Did Edison Light Up the Holidays?
December 5, 2018
Growing up, did you learn that Thomas Edison invented the light bulb? As you probably know now, the truth is that he continued the long process of innovation that many inventors before him began, refining and improving the light bulb and systems of electric lighting. His contributions enabled the light bulb to become much more widespread, ushering in the era of modern electric lighting.
Along these same lines, you may have heard that Edison invented the electric Christmas light. As you likely have guessed, the truth of this story is more complicated! Here are two important contributions Edison and his staff made to brightening the holiday season:
Christmas 1880: Strands of Edison’s light bulbs were festively strung outside his Menlo Park, New Jersey laboratory for the first time. These lights were seen by passengers on passing trains.
Christmas 1882: Edward Johnson, Edison’s partner in the Edison Illumination Company, strung red, white, and blue lights on the Christmas tree in his home. He also wired the tree to rotate!
Which of these lights would you consider to be the first electric Christmas lights?
Did you know? Many decades passed before electric Christmas lights entered mainstream American culture, primarily due to tradition and expense.