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

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…

…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.

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.

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

She’s also pretty excited about dimmer racks.


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

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:

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.

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?

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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