Vintage lighting control photos you didn’t know you needed in your life


Welcome to the latest edition of the Monthly(ish) Museum, where we explore the storeroom of vintage lighting industry equipment and ephemera in ETC’s collection.

This entry doesn’t focus specifically on gear; in addition to equipment, we have boxes full of manuals, drawings, and printed promotional material from companies throughout the the lighting industry, dating back as far as 1892. Some of those promotional materials are product brochures, and some of those product brochures contain amazing vintage images of people using – or at least posing with – lighting equipment. These photos were just too good not to share. Sit back and let the old-school lighting cool wash over you:

Back in time…

We’ll start with the Q-File brochure from Thorn Electrical Industries Limited, published in February of 1970…

Q-File brochure from Thorn Electrical Industries Limited

…in which a woman programs an early memory lighting console and rocks an awesome mod haircut.

Next, we’ll hop back in time to the mid-1960s Solitrol Lighting Systems brochure from Ward Leonard Electric Co.Solitrol Lighting Systems brochure

If you’ve ever wondered what Joan Holloway from “Mad Men” would look like as a console programmer, well, now you have your answer. The product advertised here is the “Solitrol 200,” a 30-channel, 2-scene preset desk marketed to small theaters.

Solitrol 200

I, for one, am always this happy when I use a wall station.

dimmer racks

She’s also pretty excited about dimmer racks.

Star-Trek realness


The full-scale setup involved two operators and a lot of Star-Trek realness. Apparently, they sometimes even let men use this one.

remote station in a studio

Here we have a well-dressed gent operating a remote station in a studio. There is something ominous about that yellow light.

Finally, we visit the Metropolitan Electric Lumitron brochure from the late 1950s:

Metropolitan Electric Lumitron brochure

Snazzy heels: the perfect tech week accessory.

Here’s another view of the same console, found in the 1958 pamphlet “Lighting Control Equipment for Theatre and Television” by Stephen J. Skirpan, who worked in Metropolitan’s Lumitron division before founding Skirpan Lighting Control Corporation.

Lighting Control Equipment for Theatre and Television

This woman is my favorite. Don’t we all secretly hope we look this cool when we stand next to a light board?

These consoles were manual preset boards, but, in the event that you couldn’t find a snappily-dressed board op, some models did offer a way to “pre-program” cues. How, you might ask?

light board

Scantron sheets!

Do you have stories to tell about the gear in this post, or your own stories of lighting history to share? Let us know at

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Kate Foster
Kate joined ETC in 2012 after several years spent creating sets, props, and the occasional hack lighting design in the basement theaters of New York City. In addition to writing for ETC, she has worked on numerous in-house design projects, including tradeshow booths and the New York office’s Art Deco lobby. In her free time, Kate practices figure drawing, explores obscure corners of NYC, and pines for mountains.