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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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Ice Cream Cones: One of the World’s Favorite Confections since 1904

Fun Facts About Ice Cream Cones

  • The Zalabia (waffle-like funnel cake)

    The Zalabia (waffle-like funnel cake)

    The ice cream cone was invented by Ernest Hamwi, a waffle vendor of Syrian decent, who sold Persian pastries called Zalabia (paper-thin waffles).

  • At the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri, Hamwi’s zalabia cart was located nearby an ice cream vendor who had run out of dishes.
  • Hamwi came to the vendor’s rescue by wrapping the zalabia around the ice cream in the familiar conical fashion we see today.
  • Fortunately, for Hamwi, there were roughly 150 vendors at the World’s Fair and soon people would come to the fair to try the “World’s Far Cornucopia”, later known as the Ice Cream Cone.
  • Italo Marchiony patented an invention much like the ice cream cone in 1903.
  • The Modern-day Waffle Cone

    The Modern-day Waffle Cone

    The difference between Marchiony’s cone and Hamwi’s cone is that the former is made of pastry, and the latter is made of waffle, and is what we think of as an ice cream cone today

  • It takes 12 lbs. of milk to make just one gallon of ice cream.
  • The U.S. enjoys an average of 48 pints of ice cream per person, per year, more than any other country.
  • It takes an average of 50 licks to polish off a single-scoop ice cream cone.
  • The biggest ice cream sundae in history was made in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, in 1988, and weighed in at over 24 tons.
  • In 2003, Portland, Oregon bought more ice cream per person than any other U.S. city.

 

Special thanks to icecream.com and summercore.com

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Chewing Gum: Food, Fad and Fashion for Over 9000 Years

Gumballs

Fun Facts About Chewing Gum

  • Chewing gum is some kind of flavored and sweetened rubber material for chewing.

  • Chewing gum is the world’s most common habit. This habit dates back to ancient times.
  • The world’s oldest piece of chewing gum is 9000 years old! Recently archaeologists found three wads of 9000 year old chewed birch resin on the Swedish island of Orust. After detailed examination by dental experts, they concluded that this piece of resin was chewed by young person (a caveman teenager).
  • The first commercial chewing gum was made and sold in 1848. by John Bacon Curtis. He called his chewing gum the State of Maine Pure Spruce Gum. John B. Curtis and his brother (to some sources John B. Curtis and his father John Curtis) came up with the practical idea of how to make and sell spruce gum as a chewing gum. They experimented with spruce tree resin and made a sticky, rubbery material which could be chewed. Then they added flavor to the gum and paraffin for soft and rubbery feel.
  • On July 27, 1869, Amos Tyler received the first patent in the United States for chewing gum. However, Tyler never sold his gum commercially.
  • An Ohio dentist, William Finley Semple was honored for this work using the first patent to manufacture chewing gum from December 1869. Main ingredients in Semple’s gum formula were charcoal and chalk.
    William Finley Semple, 1889 - 1969
    William Finley Semple, 1889 – 1969
  • In 1869, Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna told his idea of chicle to Thomas Adams. Adams tried to make toys, masks, and rain boots out of chicle, but neither of his products were commercially successful. In 1869 he simply added flavor to the chicle! That was the first step for creating world’s first modern chewing gum! The first mass marketed chewing gum was called Adams New York Chewing Gum. In the 1870s, Adams & Sons sold “Sour Orange” flavored gum as an after dinner candy. In 1871 Thomas Adams patented a machine for the manufacture of gum. That year Adams created a licorice-flavored gum called Black Jack. However, all the these gums had one big problem, they could not hold flavor.
  • The problem with holding flavor was not fixed until 1880, when William White combined sugar and corn syrup with chicle. For better taste he added peppermint extract. He found out, that peppermint stayed in the gum during chewing for much longer than other flavors. He called his first peppermint flavored gum Yucatan gum.
  • The Fleer Brothers first gum invention:  Chiclets
    The Fleer Brothers first gum invention: Chiclets

    In 1880, Henry and Frank Fleer experimented with chicle from sapodilla tree. Fleer brothers made cubes of the chicle substance and overlayed the cubes with sweet material. They called their invention “Chiclets”.

  • Frank Fleer was also the inventor of the world’s first bubble gum called Blibber-Blubber gum. However, that gum was too sticky to enjoy, and never sold well.
  • In 1888, Thomas Adams’ chewing gum, Tutti-Frutti, was the first chewing gum that was sold from a vending machine. The very first chewing gum vending machine was located in one of the New York City subway stations.
  • 1891 William Wrigley Jr founded Wrigley Chewing Gum. Existing companies offered similar products that were much more popular, than gums from Wrigley’s. One day in 1892, Mr. Wrigley got the idea of offering two packages of chewing gum with each can of baking powder. This offer was a huge success! His first two brands were Lotta and Vassar. Juicy Fruit gum came next in 1893, and Wrigley’s Spearmint was introduced later that same year.
  • Wrigley's Doublemint Gum:  a Wrigley/Fleer collaboration
    Wrigley’s Doublemint Gum: a Wrigley/Fleer collaboration

    In 1914 William Wrigley and Henry Fleer added mint and fruit extracts to a chewing gum with chicle. This is how Wrigley’s Doublemint, popular brand was created. The Wrigley Company was rapidly becoming an international success. Wrigley brands became known the world over. The first factories were established in United States and soon. Wrigley’s Doublemint factories were established in Canada (1910), Australia (1915), Great Britain (1927) and New Zealand (1939).

Double Bubble Logo

Fleer spinoff: Double Bubble

  • In 1928, an accountant for the Fleer gum company Walter Diemer attempted to make a new rubber product, but he accidentally founded bubble gum, that was not sticky. He called it Double Bubble. Double Bubble this gum was based on original Frank Fleer formula.
  • In 1951, the Topps Company reinvented the popularity of bubble gum by adding baseball cards to a package, replacing their previous gift of a single cigarette. Children and parents loved this.
  • Some sources indicate that today there are 115 companies that are manufacturing chewing gum, located in 30 countries (41 of them in the United States only!). In many stores that sell chewing gum, you can find more than 30 different brands of it!

  • More than 100,000 tons of chewing gum is consumed every year.
  • Every year over 374 trillion sticks of chewing gum are made.
  • The average person chews over 300 sticks of gum each year!
  • In the next 5 years, over 1 million metric tones of chewing gum will be produced.
  • The Chewing Gum Industry is profitable market. The world’s chewing gum industry is estimated to be worth approximately US $19 billion.
  • Assuming each piece of gum is chewed for 30 minutes, that is 187 billion hours of gum-chewing per year.
  • In the beginning, chewing gums were made only by hand! Today almost all gum is made by machine.
  • Most chewing gum is purchased between Halloween and Christmas.
  • Chewing gum while peeling onions will keep you from crying.
  • Humans are the only animals on earth that chew gum.
  • Even astronauts chew chewing gum! Only problem is disposal… so they have to swallow them…
  • The bubble gum art of Maurizio Savini
    The bubble gum art of Maurizio Savini

    Over the last 10 years, Maurizio Savini, an Italian artist, has been creating sculptures using thousands of pieces of chewing gum!

  • Today almost 35% of chewing gum is manufactured by Wrigley Company.
  • Chewing gum stays in stomach usually a day or two after we eat it – not seven years as you may have heard.
  • When children swallow gum one of the biggest dangers is the risk of choking. Children under the age of six should not be given chewing gum (especially no bubble gum).
  • Many dentists now widely recommend chewing sugar free gum to their patients.

 

Special thanks to www.chewinggumfacts.com

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