In 1875–76 university buildings were first lighted with gas, for which students paid eighty cents per month. Gas was provided by the local gas company and was coal gas.
In 1878 the board of trustees purchased from the firm of Hyams and Butler (for $650) a Pneumatic Gas Machine, which was supposed to provide illumination at a much cheaper rate since it used gasoline instead of coal gas. The machine was in use before the end of the year, and UT was able to reduce the gas fee charged to students from $3.25 to $3 per session. At the same time the gas machine was purchased, students were given the option of using the gas-powered lights or candles in dormitory rooms. A faculty committee studied the possible abandonment of the gas works because of its inefficiency and expense (gas costs for dormitory lighting had risen to $5 per session).
In 1884 the Committee on Buildings and Grounds was ordered to dispose of the gas machine and the fixtures. In the summer of 1885, Professor Glenn used the bricks of the gas works to enlarge the greenhouse. Electric lights made their appearance in 1889–90.