- Holidays and Celebrations
Christmas Lights Over Time
During the Christmas holiday season there are all kinds of Christmas light displays. Holiday lights are displayed throughout homes and businesses; inside and outside. Before the invention of electric light bulbs candles were attached to the Christmas tree using clips or melted wax. The candles when lite created a glimmer and glow but were not too safe; candles used on Christmas trees led to a lot of home fires. The first person to use Christmas lights was of course Thomas Edison. In 1880, Thomas Edison created the first strand of electric lights and strung them around the outside of Menlo Park Laboratory. It would be almost 40 years before Christmas lights started to become the tradition we all know.
The first known illuminated Christmas tree with electrical lights was Edward Johnson’s Christmas tree in 1882. Edward Johnson was a partner in Edison’s Illumination Company; he had 80 red, white, and blue bulbs specially made and hand-wired for his Christmas tree; his tree also revolved. A dazzling Christmas tree display.
In 1890, the Edison catalog offered electric Christmas tree lights that had to be hand-wired. In 1903, General Electric (Edison’s company) started selling Christmas lights that were hand blown glass in pre-wired kits. The Christmas light kits were costly and only the very wealthy could afford them.
But the world was not yet ready for electric Christmas tree lights. Few people had electricity and many people distrusted electricity. But the popularity of electrically illuminated Christmas trees began to grow with the illumination of Johnson’s Christmas tree.
In 1895, President Grover Cleveland had electric Christmas bulbs used on the family tree at the White House. The tradition caught on and grew. In 1923, President Coolidge began the celebration of the holiday season with the lighting of a National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse south of the White House. The tree was a gift from the State of Vermont and was illuminated with 2,500 electric bulbs in red, white and green, donated by the Electric League of Washington.
In 1917 a tragic fire In New York City involving Christmas tree candles inspired 15-year-old Albert Sadacca with a novel idea to make safety Christmas lights for Christmas trees. He wanted to produce safe and inexpensive Christmas tree lights. Albert’s parents owned a novelty lighting company; he went to his parents with the idea to adapt the technology used in the novelty lights and sell Christmas tree lights. The first year only about 100 light sets sold. The next year Albert used colored bulbs and the sale of Christmas tree lights increased. A few years later Albert and his two brothers formed the NOMA Electric Company; the largest Christmas lighting company in the world until 1965.
As time went on more cities became wired for electricity. Post- World War II saw an increase in production of a variety of Christmas lights with inexpensive light sets manufactured and lighted tree toppers in the shape of angles and stars also manufactured.
Through the years from the first large and energy consuming bulbs, to multi-colored glass bulbs, to mini-lights, bubble lights, twinkling lights, and today's LED lights Christmas lights have become a part of the holiday season with a variety of different styles and colors available today. Today the holiday season is aglow with electric Christmas lights inside and outside home, businesses, and decorating our cities.