and A Definitive Encyclopedia of World Breeds by Peter Larkin, we could better see the similarities and differences in the two breeds. As the patron said, they are both large and white. The Hungarian Kuvasz can range from 26-29.5 inches, weighing 66-115 pounds.  The Great Pyrenees or Pyrenean Mountain Dog, depending on the sex, can be 25.5-27.5 inches, and 88-113 pounds. The coat of the Kuvasz is pure white, medium in length, and thick. That of the Pyrenees is coarse-textured, and can have color variation especially on the head and ears. They are both flock herding dogs.