Edison, You Light Up My Life

Thomas Edison was very smart guy.

We know him as the inventor of the first practical (able to be used in everyday ways) light bulb. But that’s not the only thing Edison did in his lifetime.

He also created the first strand (string of connected things) of electric lights – Christmas lights.

At Christmas time in 1880, Edison made strands of lights and hung them around the outside of his laboratory (scientist’s workplace) in New Jersey. People traveling on the railroad trains passing his laboratory got the first look at this new light display (presentation).

But it took another 40 years before people started using electric Christmas lights in their homes.

Part of the problem was that people didn’t trust electricity. They didn’t know what this new invention was and didn’t know if it was safe.

Ironically (seeing things in a funny, reverse way; unexpectedly), before electric lights, families decorated their Christmas trees with candles (sticks of wax that burned for light), which was of course much more dangerous and caused a lot of fires!

It was actually President Grover Cleveland (1837-1908) who helped make electric Christmas lights more acceptable to Americans.

In 1895, President Cleveland asked that the White House family Christmas tree be illuminated (able to see using lights) by hundreds of colored electric light bulbs.

And on Christmas Eve 1923, President Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933) began the American tradition of lighting the National Christmas Tree with 3,000 electric lights at the White House.

While Thomas Edison may have been the first to create strands of electric light in 1880, it was actually Albert Sadacca who made electric Christmas lights available to the public.

The Sadacca family owned a lighting company. In 1917 Albert Sadacca, a teenager at the time, suggested that its store sell brightly colored strands of Christmas lights for customers to buy.

It worked (was successful). By the 1920’s, the Sadacca company was a top seller of Christmas lights in the U.S. and continued that success through the 1960s.

Growing up, my mother used to create her own “Santa’s village” (small town) at our house. She collected and made a lot of miniature (small size) homes, people, and decorations and created her own village celebrating Christmas.

She decorated it with lights. The display became bigger each year. It began on a small table in the living room and by the time I was in college, it had taken over our entire front porch (enclosed patio).

And it wouldn’t have been the same without Christmas lights.

Needless to say (it’s clear without me saying it), my mother really likes Christmas!


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