22 Dec: Edison’s Christmas Lights

The first string of lights to be festooned upon a tree dazzled visitors to the New York home of Edward Johnson, Vice President of the Edison Electric Light Company, on 22nd December, 1882.

Lit patriotic red, white and blue, the tree also revolved; wowing a reporter from The Detroit Post and Tribune. “At the rear of the beautiful parlors, was a large Christmas tree presenting a most picturesque and uncanny aspect,” he wrote. “It was brilliantly lighted with… eighty lights in all encased in these dainty glass eggs… One can hardly imagine anything prettier.”

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly reveal what electric lights have in common with potatoes; ask why Americans were frightened of wired bulbs, yet quite content to set candles on fire and attach them to flammable resin in their own homes; and untangle how a failed patent application was responsible for the trend finally catching on…

Further Reading:

• ‘Thomas Edison planned to invent a machine to talk to the dead’ (weirdhistorian, 2016): https://www.weirdhistorian.com/thomas-edison-talked-to-the-dead/

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