December 22, 2011 · 12:50 pm
Fun Facts About Christmas Lights
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
Filed under Entertainment, Historical Events & Figures, Science
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August 28, 2011 · 2:01 pm
The Sears tower (now known as the Willis tower)
Fun Facts About the Sears Tower/Willis Tower
- The tower was originally named after Sears, Roebuck and Co., an American chain of Department Stores which was headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, USA. In 1993, Sears sold the building after moving to the suburbs.
Sears Department Store
- The building’s name was left unchanged until July 16, 2009, when it was renamed Willis Tower for one of the skyscraper’s tenants, a British insurance firm. The move was met with local opposition, however, and some even started online petitions to protest the name change.
- The tower was designed by Fazlur Kahn and Bruce Graham of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM)
- At the time the Sears tower was constructed in 1973, it was the world’s tallest building, eclipsing New York’s twin-towered World Trade Center by 25 meters (83 ft).
- It would keep the title of tallest building in the world until the Petronas twin towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia were constructed in 1997.
- There was much discussion on whether the Petronas towers are actually taller than the Sears tower as the height of the antennas on the Petronas towers are included in the total height, while the height of the antennas are not included in the height calculation of the Sears tower as they are not considered an actual part of the building. With the construction of the 508m high Taipei 101 tower in 2004 this discussion became irrelevant.
- The Sears tower is still the tallest skyscraper in Chicago, exceeding the height of the number 2, the Trump International Hotel and Tower by 27 meters (89 ft) and the Aon Centerby 96 meters (315 ft).
- The Sears tower is also still the tallest building in North America.
- The building consists of nine framed tubes, which are actually nine skyscrapers on themselves taken together into one building.
- The nine tubes all reach forty-nine stories. At that point, two tubes end. The other rise up to the sixty-fifth floor. From the sixty-sixth to the ninetieth floor, the tower has the shape of a crucifix. Two tubes, creating a rectangular, reach the full height of 442 meters (1451ft).
- Originally, the plan included no less than 15 tubes, but when the planned hotel was
taken out of the project, only nine tubes were used in the final designs.
- The Sears Tower covers two city blocks and has 101 acres (4.4 million square feet) of space.
- The foundation and the floor slabs have some 2,000,000 cubic feet of concrete – enough to build an eight-lane highway 5 miles long.
- A 106-cab elevator system (including 16 double decker elevators) divides the Tower into three separate zones with skylobbies in between.
- The Sears Tower’s observation deck – known as the skydeck – is one of Chicago’s most popular attractions. At 412 meters (1,353 ft), it’s Chicago’s highest observatory, besting the John Hancock Center’s by 98 meters (323 ft) .
- The most spectacular attraction at the skydeck is ‘the ledge’, a glass balcony extending 4.3 ft where you can look straight down. It will make most people feel uneasy at first but the balconies offer spectacular views over Wacker Drive and the Chicago River.
Special thanks to http://www.aviewoncities.com and www.about.com
Filed under Historical Events & Figures, Travel
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