Throughout history, humans have searched for a solution to the fundamental problem of lighting their environment. In broad terms, the problem of lighting began in pre-historic times and was resolved with the facilities available at the time. The light from stove flames, embers placed on trivets, torches carried by hand and oil lamps were utilized throughout pre-historic ages. Candles and mobile lanterns were added to these in following periods.

One of the important turning points of lighting history occurred thanks to the invention of town gas. Town gas is a type of gas produced by burning bituminous coal. Town gas was used in particular for lighting and heating. It began to become a part of daily life following the lighting of streets in London in 1807. The streets of Baltimore in America were lit by town gas in 1817 and the streets of Paris were lit after 1820; as a result, oil lamps were used less and less. The lighting process in Istanbul was parallel to global developments. Candles were utilized as the basic means of lighting in Istanbul for many years. Olive oil,1 candles of various types such as oil candles, spermaceti candles, wax candles and oil lamps were utilized for the lighting of residences and public places.2 The fact that the candle was a widely accepted means of lighting gradually resulted in the emergence of a tradesmen group that cast and sold candles.

Before the streets were lit by modern methods, the city was dark at night. Thus, it was forbidden to wander the streets at night without a lantern and everybody was obliged to carry one. Those who did not obey this rule were either sent to prison or were forced to work in hamam furnaces, obliged to stoke the furnaces until morning. They were released in the morning, covered in dirt after carrying out tasks such as carrying wood and cleaning the furnaces town gas began to be used in Istanbul after the lighting of Dolmabahçe Palace in 1853, during the reign of sultan Abdülmecid (1839-1861).

The Dolmabahçe Gasworks, constructed behind the palace stables, was established for this purpose. The Gasworks’ primary function was to illuminate the palace. The street, known as Cadde-i Kebir (today’s İstiklal Avenue) was also lit by 1856 with the surplus gas produced from the Gasworks. Other streets in Beyoğlu and Galata were gradually lit as well. In addition, some residents of Beyoğlu even obtained permission to have town gas fixtures built in their houses.3 Dolmabahçe Gasworks was later used for lighting venues such as Tophane-i Amire Avenue, Talimhane, Ortaköy, Pangaltı, Bahçekapı, Beşiktaş Police Department and its surroundings, Yıldız Palace and its surroundings, Gümüşsuyu Hospital and Hamidiye Etfal Hospital.

Lighting the interior of the city walls of Istanbul was brought onto the agenda at a later date. To address this need, Yedikule Gasworks was built and put into service in 1880. Gasworks were utilized for the lighting of Eyüp, Bakırköy and Yeşilköy in addition to the interior of the city walls.4 Town gas began to be used on the Anatolian side of Istanbul with the construction of the Kuzguncuk Gasworks, built in Kuzguncuk to provide fuel for lighting Beylerbeyi Palace. This gasworks, constructed in 1865, also served the surrounding area. Since this gasworks did not meet all the needs, Hasanpaşa Gasworks was built in 1891 for lighting Kadıköy.5 Hasanpaşa Gasworks provided the town gas required for Kadıköy, Üsküdar and Anadoluhisarı.

When it became apparent that electricity could be widely utilized, town gas was introduced to the city and it began to be used in the lighting of certain districts. The first initiative identified in terms of the electrification of the streets of Istanbul dates back to 1878 when a French company proposed lighting the streets of Istanbul. Charles Toucas stated in his application to the Municipality on behalf of Société Générale d’Electricité de Paris on December 17, 1878 that they wanted to light the streets of Istanbul with electricity.6 Following the ratification of the Council of State regarding this proposal, it was debated and adopted by the Ottoman government, and submitted to the palace for ratification. Abdülhamid II ratified this decision with a decree dated September 3, 1879.7 The imperial order granting the proposal of the Paris General Electricity Company was put in force in four days; on September 7, 1879. Thereupon, the representative of the company, Charles Toucas, applied to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with a petition dated November 13, 1879. The application asked for permission from the government for running tests within Yıldız Palace before the arrival of engineers and equipment that would be brought from abroad. This testing would be carried out in the presence of the sultan and would please the industrialists of Paris, the inventors and practitioners of the “Jablochkoffe” method.8

1- An oil lamp which was used for illuminating before the electricity (Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality City Museum)

In spite of the positive attitude of the Ottoman State regarding this issue and the preparation of a sample contract, these 1879 initiatives did not come to fruition. However, electricity had been brought onto the agenda of the Ottoman State and they were convinced that it was necessary to benefit from electric power as a new invention regarded as a requirement for a civilized society. Thus, developments after this time were directed towards this goal. Delegations were sent to several congresses on electricity and students were sent abroad to study electricity. The next step was the initiative of establishing an electric power plant in the country. Electricity was described in the following sentences in archival documents of the period: “Âlem-i medeniyete fevaid-i amme ve teshilat-ı mühimme bahşeden elektrik fenni bir taraftan terakkiyatını tezyid, diğer taraftan mehasinat ve fevaidini her veçhile tamim eylemekte.” (Electricity, which offers wide benefits and important convenience for the civilized world is gradually progressing and expanding the beauty and benefits it offers in every respect.) This ensured that technological developments and the benefits acquired from it gradually spread.

Ramiz, Hüsnü and Faik Bey, who studied in Paris and obtained practical knowledge, returned to Istanbul after completing their education. Thus, the construction of the electricity power plant, which had been under considered for many years, finally began. The power plant was built within the shipyard located on the Golden Horn; the construction of the plant was completed in December, 1888. After great efforts, all the machinery was finally put in place and the power plant was opened on December 12, 1888.9 All kinds of gadgetry and equipment required for lighthouses and ships were manufactured in the power plant. Meanwhile, attention was paid to educating the public about electricity, with publications of books like that entitled Elektrik Risalesi (Electricity Pamphlet). The author of the book, Hayri Bey, was one of the lecturers of Mekteb-i Harbiye (Military Academy) and the Ministry of Education approved the printing of the book in 1888.

The Beginning of the Utilization of Electricity in the City

The electricity power station established in Istanbul in 1888 led to the idea of providing electricity to some buildings in the city. In February 1889, this began to be undertaken. There was a shop in Galata owned by the Mekteb-i Sanayi (School of Engineering) to provide money for their students. This shop was rented by Esteban, who dealt with ready-made clothing, at an unprecedentedly high price of 825 liras per year. Esteban had the shop refurbished and at that time, submitted a proposal to the directors of Mekteb-i Sanayi, requesting that the building be wired for electricity during the renovations. Süleyman Bey, the principal of Mekteb-i Sanayi, commented on this, mentioning examples in Europe where electric lighting was used and that were quite cheerful. Although illuminating a building with electricity had not yet been done in Istanbul, but it could be done very easily during the renovations.10 This proposal introduced the utilization of electricity in buildings for the first time. Soon, some institution which had the means, such as the Ottoman Bank, installed electricity in their buildings.11

2- A section from the specifications prepared by Mr. Charles Toucas who applied to
    Istanbul Prefecture on December 17, 1878 on behalf of Société Générale
    d’Electricité de Paris requesting to take the job of illuminating the city of Istanbul
    (BOA, ŞD, no. 688/35)

Abdülhamid II became more interested in electricity as it gradually began to be used. For example, the sultan saw a picture of some electrical appliances in a German newspaper published in Berlin and asked to be briefed about them.12 The sultan also expressed his desire to use some electrical appliances. The sultan even ordered an electric car that was being used in Europe; this car was brought to Istanbul by ship in May 1889. An electric boat was also ordered for the sultan, which arrived in Istanbul in June 1889, after being tested in the factory where it was produced.13

Abdülhamid II also had the Paris envoy, Münir Pasha, obtain electrical appliances for the palace. For example, according to Münir Pasha, one large and one small electric car “of the most exquisite and convenient ones” were ordered in 1889. Münir Pasha monitored the production of these cars in person. Münir Pasha also bought an electric camera for the sultan; this was described as quite amusing and easy to use. Münir Pasha also sent numerous photographs he had taken with the camera. An electric chandelier was ordered and was sent to Istanbul.14

Abdülhamid II endeavored to ensure the general lighting of Istanbul. He ordered negotiations to be conducted for the electrification of İzmir with a German named Ferdinand, who requested the concessions for providing electricity for the city (May 1889).15

An article about the dangers of electricity and accidents was published in an American newspaper in 1892; this attracted Abdülhamid II’s attention and he ordered an investigation into the topic. Some rooms of Yıldız Palace were lit with electricity and some electrical appliances were in use.

The sultan was disquieted by occasional articles about the dangers of electricity in European and American newspapers. The accidents covered in the papers usually occurred in some European cities that used 10,000 volt alternating current. The electricity manager of Yıldız Palace studied the newspapers and received information from his science advisor Emil Efendi and physics teachers at Mekteb-i Sultanî (Galatasaray High School) and Mekteb-i Sanayi. He also read an article by Edison on these types of accidents. After careful study, Emil Efendi clarified the issue in a report he submitted to the sultan. The reason behind the accidents was the utilization of the high voltage “alternating method”. However, as a result of latest developments, 110-volt electricity of low pressure, called “direct current”, was used; this posed no threat. The electricity used in Yıldız Palace was the “direct current” method and consisted of 110 volts, so there was nothing to be afraid of.16

Nevertheless, there was a risk of fire due to sparks from the electric piano used at Yıldız Palace; the fires were contained with difficulty. Abdülhamid II evaluated these along with the advantages and disadvantages of electricity and told Atıf Bey, who was his private physician during the years he was in exile in Thessaloniki:

Yıldız is lit by electricity. It is quite convenient and clean. However, from time to time, some part of it breaks down. One may suddenly be in the dark. Therefore, there should be candles too. One night, the Russian Emperor gave a banquet in his palace. All the elites were there. The hall was well decorated. It was lit by electricity. Right at that moment, the lamps suddenly went out. They were left in the dark. They had not bought any candles beforehand as a precaution. There was such a panic. Sometimes accidents or fires occur. Something goes wrong with the wires. Sparks fly out. The whole chamber is caught up in flames. Once we had a piano in the chamber of a young lady. It was operated by electricity. It played a song perfectly, as melodious as the greatest pianist. It has a device that lets it play different songs. For example, if an operetta is desired, it is placed there, the button is pushed and it plays on its own. I ordered four pianos like this from Germany. One was in the lady’s chamber and two were in the chambers of the princes. Then I ordered one more. It cost me 200 liras. One day, while the lady was playing one of them, there was a spark. Thank God, the silk curtains prevented a fire. I taught them beforehand that they were to cut the wires immediately. It burned a tiny spot on the wall. It is sometimes accidental and dangerous. It will take time.17

3- The opening ceremony of the company of Tenvir-i Şehr-i İstanbul Şirket-i Osmaniye

This demonstrates that the sultan was not opposed to electricity; on the contrary, he was actually aware of its benefits. However, he thought that it would be better to wait until some of the technological problems had been worked out. Hence, the sultan was convinced that electricity should not be widely used until it was safer and people trusted it. As a result, the use of electricity in the city was controlled. This meant that those who were importing electrical appliances had to declare where they would use them and they would be bear responsible. Even though electricity was used in Istanbul after 1892, a supervision mechanism was put into force. This supervision was stricter for the personal utilization of electricity. However, there was no hindrance for the importing electrical medical equipment to Istanbul to be used in treatment in hospitals.

Electrical appliances that were not to be utilized in the medical field gradually started to be used more. In 1905 electricity was being used in some hotels and shops in Beyoğlu.18 In 1906 the Serkl Doryan Club (Cercle D’Orient) was lit by electricity with an imported electrical machine. There were festivities using electrical lighting on the Ertuğrul to mark the birthday of the sultan in the same year.19

By 1907, lighting with electricity became easier for institutions which had the facilities to do so. In the same year, 19 chests of electrical appliances arrived from Germany for Rayzır; these were granted an entrance permit without being examined to determine whether they were medical devices or not.20 Electricity was freely used in the theaters by August, 1907.21Two entrepreneurs of English origin received permission to import two electrical machines – one with four horsepower and the other with eight. These were used in the cinema in October of the same year. However, the sultan strongly emphasized that movies could only be shown using electrical devices if they posed no hazard to the public.22

In December, 1907, Abdülhamid II granted the privilege of lighting Istanbul by electricity to Tophane-i Âmire, a state institution.23 This situation led to the Tramvay Şirketi (Tram Company) coming into being. However, Perdikaris, the manager of the company, made some suggestions which were deemed inappropriate.

Likewise, the suggestions from İstanbul Havagazı Şirketi (Town Gas Company) were not accepted. Thus, it was thought that the best solution was for electricity agreements to be carried out by Tophane-i Âmire.24

Since Tophane-i Âmire was unable to carry out this task on its own, electricity companies in Europe were contacted and their assistance requested. Analyses were carried out and it was decided that the conditions most appropriate for the interests of the state were those suggested by Gaston de Lamat on behalf of an electricity company in France. The company also sent a representative to Istanbul. As a result of the negotiations that were carried out, an agreement of many clauses was signed on June 22, 1908.

The contract was drawn up in accordance with the agreement between the parties. The provisions agreed upon and mentioned above were listed in ten articles.25 The agreement established with the French company included conditions that were more acceptable than the suggestions of Tramvay Şirketi or Havagazı Şirketi. However, political developments suspended these investments for a while.

Electricity in the New Era Beginning with the Proclamation of Second Constitutional Period

During this period, many political developments took precedence over the installation of electricity. At the beginning of the 19th century the Ottoman state was dealing with various political troubles both inside and outside the country, as well as an unstable financial structure which had been continuing for a long while. Following the proclamation of the Second Constitutional Period, progress in establishing electricity in Istanbul proceeded in line with the tendencies of the ruling İttihat ve Terakki Partisi (Committee of Union and Progress).

Several requests for licenses were received at this time. Mehmet Ali Bey and Paşazade Fazlı Bey applied for licenses for the electrification of Istanbul in 1909 and Morgée also applied for a license. Mr. Gaston Vreimann applied for a license and an institution established under the name İstanbul’un Elektriklendirilmesi Şirketi applied for an electricity license as well. In addition, a company called İstanbul Kanal Şirketi and Anadolu Demiryolları Şirketi and Mr. Brown and Bavarie applied for a similar license for electric tow trucks for Istanbul. Cemal Bey asked for the privilege of lighting Istanbul and electric tow trucks as well. Wolt Marriess applied to the Ministry of Public Works for the rights to the electrification of Istanbul and İzmir, while Kreig Thompson applied for the rights for the electrification of Istanbul and the surrounding area.26

4- Minister of Marine Hasan Hüsnü Paşa’s letter dated December 11, 1888 about
    the completion of electricity factory which had begun to be constructed by three
    officers in the Imperial Shipyard (BOA, Y.PRK. ASK, no. 52/40)

Along with these requests, in the new era the Municipality believed that they should have ownership of the privilege of providing electricity in Istanbul and the utilization of electricity in tram-like vehicles. The city council even made a ruling on this. However, the Ottoman government met on September 2, 1909 under the presidency of Grand Vizier Hüseyin Hilmi Pasha, and did not allow this. According to the government, while it was natural that the municipality benefits from this type of investment to improve the city, those who wanted a license should apply to the Ministry of Public Works, in line with the established procedure.27 What was important was that the privilege be granted to the institution which, taking into consideration the interests of the state, offered the best conditions. The plan was to grant an electricity license covering Istanbul (inside the city walls), Beyoğlu and the Anatolian side of the Bosphorus.

5- German Prince Wilhelm Eitel Friedrich’s visit to electricity factory at Haydarpaşa pier in 1903

During this period, when efforts to install electricity became more intense, some homeowners in Beyoğlu installed electricity in their residences using their own resources. According to the government, production and distribution of electricity in the city belonged to the public sphere. However, the electrification of each house by its owner would be damaging to the public interest. General electrification of the city was to be put in practice soon. Therefore, utilization of electricity in residences was forbidden until the time when electricity was produced and distributed by the state. The Municipality was to be in charge of this task.28

6- The Minister of Sultan’s Private Treasury Agop Kazasyan Paşa’s letter dated
    June 4, 1889 about the arrival of electric car and boat to Istanbul ordered for
    Sultan Abdülhamid II (BOA, Y.PRK. HH, no. 21/40)

Meanwhile, complaints came in stating that the banning of the utilization of electricity was a violation of personal freedom. According to the complainants, which generally came from people of foreign origin, the government should not object to the use of electricity by individuals. There was a possibility that individual use might be forbidden when the license was granted and production of electricity passed to the government. The reason behind these demands was that the ban meant that the transportation of benzene to the Pera Palas Hotel, which was required for the electric lighting of the hotel, was prohibited. This was viewed as a constraint on personal freedoms. The Ottoman government evaluated the issue and decided that as the Pera Palas Hotel had been using electricity for many years, restricting the electrification of the hotel was out of the question. The purpose was to prevent the danger posed by the significant amount of benzene brought to and stored in the hotel for the production of electricity. Since benzene was an easily flammable substance, it could cause a fire at any time. In addition, many other institutions had begun to store their own benzene in their buildings for the purpose of lighting. The danger posed by this situation could not be ignored. The government developed a solution for this and a benzene storage depot was established in Çubuklu. Thus, the benzene required for the buildings that used it for electricity would be supplied from this storage site and no one could would be able to privately store benzene. The electricity utilization ban for private residences continued.29

Meanwhile, as the benefits to be gained by the electrification of Istanbul were being taken into consideration, the Ottoman government began to investigate methods of supplying electricity to the European side of the city first. Buildings would have electricity installed and electricity would be used for industry and running the trams. The issue was debated during government meetings and it was decided that electricity would be beneficial for the city.30

Following these developments, in February 1910 the Ministry of Public Works announced that it would conduct a tender, to be announced in the press, for the lighting of Istanbul by electricity and for the electrification of trams; bids were to be submitted to the Ministry.31 International companies also participated in the tender. German, English and French companies were interested in the tender and wanted to participate not only in the electrification, but also transportation in Istanbul. As a result, there was significant competition between the “Union Ottoman” company, composed of German partners and English “Westinghouse”; this was followed in the media via the newspapers.32

7- Silahtarağa Electric Factory which has been turned into Santral Istanbul / Energy Museum by Bilgi University

After the announcement by the Ministry of Public Works, eight of the world’s leading foreign companies and partnerships applied for the tender to supply electricity for Istanbul.33 There were differences among the proposals from the companies. For example, the number of lamps to be supplied free of charge varied from 100 to 600 and the proposals for power to be acquired by the power plant varied from 2,500 to 27,000 kilowatts.34

Following the evaluation of the proposals by the Ministry of Public Works, it was decided that of the eight companies, the best conditions were offered by the Ganz Company of Hungary.35 Meanwhile, some of the objections to this tender were taken into consideration by the Council of State, but were declared invalid. The decisions of the Council of State were discussed during a government meeting on October 23, 1910 and were ratified by Sultan Mehmed V.36 Thus, the privilege of the electrification of the Anatolian side of Istanbul and of the trams was granted to the Société Anonyme d’Electricite Ganz, based in Budapest. The duration of the agreement was 50 years; after this period, production would belong to the government. The final contracts and specifications, prepared and agreed upon by the parties, were signed on October 24, 1910.

Establishment of Elektrik Şirketi (Electricity Company) and Electrification Activities

According to the signed contract, the winner of the tender, Ganz Company, was expected to establish an Ottoman incorporated company which would begin preparations within six months after the privileges had been granted. The company was established in April 1911 with the participation of organizations such as La Société Anonyme d’Elecricité Ganz, La Société Anonyme de pour Entreprise d’Elecricité et de communications, La Banque de Bruxelles, La Banque Generale de Credit de Hongrois and La Maison Giros et Loucheur and the Osmanlı Anonim Elektrik Şirketi (Ottoman Electricity Company, Inc).37 The agreement covered the Municipal units from 1 to 12 on the Anatolian side of Istanbul and 20th Municipal unit located in Yeniköy.

Afterwards, a consortium was established to incorporate the Tünel, Tramvay and Osmanlı Anonim Elektrik companies as the Union Ottoman Société d’Interprises Electriques à Constan­tinople (Istanbul Consortium) in September 1911. The consortium was composed of groups of 6 German, 7 French, 6 Belgian, 6 Belgian-Hungarian and 1 Swiss partnership. The purpose of the consortium was to carry out various enterprises that were concerned with transportation and the electrification of Istanbul and to control these sectors. Within this framework, Tramvay Şirketi, Tünel Şirketi and Elektrik Şirketi were incorporated within the consortium. The fund allocated 36,000,000 francs for the purchase of Tünel Şirketi and Tramvay Şirketi. At the same time, 18,000,000 francs were allocated for Elektrik Şirketi. The consortium also aimed to construct the Beyazıt-Şişli subway, which was estimated at a cost of 36,000,000 francs.38The Istanbul Consortium owned the Gaz Şirketi (Town Gas Company) as well.

The Istanbul Consortium, which undertook the operation of the Tram and Tünel and the electrification of Istanbul, was actually a branch of the Société Finencière de Transport et de l’Entreprise Industrielles (SOFINA), a multinational company of Belgian origin that operated in numerous countries around the world.39 SOFINA, which played an active role in the electrification and transportation affairs in many countries, ranging from Argentina to Russia, became closely related to these sectors with the incorporated Istanbul consortium.40The president of the group, Fris, was also the president of the Istanbul group. The SOFINA group was active in the electricity and transportation affairs of Istanbul until the nationalization process, which took place during the Republican period.

8- One of the turbines of Silahtarağa Electric Factory

The construction of the electricity power plant began in September 1911. A place was set aside for the company at Silahtarağa, on the shores of the Golden Horn.41 The Silahtarağa region, where the Alibeyköy and Kağıthane brooks flowed out into the Golden Horn, was chosen as the construction site for the power plant. Due to concerns about environmental pollution, the construction of industrial structures, particularly those with steam-operated machines, was banned to the east of the Unkapanı Bridge (Bosphorus and its surroundings). As a result, a large number of industrial facilities were concentrated between Silahtarağa and Unkapanı. Because this was a safe harbor with a wide, deep basin which allowed for water transportation and trade with its opening to the straits and rich soil on both shores, the Golden Horn accommodated numerous small and large industrial facilities as well as shipyards. Therefore, it was planned that the electricity power plant would be within this industrial region. Since there were significant losses of power during the transfer of electricity as a result of the technology of the era, having the power plant close to the industrial facilities would minimize such losses. Additionally, the factors playing a role in the selection of Silahtarağa included convenience of transportation of coal - which was used as a raw material - by sea and overland; supply of water used during various phases of electricity production from the stream near the area; convenience of the distribution network due to the fact that the region was neither completely in nor out of the city and that it had a central location.42

9- The center of Silahtarağa Electric Factory turbines

The power plant transformed coal into electrical power by burning it. The produced electricity was used for the trams, supplied to industrial facilities and distributed to the city via underground and over-ground networks. The construction of the power plant began under the supervision of the engineer Leopolds Stark, who was later replaced by the engineer Auguste Berker.43

In 1912, the streets and squares of Istanbul were lit by town gas. The streets and squares of the entire city were lit by 8,460 lanterns -1,988 lanterns in Beyoğlu, 3,238 lanterns in Istanbul (interior of city walls), with 2,644 lanterns in Üsküdar-Kadıköy.44 There was progress in the Silahtarağa Elektrik Fabrikası in December 1913. However, a flood damaged the Silahtarağa Elektrik Fabrikası, which was located on the shore of the Golden Horn. The power plant was not yet in operation and there was a delay due to the flood damage.45

Preparations for the operation of the Silahtarağa Elektrik Fabrikası were accelerated at the end of January 1914.46 Developments were published in the newspapers.

The İkdam newspaper published the following news regarding electricity in its news dated 24 January 1914:

The central electricity power plant commissioned by Osmanlı Anonim Elektrik Şirketi at Silahtarağa in accordance with scientific regulations was scheduled to be in operation by the end of January. The major streets of Istanbul would be lit brighter than the Karaköy Bridge, which was already lit by electricity. Private residences were scheduled to become lit in this way. Electric lights were beneficial and with the flip of a switch, rooms could be lit or the lights could be turned off. The use of electricity was a way to break free from the fume-producing petroleum lamps and town gas burners that did not provide good light due to inadequate pressure.

Some people believe that electric light is expensive. Some people think that only the rich will be able to benefit from electricity. However, this idea is absolutely wrong. Lighting with electricity is no more expensive than the lighting by town gas or petroleum. The following figures shall be enough to prove this argument of ours.

A petroleum lamp, which, according to the claims of the factories, have the power of fifty candles, but which actually have a lighting power of twenty-five candles, consumes about 150 gr. petroleum per hour. This costs 7.5 para according to the current price of petroleum. However, the price of petroleum is constantly rising.

Another news item published in İkdam addressed the operation of Silahtarağa Elektrik Fabrikası. Electricity production started at the power plant on February 6, 1914 and the first lamp was lit by Hallaçyan Efendi. The following is the newspaper article about this:

The machines established with the power plant constructed by Osmanlı Anonim Elektrik Şirketi at Silahtarağa have been put into operation following their testing and examination. Cemal Pasha, the Minister of Public Works, visited the power plant some while ago. Salim Pasha, the deputy mayor, visited this institution last week and Hallaçyan Efendi, the former Minister of Public Works, went to Silahtarağa to visit the power plant the day before. Ogüst, the general director of the company, showed various sections of the building to the mayor and presented the operation of the machines. The first lamp was lit with the electricity that was produced in the power plant following the examination of the power plant during Hallaçyan Efendi’s visit on February 6, 1914.47

The power plant was in full operation after the completion of other operations that were carried out during the following days; electricity was supplied to the trams on February 11, 1914.48 Electricity was supplied to the city for the first time on February 14, 1914. 49

The electricity dispatched from the Silahtarağa Elektrik Fabrikası reached consumers through cables. The 10,000 volt current was also transformed into 110 volts. Three of the seven main cables dispatched from the power plant for distribution, arrived in Beyazıt, the distribution hub for within the city walls. Three other cables went towards Beyoğlu, terminating at the Pera Palas and Ayaspaşa distribution hubs; the final main cable – which served the Bosphorus – led to the İstinye distribution hub. A connection was established between these three main hubs through supply cables. Thus, a network of significant capacity was established to reinforce one another in case of a breakdown in one of the lines. The most important of these connection cables was the cable connecting the Beyazıt and Pera Palas stations. In order to do this, the cables had to pass under the sea via the Golden Horn.

High voltage secondary cables from important distribution hubs, such as Beyazıt, Pera Palas, Ayaspaşa and İstinye, spread out in several directions, reaching Yeşilköy in Istanbul and Yenimahalle in Beyoğlu. The length of this network was 317,000 m. in total across the city, covering 144,515 m. of high and 117,230 m. of low voltage cables, with 55,220 m. of over-ground lines and cables used for general lighting.50

The length of the network was 258,320 m. by the end of 1914 and there were 60 transformer hubs. In 1914, there were 2,055 electricity subscribers in Istanbul.51 Following the start of the operation of the facilities, the shares were transferred in their entirety to SOFINA Company. Thus, the name GANZ was removed and replaced by SOFINA.

10- Some of the instruments at the control room of Silahtarağa Electric Factory

A group of 13 turbo generators of five thousand kilowatts each and 6 cauldrons producing 12,000-13,500 kg. of steam every hour were placed within the power plant. In addition to these three turbine groups, one turbo alternator of 12,000 kilowatts and two cauldrons - each producing 12,000 kg. of steam per hour (similar to present day ones) - were added to the newly constructed engine room in 1921. With 60 transformer hubs, 258,320 mm of electricity networks and 2,055 customers were connected in the same year. While the production in 1914 was 816,355 kilowatts per hour, 4,694,073 kilowatts of electricity power per hour was sold to subscribers, with about three-fourths of this being used by the trams. The maximum load was 3,000 kilowatts per hour.

Although these types of contracts were in force with subscribers, the barriers that blocked the general lighting of Istanbul had an adverse impact. The most important reason for these problems was the outbreak of World War I, in which the Ottoman State was involved. It was not possible to receive materials - particularly those from Europe - in Istanbul due to the war. Also, since England and France were now enemies, it was no longer possible to make purchases from these countries and all the necessary materials had to be supplied by Germany. Even then, transportation difficulties were in force and the shortage of supplies was felt. Some electricity supplies ordered from Germany could not be brought in, yet in February 1915, the approval of the German Ministry of War was expected for these supplies. Mayor İsmet Bey tried to get the necessary approval, but was unable to do so; he expressed his concerns in a letter addressed to the Ministry of Interior Affairs. The supply of petroleum and similar products, which were very important for electric lighting, was made impossible by the war. It was expected that the gasworks would step in at this point, however there was also a shortage of coal. A large number of institutions were using domestic coal. However, in 1915 coal production had declined by half from the previous year. The Russian bombing of the coal basin had an adverse impact on production and it was not possible to increase production, despite the efforts of the Germans.52

The same troubles continued throughout World War I. Actually, the fixtures for lighting the streets had not yet been completed. All efforts went towards ensuring the lighting of government offices. Meanwhile, since the majority of the budget was being spent on the war, the debt of the government departments to the Elektrik Şirketi could not be paid. For example, a non-paid debt of 1,825 kuruş for electricity in 1915 was transferred to the following year.53 There was an effort to find allowances for important institutions, despite all the hardships. For instance, it was possible to allocate allowances for the cost of electricity for the state printing house, which had to be in constant operation.54

11- The control room of Silahtarağa Electric Factory

The situation in 1916 and 1917 remained the same. As it was not possible to obtain a vessel to transport coal from Zonguldak during the war, it was decided to use the ships of Şirket-i Hayriye. However, the sinking of one of these ships by the Russians offshore of Zonguldak on 24 March, 1916 proved that this was not a viable method. When a few more Şirket-i Hayriye ships were sunk by the Russians, this method was abandoned.55

Despite all impediments, the number of electricity subscribers increased from 2,055 in 1914 to 12,894 in 1918 and by 1920, this figure had risen to 17,207.56 Although there was an increase in the number of subscribers, these subscribers were delivered limited electricity. The means of delivery of electricity to subscribers widened in accordance with the coal supply by the end of the war (end of 1918). There was a number of foreign civil servants employed by Elektrik Şirketi during this period: 9 Austrian, 5 German, 3 Italian, 2 Greek and 1 Romanian, 1 Hungarian and 1 Norwegian. There were also 450 employees of Ottoman origin.57

Electricity Utilization in Istanbul during the Early Years of the Republic

The utilization of electricity, making it widely available in Istanbul, which had been neglected during the years of war and invasion, was restarted with the proclamation of the Republic of Turkey. The government aimed to increase the production of electricity in the city and more broadly benefit from this new energy for lighting, transportation and industry by building additional facilities. Once again, there was cooperation with foreign companies, as before the Republic, and the initiatives of production, utilization and making electricity widely available were carried out by these companies. The Ministry of Public Works was the primary ministry that supervised electricity affairs on behalf of the government. The Ministry cooperated with the mayor, Commission of Public Works and other departments for monitoring the electricity companies in Istanbul and the supervision of their work.58

12- The document about generalizing the specifications about the European side
    of the city to the whole country because of the benefits of usage of electricity at
    homes and vehicles

Electricity needs for Istanbul continued to be met by Salihtarağa Elektrik Fabrikası, as had been the case between 1923 and 1933. Initiatives to increase the capacity of the power plant and to remove problems were put in force throughout this period. Preparations for the construction of a conservation wall, a new engine room, assemblage of an immobile bridge and a crane in the power plant started in 1923. The conservation wall was constructed to separate the main body of the power plant from the workers’ lodgings. The crane was exclusively for the engine room and had a capacity of 40 tons.59 Initiatives for the establishment of a new electricity production unit of 10,000 kilowatts at Silahtarağa started within the same year.60 Elektrik Şirketi sent the new construction plans for the power plant and for projects that would increase capacity to the Ministry of Public Works through the Commission of Public Works; in official correspondence, dated 7 June, 1923, approval was requested. The company would, if allowed, replace the current electricity unit of 6,000 kilowatt power –which had been seriously damaged during the war- with the new one of 10,000 kilowatt power. After deliberation, it was acknowledged that the old facilities were seriously damaged and it was necessary to establish new facilities to replace them.61 The work began at the central power plant at Silahtarağa in the middle of 1923 and other tasks, such as the 10,000 kilowatt engine, along with its related work and the transformation of facilities to be added to the general network, were completed by the end of the year; official admission transactions were carried out on November 15, 1923.62 A project was prepared in 1928 to improve the electricity production capacity of the power plant and to enhance the safety of the current stream. A new high-pressure cauldron room was to be built within the power plant, doubling the current power; this would cost 2,000,000 lira. When the new cauldron was in operation, it was expected that it would easily satisfy the demand for 30,000 kilowatts (approximately 40,000 steam horsepower).63 Both of the new facilities were completed in 1929 and the extension work of the power plant was finished in 1930.64

Silahtarağa Fabrikası was a thermal power plant operated by coal; to achieve a steady production of electricity, the need for coal had to be met regularly. As a result, a certain amount of coal was stored as a precaution. In addition to the steady supply of coal, it was also important that it was produced cheaply, as the price of the coal directly affected the price of electricity. Since coal expenditures of the power plant was the primary marker used to determine electricity consumption price and tariffs, the government was obliged to pay close attention to the matter of coal.65 The company, which asked for a crude oil import allowance from the ministry during the coal shortage of 1926 and 1927, acquired permission following an elaborate preliminary examination.66

Documents show that diesel was also used to a certain extent as fuel in addition to coal at the Silahtarağa Fabrikası. Diesel or crude oil, which was consumed in limited amounts during the period between 1923 and 1933, when compared to coal, could only be imported on a decision of the Council of Ministers.67

According to the March 1923 operation data of Türk Anonim Elektrik Şirketi, electricity usage during the maximum consumption period was 8,600 kilowatts at Silahtarağa Fabrikası. The daily average of electricity production was 96,003 kilowatts per hour. The amount of electricity produced in a month was 3,007,100 kilowatts per hour and the amount of electricity distributed across the network was 2,885,150 kilowatts per hour. While the amount of coal consumed in the power plant within the same month was 3,483,700 kg, the amount of consumed crude oil was 11,000 kg. The amount of water concentrated within a month was 22,199,800 kg and the amount of water consumed was 41,852 m3. The amount of ash produced was 406,180 kg; that is 11.65 per cent.68 The operation data from May 1925 shows that electricity production improved at Silahtarağa Fabrikası throughout this period. By May 1925 electricity power in the power plant during the maximum consumption period reached 9,500 kilowatts. The daily average of produced electricity increased to 111,671 kilowatts. The amount of electricity produced monthly was 3,461,800 kilowatts per hour and the amount of electricity distributed across the network was 3,389,860 kilowatts per hour.66

The efforts to provide widespread electricity in Istanbul, which had been suspended during the war, began to be revitalized after 1922 during the atmosphere of peace. Elektrik Şirketi applied to the Ministry of Public Works in January and asked for approval for the electrification of the Grand Bazaar, something that had been planned before World War I, but had been prevented by the war. The company, which submitted the plan and projects to the ministry, intended to first prepare the infrastructure and establish over-ground electricity lines across the neighborhood to supply electricity to the Grand Bazaar. If there were more customers in the future, underground cables would be laid over the main roads of the bazaar. The company had plans to establish an electricity network within the bazaar.69 Available documents show that electricity was used in the Grand Bazaar in 1925 and some of this electricity was produced by the personal means of the tradesmen within the bazaar.70 Another important electrification project by Elektrik Şirketi, beginning in 1922 and ending in 1923, was to supply electricity to Prince Ömer Faruk Efendi’s palaces located at Rumelihisarı and to some mansions located beyond those. The plan and projects of the lines to be established within the area were prepared. A site survey was carried out and nothing was seen to impede construction. Electricity was first supplied to Ömer Faruk Efendi’s palaces and later to the surrounding mansions; this was approved by the Ministry of Public Works and Turkish Grand National Assembly.71

13- The view of the turbines of Silahtarağa Electric Factory from up

Following the demand by Elektrik Şirketi to establish high voltage lines for electricity distribution across Istanbul, the government allowed the establishment of over-ground lines in 1923, bringing electricity to the city in accordance with a procedure agreed upon by the former Ministry of Public Works in 1921.72 These high voltage lines, used to deliver electricity to remote areas of Istanbul, passed outside the city – through non-populated regions -73 and reached a maximum of 50,000 volts.74 Requests were made to the Municipality and Commission of Public Works to enforce precautions to prevent any interference regarding the movement of people and the telegraph, water, gas and tram services by the excavations carried out by the company. According to the provisions of the contract, the company would organize electricity construction in such a way that it would not disrupt public order; they would work in coordination with the Municipality and the Commission of Public Works. The company, which was to inform the Commission and related official authorities about construction at least four days in advance of excavation work, would immediately take action in case of an industrial accident or a situation requiring maintenance of electricity lines; they would also brief the Commission and related authorities about any malfunction within 24 hours. The related institutions and departments did not prevent but rather facilitated and assisted in the proper operation of the construction and maintenance by Elektrik Şirketi across the city.75

Elektrik Şirketi concentrated on construction activities in 1923 and prepared a project in the same year to deliver electricity to the Beyoğlu Cihangir neighborhood and to Boyacıköy. According to the project, which was approved by the Ministry of Public Works and the government, over-ground electricity lines would be erected to deliver electricity to some residences in Cihangir and Boyacıköy. Underground cables would also be laid along with the utility pole lines as the neighborhood grew in the future and the number of subscribers increased.76 The most important reason for the demand for over-ground electricity lines was that some streets were not suitable for underground electricity cables. For example, since most of the streets in Boyacıköy were not level and did not have pavements, it was both difficult and expensive to lay cable there. In accordance with the business policy, the company was not willing to lay electricity cable, establish utility poles or transfer plants to neighborhoods where there were few customers; it was apprehensive that infrastructure costs might not be met in the short term.77 The Ministry of Public Works had to intervene and somehow convince the company to invest.78

Electricity distribution initiatives began to extend by 1923. The projects that were interrupted or could not be started during the war and truce years were taken into consideration again. It was decided that a high cruiser cable of 4,500 m and 2,725 mm would be established between Yedikule and Bakırköy and the projects prepared by the company were sent to the Ministry of Public Works for approval. The works in Bakırköy and Büyükdere, which had not been completed due to the difficult of importing electricity cable during the war, were re-started. The projects prepared by the company were submitted to officials for approval.79 The project for the lighting of Bakırköy, an area that had great demand for this service, was approved by the mayor.80 In the meantime, the company asked to be exempt from customs duties for imported cables to electrify the city and that electricity facilities for lighting which had been constructed by individuals during the Truce Period around Bakırköy be eliminated, on the grounds that this was in contravention to the contract.81 Afterwards, the company asked for permission to construct two hubs of 28 kilowatt amperes each for the lighting of Bakırköy.82 The number of the areas that needed electricity delivered was increased in the contract that was signed after 1923.83 This meant that electricity would be available in many more districts and neighborhoods of Istanbul.

Electrification initiatives for the Anatolian side of Istanbul continued in 1924. While lamps (utility poles) were established for lighting purposes in some streets, piers and market areas of the city, it was necessary to make additions to the existing lines to ensure lighting throughout the area. There were 13 general lighting lamps in 1922 within the grand market route of Eyüp, while some streets and squares had had electricity since 1918. In 1924 the government decided to establish new lines to the area to enable more people to benefit from electricity in Eyüp. The new electricity lines significantly decreased the cost for electricity customers in this district, which consisted mostly of small houses with gardens and detached houses.84 In the same year it was decided that general lighting utility poles would be erected on Sirkeci Street and at the piers in Büyükdere and Sarıyer.85 The plan called for 14 utility poles, including one of 1,500 candles for Sirkeci Street and seven of 1,500 candles and six of 250 candles at the Büyükdere and Sarıyer piers. While work for Büyükdere and Sarıyer was suspended for a while, probably in order to reassess the sites of the utility poles,86 a utility pole of 1,500 candles was placed by the gate of Cerrahpaşa Hospital in the same year.87 The placement of utility poles, over-ground lines and electric lamps for the general lighting of the city were decided by a scientific commission organized by the municipality and the Commission of Public Works. Following approval from Ankara, the decision was forwarded to Elektrik Şirketi. It was not possible for electricity companies to carry out any function without the permission and approval of the Ministry of Public Works or to act against the provisions of the agreement.88

An important and interesting incident about electricity occurred in 1925: the owner of a modern silk textile factory in the neighborhood İkiyüzlüçeşme in Samatya applied to Elektrik Şirketi, asking for installation of electricity as soon as possible so that the factory could begin production. However, production could not begin because the company made various excuses for six months to the factory and did not erect electricity lines to the factory, which had purchased brand new weaving looms. Hattatzade Ali İhsan Bey, the owner of the factory, wrote a letter to the Ministry of Public Works, complaining about the company and requesting assistance in the matter. Hattatzade stated in his letter, dated 21 October, 1925, that the electricity he needed for his textile factory in Istanbul had not been supplied by the company since it was not considered profitable, but he felt that the excuses made by the company were not realistic. Hattatzade argued that the actual purpose of the company holding out was to make him pay for all the expenses for the over-ground electricity lines to be established near the factory and for the transfer plant that needed to be built.89

The final sentences of Hattatzade’s letter stressed his expectations that the government would ensure that industry was encouraged and services would be provided.90

The Ministry of Public Works allowed Elektrik Şirketi to establish electricity lines of 220 volts in Bakırköy and Yeşilköy in 1925. While the initiatives to establish electricity lines in Rumelihisarı began in 1926, correspondence regarding this issue continued in August 1927.91 The company was then working on the bureaucratic procedures for the over-ground line to be established on Büyükdere Ortaköy Street and Haydar Street, located between Fatih and Cibali.92 The high voltage line established between Silahtarağa and Yedikule was provisionally authorized within the same year.93 In addition, another company was building exploration basins at Kağıthane. In 1927, electricity was commonly used by tradesmen. The coffeehouses of Gedikpaşa, Balat, Galata, Beyoğlu and Hasköy operated their coffee grinders with electricity. A furniture factory located at Tünel Square also had electricity.94 However, the tradesmen complained about the high cost of the transaction tax.95 Istanbul Ticaret ve Zahire Borsası (Istanbul Trade and Grain Exchange) was the leading commercial institution in the city lit with electricity. The government allowed the Exchange to benefit from a discounted electricity tariff that was in force for official authorities and institutions in 1928.96

14- The opening ceremony of Silahtarağa Electric Factory power plant building constructed during the period of Turkish Republic (<em>Cumhuriyet Devrinde İstanbul</em>)

While electricity utilization gradually became widespread across the Anatolian side of Istanbul, there was no serious initiative for Üsküdar or Kadıköy until 1925. While the Ottoman government granted permission to Üsküdar-Kadıköy Gaz Şirketi (Üsküdar-Kadıköy Town Gas Company) for electricity distribution across the Anatolian side of Istanbul in 1920, the company did not carry out any work. Before the Republic, residents of Kadıköy and Üsküdar watched the opposite side from the shore at night and envied the shimmering lights of Istanbul.97 However, Havagazı Şirketi, who held the gas and electricity license for the Anatolian side, was not willing to establish an electricity power plant in Üsküdar and Kadıköy in order to sell gas to citizens. Following the proclamation of the Republic the government in Ankara summoned the executives of the foreign companies located in Istanbul one by one to Ankara and began to re-register the companies. After a while, the director of the Kadıköy ve Üsküdar Havagazı Şirketi was also summoned to Ankara. When Süreyya İlmen, head of the Kadıköy branch of Hilal-i Ahmer (Red Crescent), learned about this, he decided to apply and asked for a license from the government for the electrification of the Kadıköy and Üsküdar side. Süreyya Bey requested that Ankara either abolish the license of Gaz Şirketi, which did not want to establish electricity on the Anatolian side, and allow them to establish an electricity company themselves or oblige the company to establish an electricity power plant. Members of the Hilal-i Ahmer Society explicitly supported this cause. The minutes signed by 600 members were immediately sent to Ankara. Later, the director of the Üsküdar ve Kadıköy Havagazı Şirketi was summoned to Ankara. The director was persuaded by officials to ensure the lighting of Üsküdar and Kadıköy, including residences, within two years.98 However, the company did not keep its promise. The company contacted the government again in 1925 and proposed receiving electricity from Silahtarağa Fabrikası and distributing it across the Anatolian side instead of establishing a new electricity power plant.99 An agreement was reached between the company and the government in December 1925. Accordingly, Üsküdar, Kadıköy and environs, as well as the Bosphorus would be electrified from the Anatolian shore to Kandilli. In accordance with the following joint demand of Derviş Bey and his friends -merchants in Kanlıca- and the residents of Kanlıca, Beykoz, Paşabahçe and Anadoluhisarı, it was decided that electricity distribution would be extended up to Beykoz.100

15- The power plant building opened by a ceremony

16- Transformers of Silahtarağa Electric Factory

Üsküdar-Kadıköy Havagazı ve Elektrik Şirketi was set to receive power to distribute it across the Anatolian side from the Silahtarağa Fabrikası of İstanbul Elektrik Şirketi via cables which were to be submerged under the sea. The places where these cables, to be laid at two separate locations on the Bosphorus, entered and exited the sea and the technical precautions that had to be considered were evaluated in 1925. The electricity distribution projects and construction plans for the Anatolian side which had been prepared by the company were carefully examined by the Ministry of Public Works.101 In accordance with the contract, the company was required to lay underground electricity cables to streets that had 150 dwellings per kilometer, to build “transfer hubs” –i.e. plants- at various locations and to design the look of these transfer hubs in a tasteful manner; in addition, the company was to take the necessary scientific precautions at the points where the cables entered and existed the Bosphorus. The ministry granted working permission to the company to bring electricity to the Anatolian side on the condition that some deficiencies in the project were addressed. The ministry also returned the plan and projects that were considered to be incomplete or inappropriate so that they could be prepared again. For example, the ministry did not consider the proposal to use wooden utility poles for the over-ground electricity lines to be appropriate and demanded for iron utility poles.102

The construction of the cables to be laid under the sea for the Anatolian side was to be carried out by İstanbul Elektrik Şirketi, which also operated the Silahtarağa Elektrik Fabrikası. İstanbul Elektrik Şirketi prepared new plans, presenting the connection points of cables for electricity networks on the Üsküdar and Kadıköy side; these were submitted to the Ministry of Public Works in 1926. The ministry quickly completed an examination and approved the plans.103 The constructions of the electricity transfer hubs established on the Anatolian side were nearly completed within the same year.104 As a result of the completed tasks, Kadıköy soon had electricity.105 However, first experts had to establish the required internal fixtures in the buildings. Those who had taken an examination and been granted certificates as electricity experts for the Istanbul side were granted working permits for Kadıköy. Those who wanted to obtain the certificate were asked to apply to the relevant authorities. The candidates, who were examined by a scientific committee, would be certified electricians who had the authority to establish fixtures across Istanbul.106 Üsküdar-Kadıköy Elektrik Şirketi began providing lighting in 1927.107 Negotiations were carried out for electricity supply to the Anadolu Demiryolu (Anatolian Railways) located in Haydarpaşa in the same year. The director of Kadıköy Elektrik Şirketi was summoned to Ankara to meet with the government at the beginning of 1928.108 Meanwhile, electric tram operations began between Üsküdar-Kısıklı.109 At the same time, the Fatih-Edirnekapı and Üsküdar-Haydarpaşa tram routes began to run in 1929.110 Town gas and electricity permission for the Anatolian side was withdrawn from the former company on 24 April, 1930 and handed over to İstanbul Elektrik Türk Anonim Şirketi, with the boundary of the services being expanded.

Initiatives regarding the electrification of the Anatolian side began to expand beyond Üsküdar and Kadıköy, heading towards the Princes’ Islands. The government granted electricity production, distribution and sales for the Islands to the Istanbul Municipality on October 15, 1928.111 The contract which was drafted for this purpose was approved by the government on December 5, 1928112 and was signed by the Ministry of Public Works and the municipality on January 23, 1929. The second article of the contract included the establishment of a Turkish incorporated company by the license holder within a year.113 The headquarters of the company, which would be established as Adalar Elektrik Tenviratı Türk Anonim Şirketi (Princes’ Islands Electricity Lighting Turkish Incorporated Company), would be on Büyükada and it would deal with providing electricity for the Princes’ Islands. The company was given a term of 75 years and the capital was 100,000 liras divided into 4,000 shares, each of which had a value of 75 liras.114 However, due to economic reasons it was understood that it would not be possible to establish the company within a year; as a result, the duration of one year was extended to two years on February 12, 1930.115 The rights for Heybeliada and Büyükada, which were under the authority of the municipality, were transferred to İstanbul Elektrik Şirketi on 24 April 1930. Maltepe, Kartal and Pendik were also included within the area of authority of the above-mentioned company.116 Elektrik Şirketi extended electricity lines to Kartal and the Princes’ Islands, sold electricity to Kartal Çimento Fabrikası (Kartal Cement Factory) and constructed new fixtures in Kadıköy and the Princes’ Islands. The turbine and equipment necessary for these facilities were to be imported by the company in accordance with a decision by the Council of Ministers dated September 3, 1939.117

İstanbul Elektrik Şirketi pursued its investments to deliver electricity to the remotest neighborhoods of the city. In addition to existing construction work and facilities, in 1928 electricity current facilities were constructed near the city walls between Edirnekapısı and the Golden Horn at Ramiz village, Piyalepaşa, Kasımpaşa and Hasköy. A high voltage line was established between Silahtarağa Fabrikası and Arnavutköy to reinforce and increase the power in Şişli, along the Bosphorus and the Anatolian coastal neighborhoods. A 12.5 km long line and high voltage cable, 17 km of low voltage cable and a 20-km over-ground line were established. A total of 6,433 new customers subscribed to the electricity network of the city and 2,400 branches were constructed for these customers within the same year. Thus, the number of customers receiving electricity across Istanbul exceeded 50,000.118 There was an increase in the official institutions which received electricity. Important schools located in Istanbul, such as Askeri Tıbbiye Mektebi (Military School of Medicine), Askeri Baytar Mektebi (Military School of Veterinary Medicine), Tıbbiye Mektebi119 (School of Medicine) and Fen Tatbikat Mektebi (School of Applied Science) were connected to the city network and began to use electricity.120 The utilization of electricity was also increasing in the industry sector. By the end of 1928, 1,850 industrial organizations subscribed to the electricity company in the city.121

17- One of the synchronizing devices in Silahtarağa Electric Factory

The initiatives for making electricity widespread across Istanbul accelerated following the proclamation of the Republic; in time, these efforts began to produce positive results. The fact that electricity consumption gradually increased during the period between 1923 and 1933 meant that electricity was produced and consumed more in the city. Electricity began to be used more for lighting purposes by official institutions, public institutions, residences and buildings, as well as in some squares, large arcades, and on roads and streets. The electrification initiatives which were carried out primarily within Istanbul neighborhoods that had a high population density and economic potential on the European side were extended towards the Anatolian side; by 1925, these areas included Üsküdar, Kadıköy, the Princes’ Islands, Maltepe, Kartal and Pendik. The current acquired from Silahtarağa Fabrikası was transferred by cables submerged under the sea and was used to light Üsküdar and Kadıköy. By 1930, the number of electricity customers exceeded 50,000. Accordingly, while the electricity consumption per capita was 3.3 kilowatt hour (kWh) in 1923-1925, this reached 4.6 kWh in 1926, 4.7 kWh in 1927, 5.9 kWh in 1928, 6.3 kWh in 1929, 6.7 kWh in 1930, 7.2 kWh in 1931, 7.8 kWh in 1932 and 8.8 kWh in 1933.122 Electricity was widely used by the industry and transportation in Istanbul sectors during the period between 1923 and 1933. In 1928 Elektrik Şirketi had 1,850 subscribers from the industrial sector. This figure accounted for almost all of the industrialists and tradesmen operating in Istanbul at the time. While electricity put an end to the reign of the horse-drawn trams in Istanbul, it enabled the use of electric trams, which were much faster and more modern inner-city transportation vehicles. Istanbul began to take on the appearance of a modern city and the classic was simultaneously experienced next to the modern.

18- A transformer with 25000 kVA in Silahtarağa Electric Factory

19- The number 18 Zeytinburnu outlet of the transformers at Silahtarağa Electric
    Factory which distribute electricity to the regions

The increased electricity utilization resulted in the emergence of a new consumption market. Imported kitchen utensils, electrical appliances, machines and modern lighting equipment attracted attention in this new market, which primarily had appealed to families of a certain economic status. These goods, which were advertised by newspapers and magazines at the time,123 caused significant transformations within the kitchen culture and classic life styles of some families in Istanbul. Electrical household and kitchen appliances, which were run by electricity and appealed to the wealthy ladies of Istanbul, included weight-loss equipment, sewing machines, small and large ovens, cookers, kettles, water boilers, kitchen stoves and grills. Kitchen utensils were presented as “contemporary kitchen products” and were sold on 12 to 24 month installment plans in Istanbul shops, thus enabling wider segments of society to make use of them.124 Satie Company organized a large electricity exhibition in Taksim in 1934 to satisfy the electrical appliance needs of the people and to stimulate the utilization of these appliances. Modern electric goods were exhibited, promoted and sold in this exhibition, which could be visited everyday by residents of Istanbul, free of charge. At the exhibition, company sales agents briefed visitors about how to use the goods.125 In addition, cooking classes with electrical kitchen appliances were offered to ladies on Wednesdays.126

Modern recipes that could be prepared using electrical appliances were regularly published in the Ameli Elektrik (Electricity in Practice) magazine, issued by İstanbul Elektrik Şirketi; this magazine indicated how many kuruş of electricity would be used in the preparation of meals. The company, which stated that the kilowatt hours for an electric kitchen was 5 kuruş, said that meals cooked with electricity would only be of an average cost for a family of 4 to 6; this was in order to encourage the use and expand the use of electricity and electrical household appliances.127

In the 1930s, electricity was also used by shops in some districts and in the entertainment centers of the city. The interiors and showcases of large shopping malls, glass cases and signs for bars and night clubs were lit with electricity. Electricity began to be used within the entertainment arena of Istanbul, as well as in the economic and social life. Nights became brighter in districts where there were many entertainment centers or night clubs, much like the residences and buildings. A process of change was experienced in the entertainment life and understanding of the city, thanks to electricity.128 The fact that electricity began to become widespread across Istanbul facilitated the entrance of new technologies and inventions which used electricity to the city and the country; moreover, a subsidiary industry emerged in this field. Electric clocks, elevators, escalators, telephone switchboards, lightbulbs and vitalux lamps were waiting for buyers in Istanbul. New occupational fields and professions emerged, such as electricians, electric fixture experts, electricity contractors, importers and sellers of electrical household and professional appliances, as well as equipment, electric goods repairmen and sellers of electrical spare parts. This subsidiary sector would gradually grow. Thanks to electricity, Istanbul became acquainted with the elevator for the first time. In 1934, there were three elevators in the city that operated with electricity. One of these was in the Elektrik Şirketi in Ayaspaşa, another was in an apartment block in Ayaspaşa and the third was in Dr. İbrahim Bey’s clinic in Maçka. The importing company published ads to promote the utilization of escalators and elevators.129

20- One of the emergency shelters for the workers of Silahtarağa Electric Factory

Between 1923 and 1933, Istanbul began to establish the infrastructure and dynamics for the modernization process with electricity; this process gradually prepared the groundwork for a significant change in the economic and social life of the city. When the severe social, economic and political conditions of the city before and after 1923 are taken into consideration, the point reached by the 1930s in terms of electricity production and widespread electricity usage is quite important. Throughout this period, electricity played a functional and leading role during the historical transformation and modernization of the city; electricity was an efficient tool for accelerating this transformation.


1 Faruk Doğan, “Osmanlı Devleti’nde Zeytinyağı (1800-1920)” (PhD Thesis), Marmara University, 2007, pp. 114-118.

2 Doğan Kuban, “Aydınlatma”, DBİst.A, vol. 1, p. 475.

3 Mehmet Mazak, “Dersaadet Sokak Aydınlatmasında Havagazı”, İstanbullu, 1999, issue no. 5, p. 75.

4 Dünya Başkenti İstanbul’da Doğalgaz, ed. Hüseyin Aykut, Istanbul: İGDAŞ, 2007, p. 144.

5 M. Rıfat Akbulut, Cem Sorguç, “Gazhaneler”, DBİst.A, vol. 3, p. 378.

6 BOA, ŞD, no. 688-35.

7 BOA, İ.MMS, no. 64-3006.

8 BOA, Y.PRK.ŞH, no. 1-21.

9 BOA, Y.PRK.ASK, 52/40; BOA, Y.PRK.TKM, 25/8.

10 BOA, Y.MTV, 37/1.

11 Mâlûmât, 13 Shawwal 1320.

12 BOA, İ.DH, no. 82541.

13 BOA, Y.PRK.HH, 21/40; BOA, Y.PRK.EŞA, 11/5.

14 BOA, Y.PRK.EŞA, 32/20.

15 BOA, İ.DH, no. 88560.

16 BOA, Y.PRK.TKM, 25/38.

17 M. Metin Hülagü (prepared by), Sultan II. Abdülhamid’in Sürgün Günleri Hususi Doktoru Atıf Hüseyin Bey’in Hatıratı, Istanbul: Pan Yayıncılık, 2003, pp. 173-174.

18 BOA, ZB, 370/8; BOA, ZB, 372/117.

19 BOA, Y.PRK.ASK, 226/121.

20 BOA, İ.HUS, no. 18, C. 1325.

21 BOA, ZB, 390/38.

22 BOA, ZB, 22/100.

23 BOA, Y.PRK.ASK, 252/63.

24 BOA, Y.PRK.ASK, 252/63.

25 BOA, Y.MTV, 311/174.

26 La Gazette Financière, 30 Novembre 1909.

27 BOA, MV, 132/9.

28 BOA, DH.MUİ, no. 77-1/17.

29 BOA, DH.MUİ, no. 77-1/17.

30 BOA, MV, no. 137-107; BOA, MV, no. 140-11.

31 Le Moniteur Oriental, 24 Février 1910.

32 Le Moniteur Oriental, 7 Mai 1910.

33 Le Moniteur Oriental, 3 Juin 1910; La Gazette Financière, 31 Mai 1910.

34 La Gazette Financière, 14 Juin 1910.

35 La Gazette Financière, 27 Septembre 1910.

36 BOA, DUİT, 19/5-4; La Gazette Financière, 8 Octobre 1910.

37 La gazette Financière, 18 Avril 1911; Convention et Cahier des Charges Relative à la Distribution Publique dans la Partie Europeèenne de Constantinople et sa Banlieu, Istanbul: Etablissements J. & A. Fratelli Haïm, 1917. Later, “Osmanlı Anonim Elektrik Şirketi” (Ottoman Incorporated Electricity Company) would join the international consortium like the companies of Tünel (Tunnel) and Tramvay (Tram).

38 La Gazette Financière, 12 Septembre 1911.

39 La Gazette Financière, 5 Mars 1912.

40 La Gazette Financière, 28 Mai 1912.

41 Ameli Elektrik, 1925, issue 1, p. 3.

42 Asu Aksoy (ed.), Silahtarağa Elektrik Fabrikası 1910-2004, Istanbul: İstanbul Bilgi Üniversitesi, 2007, p. 10.

43 La Gazette Financière, 11 Septembre 1911.

44 İstanbul Şehremaneti İstatistik Mecmuası, 1329, p. 416.

45 Binnur Kıraç and Mevlude Kaptı, “Monografik Bir Çalışma: Silahtarağa Elektrik Fabrikası”, Tarihi, Kültürü ve Sanatıyla Eyüp Sultan Sempozyumu VIII: Tebliğler, Istanbul: Eyüp Belediyesi, 2004, p. 30.

46 La Gazette Financière, 2 December 1913.

47 İkdam, 7 Şubat 1914.

48 İkdam, 25 Şubat 1914.

49 “İETT Tarihi: Elektrik”, İETT Dergisi, issue 1 (1956), p. 18.

50 Ameli Elektrik, 1926, issue 5.

51 Rakım Ziyaoğlu, İstanbul Kadıları, Şehreminleri, Belediye Reisleri ve Partiler Tarihi 1451-1971, Istanbul: İsmail Akgün Matbaası, 1971, p. 663. Although there were many subscribers, the reduction in electricity production due to the outbreak of World War I on November 1914 and the subsequent coal shortage prevented electricity from being supplied to private subscribers for some time. Apart from some official institutions, it was only possible to deliver electricity intermittently to the trams at the time.

52 Vedat Eldem, Harp ve Mütareke Yıllarında Osmanlı İmparatorluğu’nun Ekonomisi, Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu, 1994, pp. 75-76.

53 BOA, DH.EUM.MH, 110/101.

54 BOA, MV, 199/100.

55 Türk Deniz Ticareti ve Türkiye Denizcilik İşletmeleri Tarihçesi, Istanbul: Türkiye Denizcilik İşletmeleri, 1994, pp. 194-195; Eser Tutel, Şirket-i Hayriye, Istanbul: İletişim Yayınları, 1994, pp. 171-172.

56 İETT, 1940 Senesi Bilançosu ve İşletme Neticeleri, Istanbul 1940, pp. 6-7.

57 1335 Senesi İstanbul Beldesi İhsaiyat Mecmuası, Istanbul: Matbaa-i Osmaniye, 1337, pp. 222-223.

58 BCA, no. 23/49.76.6.

59 BCA, nr. 230/49.76.2.

60 BCA, nr. 230/49.76.2.

61 BCA, nr. 230/49.76.5.

62 BCA, nr. 230/88.16.3, p. 1.

63 Ameli Elektrik, issue 32 (1929), p. 3.

64 BCA, no. 230/49.78.1, p. 1-2; BCA, no. 300/31.33.4; BCA, no.

65 BCA, no.

66 BCA, no. 230/29.27.3, p. 1.; no. 030.

67 BCA, no.

68 BCA, no. 230/27.19.6.

69 BCA, no. 230/38.52.4, p. 1; no. 230/38.52.6, p. 1.

70 BCA, no.

71 BCA, no. 230/26.18.10; no. 230/27.20.7, p. 1; no. 230/27.20.7, p. 2.

72 BCA, no. 230/38.52.10, p. 1-2; no. 230/27.20.3, p. 1; no. 230/27.20.7.

73 BCA, no. 230/27.20.5, pp. 1-2.

74 BCA, no.

75 BCA, no. 230/27.20.11, p. 1.

76 BCA, no. 230/27.20.6, p. 1; no. 230/27.20.6, p. 2.

77 BCA, no. 230/28.24.12, p. 2.

78 BCA, no. 230/28.24.1, pp. 1-2.

79 BCA, no. 230/27.19.7, pp. 1-2.

80 BCA, no. 230/27.19.7, p. 1.

81 BCA, no. 230/27.19.4.

82 BCA, no. 230/27.19.4.

83 BCA, no. 230/55.6.1, p. 1; no. 230/27.21.9. 1.

84 BCA, no. 230/27.21.6.

85 BCA, no. 230/27.20.19, p. 1.

86 BCA, no. 230/27.20.19, p. 1.

87 BCA, no. 230/27.21.12.

88 BCA, no. 230/27.21.12.

89 BCA, no. 230/28.24.12, p. 1.

90 BCA, no. 230/28.24.12, p. 1.

91 BCA, no. 230/43.64.5.

92 BCA, no. 230/43.64.3; no. 230/1/29.28.9, p. 1.

93 BCA, no. 230/30.29.8.

94 BCA, no. 230/30.29.12.

95 BCA, no. 230/30.29.12.

96 BCA, no. 230/30.35.3.

97 Süreyya İlmen, Teşebbüslerim ve Reisliklerim, Istanbul: Hilmi Kitabevi, 1949, pp. 35-36.

98 İlmen, Teşebbüslerim, p. 36.

99 İlmen, Teşebbüslerim, p. 36.

100 BCA no. 230/55.7.1, p. 1.

101 BCA, no. 230/28.22.9.

102 BCA, no. 230/28.22.9.

103 BCA, no. 230/35.44.3, pp. 1-2.

104 BCA, no. 230/29.27.5.

105 BCA, no. 230/30.29.3.

106 BCA, no. 230/29.27.1.

107 BCA, no.

108 BCA, no. 230/30.30.1; no. 230/30.30.7.

109 BCA, no.

110 BCA, no.

111 BCA, no.

112 BCA, no.

113 BCA, no.

114 BCA, no.

115 BCA, no.

116 BCA, no. 030/

117 BCA, no.

118 Ameli Elektrik, 1929, issue 32, p. 3.

119 BCA, no. 230/31.33.5.

120 BCA, no. 030/

121 Ameli Elekrik, 1929, issue 32, p. 40.

122 TEAŞ, Türkiye Elektrik Üretim-İletim İstatistikleri, Ankara: Türkiye Elektrik Üretim-İletim A.Ş. Genel Müdürlüğü, 1998, pp. 75-76.

123 For examples of commercials see. Ameli Elektrik, 1934, issue 65.

124 Ameli Elektrik, 1934, issue 65, p. 12.

125 Ameli Elektrik, 1934, issue 65, p. 14.

126 Ameli Elektrik, 1934, issue 65, p. 7.

127 Ameli Elektrik, 1934, issue 65, p. 9, 13.

128 Ameli Elektrik, 1934, issue 65, p. 28.

129 Ameli Elektrik, 1934, issue 65, p. 30.

This article was translated from Turkish version of History of Istanbul with some editions to be published in a digitalized form in 2019.