Tag Archives: electricity

Christmas Lights: Illuminating the Cold Winter Night Since 1880

Fun Facts About Christmas Lights

  • The General Electric Christmas lighting outfit, the first set offered for sale to the public. Circa 1903-1904.

    The General Electric Christmas lighting outfit, the first set offered for sale to the public. Circa 1903-1904.

    The inventors of electric Christmas lights are Thomas Edison and Edward Johnson

  • Before electric Christmas lights, families would use candles to light up their Christmas trees. This practice was often dangerous and led to many home fires.
  • Edward H. Johnson put the very first string of electric Christmas tree lights together in 1882. Johnson, Edison’s friend and partner in the Edison’s Illumination Company, hand-wired 80 red, white and blue light bulbs and wound them around his Christmas tree. Not only was the tree illuminated with electricity, it also revolved.
  • During the Christmas season of 1880, strands of lights were strung around the outside of Edison’s Menlo Park Laboratory. Railroad passengers traveling by got their first look at an electrical light display.
  • General Electric was the first company to offer pre-wired Christmas light strings. Prior to this, lights had to be hand wired on the tree. GE was unable to patent their string (or festoon), and suddenly the market was open to anyone who wanted to manufacture the strings.
  • Modern Christmas light decorating to the extreme

    Modern Christmas light decorating to the extreme

    In 1895, U.S. President Grover Cleveland proudly sponsored the first electrically lit Christmas tree in the White House.

  • In 1901, The first commercially produced Christmas tree lamps were manufactured in strings of nine sockets by the Edison General Electric Co. of Harrison, New Jersey.
  • It was a common but incorrect belief in the early days of electric Christmas lighting that Christmas light bulbs would burn longer in an upright position. Early decorators spent a lot of time making sure that the lamps were positioned upright on the tree.
  • Many of the earliest figural light bulbs representing fruit, flowers and holiday figures were blown in molds that were also used to make small glass ornaments. These figural lights were painted by toy makers.
  • Many of the earliest Christmas lights burned so hot that they were about as dangerous as the candles they were advertised to replace.
  • Ink Blotter advertising General Electric's new pre-wired sets of Christmas lights. The artwork is a direct copy of General Electric's cover art for their 1904 booklet advertising their first set of Christmas lights.

    Ink Blotter advertising General Electric's new pre-wired sets of Christmas lights. The artwork is a direct copy of General Electric's cover art for their 1904 booklet advertising their first set of Christmas lights.

    Early in their history, Christmas lights were so expensive that they were more commonly rented than sold. An electrically lighted tree was a status symbol in the early 1900s.

  • Until 1903, when General Electric began to offer pre-assembled kits of Christmas lights, stringed lights were reserved for the wealthy and electrically savvy.
  • The wiring of electric lights was very expensive and required the hiring of the services of a wireman, our modern-day electrician. According to some, to light an average Christmas tree with electric lights before 1903 would have cost $2000.00 in today’s dollars.
  • Early NOMA Christmas light outfit

    Early NOMA Christmas light outfit

    Albert Sadacca saw a future in selling electric Christmas lights. The Sadacca family owned a novelty lighting company and in 1917 Albert, a teenager at the time, suggested that its store offer brightly colored strands of Christmas lights to the public.

  • Christmas lights were first advertised in the Ladies Home Journal.
  • True outdoor Christmas lights were not introduced to the public until 1927-1928, almost 45 years after the first electric tree lights were demonstrated. There were sets offered for sale as safe to use outside before 1927, but they were small, dangerous and extremely impractical for the average family.
  • By the 1920’s Albert Sadacca and his brothers organized the National Outfit Manufacturers Association (NOMA), a trade association. NOMA soon became NOMA Electric Co., with its members cornering the Christmas light market until the 1960’s.
  • President Coolidge at the lighting of the first National Christmas Tree on December 24, 1923.

    President Coolidge at the lighting of the first National Christmas Tree on December 24, 1923.

    On Christmas Eve 1923, President Calvin Coolidge began the country’s celebration of Christmas by lighting the National Christmas Tree with 3,000 electric lights on the Ellipse located south of the White House.

  • Montgomery Wards inadvertently gave the American public two well known Christmas treasures: the bubble light and Rudolph, The Red Nosed Reindeer. The original story of Rudolph, a bit different than the one we know today, first appeared in a children’s giveaway booklet in 1939. The character became a runaway hit. Also, Carl Otis, the inventor of the bubble light, worked as an accountant for the company. Wards did not sponsor Carl’s invention, and he eventually sold it to NOMA. It became the biggest selling Christmas light in history up to that time.
  • Electrically lit trees did not become “universal” in the United States until after World War II.
  • NOMA Bubble lights

    NOMA Bubble lights

    Largest Cut Christmas Tree was a 221 foot Douglas fir at Northgate Shopping Center, Seattle, Washington, USA, in December 1950. (Guiness Book of World Records)

  • It is interesting to note that while Christmas is a uniquely Christian holiday, most of the major Christmas lighting companies were owned and operated by people of the Jewish faith.

Special thanks to tackylighttour.com, loc.gov and oldchristmastreelights.com

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Lightning: Mother Nature’s Light Show

Lightning

Lightning

Fun Facts About Lightning

  • Lightning is a form of electrical discharge between clouds or between a cloud and the ground.

    Ball lightning

    Ball lightning

  • The discharge may take place between two parts of the same cloud, between two clouds, or between a cloud and the ground.
  • Lightning may appear as a jagged streak, a flash in the sky, or in the rarer form of a brilliant ball.
  • Thunder is the sound waves produced by the explosive heating of the air in the lightning channel during the return.
  • Most lightning strikes occur either at the beginning or end of a storm.
  • The average lightning strike is six miles long.Lightning is not confined to thunderstorms. It’s been seen in volcanic eruptionsextremely intense forest fires, surface nuclear detonations, heavy snowstorms, and in large hurricanes.

    Volcanic lightning

    Volcanic lightning

  • Lightning reaches 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit, fours times as hot as the sun’s surface.
  • A cloud-to-ground lightning channel can be 2 to 10 miles long.
  • Voltage in a cloud-to-ground strike is 100 million to 1 billion volts.
  • Lightning is underrated as a risk because it usually claims only one or two victims at a time and does not cause mass destruction of property.
  • Lightning affects all regions. Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, New York, Ohio, Texas, Tennessee, Georgia, and Colorado have the most lightning deaths and injuries.
  • Lightning kills more people on an annual basis than tornadoes, hurricanes or winter storms. It is second only to flash floods in the annual number of deaths caused by storm-related hazards.
  • Damage costs from lightning are estimated at $4-5 billion each year in the U.S.
  • Around the earth there are 100 lightning strikes per second, or 8,640,00 times a day.
  • What is commonly referred to as heat lightning, is actually lightning too far away to be heard. However, the storm may be moving in your direction.
  • There are approximately 100,000 thunderstorms in the U.S. each year.
  • Rubber shoes do nothing to protect you from lightning.Americans are twice as likely to die from lightning than from a hurricane, tornado or flood.
  • Talking on the telephone is the leading cause of lightning injuries inside the home.
  • Standing under a tall tree is one of the most dangerous places to take shelter.
  • If your hair stands up in a storm, it could be a bad sign that positive charges are rising through you, reaching toward the negatively charged part of the storm. That’s not a good sign! Your best bet is to get yourself immediately indoors.

    Blue lightning

    Blue lightning

  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) estimates there are 200 deaths and 750 severe injuries from lightning each year in the U.S.
  • The odds of being struck in your lifetime is 1 in 3,000.The odds of becoming a lightning victim in the U.S. in any one year is 1 in 700,000.
  • 20% of all lightning victims die from the strike.
  • 70% of survivors will suffer serious long-term effects.
  • Annually, there are more than 10,000 forest fires caused by lightning.
  • 85% of lightning victims are children and young men aged 10-35 engaged in outdoor recreation and work activities outside.
  • 70% of all lightning injuries and fatalities occur in the afternoon.
  • Most lightning deaths involve people working outdoors and outdoor recreationists.
  • Lightning in remote terrain creates dangerous conditions. Hikers, campers, backpackers, skiers, fishermen, and hunters are especially vulnerable when they’re participating in these activities.
  • Many survivors of lightning strikes report that immediately before being struck their hair was standing on end and they had a metallic taste in their mouth.
  • If you can hear thunder, you are within 10 miles (16 kilometers) of a storm—and can be struck by lightning. Seek shelter and avoid situations in which you may be vulnerable.
  • Use the 30-30 rule, when visibility is good and there is nothing obstructing your view of the thunderstorm. When you see lightning, count the time until you hear thunder. If that time is 30 seconds or less, the thunderstorm is within six miles (ten kilometers) of you and is dangerous. Seek shelter immediately.
  • The Fourth of July is historically one of the most deadly times of the year for lightning in the U.S.. In summer, especially on a holiday, more people are outside, on the beach, golf course, mountains, or ball fields. Outdoor jobs such as construction and agriculture, and outdoor chores such as lawn mowing or house painting are at their peak, putting people involved in danger.
  • Long-term injuries from a lightning strike can include memory & attention loss, chronic numbness, muscle spasms & stiffness, depression, hearing loss, and sleep disturbance.
  • Some scientists think that lightning may have played a part in the evolution of living organisms. The immense heat and other energy given off during a stroke has been found to convert elements into compounds that are found in organisms.

Special thanks to  www.strikealert.com and www.nationalgeographic.com

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