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Fascinating facts about the invention of
Christmas Tree Lights
by Edward Johnson in 1882.
CHRISTMAS TREE LIGHTS
People first started putting lights on Christmas trees back in the middle of the 17th century. They attached small candles to the ends of tree branches with wax or pins. Before electricity was widely available, people didn't usually put up their trees until December 24 because of the risk of fire. Once electric Christmas tree lights were invented, people started to put up trees earlier, and leave them up longer.

The American custom of using electric lights began in 1882 when Edward Johnson an associate of Thomas Edison, hand-wired 80 red, white and blue bulbs and wound them around a rotating evergreen tree. Then, in 1895, President Grover Cleveland set up a lighted Christmas tree in the White House and the general public began to notice. So began the tradition.

General Electric (Edison's company) began bringing good things to light as the 1800s came to a close, offering hand-blown bulbs that needed to be wired together like beads on a string. Homeowners had to hire a "wireman" to stab the mess together, much as you'll have to call someone to get your new computer online tomorrow.

In 1900, some large stores started to put up large illuminated trees to attract customers. Members of high society began hosting Christmas Tree parties. These were grand events since a typical lighted tree of the early 1900s cost upwards of $300 (more than $2000 in today’s dollars), including the generator and wireman´s services.

In 1903, The American Eveready Co. came out with the first humane Christmas light set, including screw-in bulbs and a plug for the wall socket. In 1908, Ralph Morris came up with the idea of pulling the lights from an old telephone switchboard and wiring them on a tree, running them from a battery.

The person responsible for popularizing Christmas tree lighting is Albert Sadacca. A tragic fire in New York City in 1917, caused by the continuing practice of lighting the highly flammable tree with candles, gave 15-year-old Albert Sadacca an idea. Now it just so happened that Albert’s family, who had come from Spain, had a novelty business selling wicker cages with imitation birds in them that lit up.

Christmas Tree Lights (animated) Albert suggested to his parents that they begin making electric lights for Christmas trees. They had lots of bulbs on hand, and it would be much safer than using candles. The Sadacca's thought Albert had a good idea, but only one hundred strings of electric Christmas tree lights sold in the first year. After Albert thought of painting the bulbs red, green, and other colors instead of using plain glass, business picked up sharply. Albert became the head of a multi-million dollar company.
The company started by Albert Sadacca and his two brothers, Henri and Leon was NOMA Electric Company the largest Christmas lighting company in the world for all of the years of its operation prior to 1965.

TO LEARN MORE

RELATED INFORMATION:
History of Electricity    from The Great Idea Finder
History of Household Items    from The Great Idea Finder

ON THE BOOKSHELF:

More Christmas Ornaments Kids Can Make
by Kathy Ross / Paperback: 64 pages / Millbrook Press (September 1, 2000)
Well-written, step-by-step instructions accompany each project (29 out of the 30 projects are ornaments), with plenty of colorful illustrations for visual aid.
The Littlest Christmas Tree: A Tale of Growing and Becoming
by Janie Jasin, Pam Kurtz (Illustrator) / Hardcover: 32 pages / Book Peddlers (September 1, 1997)
This is a simple tale about the smallest seedling planted in a field of pine trees who yearns to grow tall enough to become a Christmas tree.
Why Didn't I Think of That (
This title is out of print. )
by Webb Garrison / Hardcover - 120 pages
(1977) / Prentice Hall / ISBN: 0139586032

ON THE WEB:
Antique Christmas Light Site
Information about how the electric Christmas lighting industry got started, a picture of the first electric Christmas tree, and information about the earliest days of an electric Christmas.
(URL: www.oldchristmaslights.com/)
Shedding Little Light
Christmas lights are a wonder of the season. Many folks simply wonder why they never work
. Article from The Hawk Eye in Burlington, Iowa.
(URL: www.thehawkeye.com/columns/Saar/2000/csa122400.html)
Origin Of Electric Christmas Lights
It all began in 1882, just three years after the incandescent bulb was invented. Edward Johnson, Edison’s friend and partner in the Edison Illumination Company in New York City, hand-wired 80 red, white and blue bulbs and wound them around a rotating evergreen tree in his home.
(URL: www.necanet.org/whats_new/report.cfm?ID=2668)
Christmas Tree Fires
Carefully decorating Christmas trees can help make your holidays safer from the.National Fire Protection Association.
(URL: www.nfpa.org/Research/NFPAFactSheets/ChristmasTreeFires/ChristmasTreeFires.asp)

Computer Controlled Christmas Lighting
At the ChristmasCave they sell hardware and software solutions that will free you from the technical side of indoor or outdoor Christmas  No longer do you have to worry about how to control your display and have that fact limit the type of display you make.
At the inventors site Christmas Cave.
(URL: www.christmascave.com)
Patents For Lights
Here is where you'll find many patents listed, described, and presented in numerical order for Christmas light boxes and decorative items.
(URL: www.oldchristmaslights.com/patents_3.htm)

DID YOU KNOW?:

  • In the 16th century Martin Luther revealed to his kids how stars twinkled by trimming a Christmas tree with candles.

  • In 1882 Edward Johnson, a business associate of Thomas Edison, electrically lighted a Christmas tree for the first time.

  • In 1895 The first electrically lighted Christmas tree was displayed in the White House. This event was instrumental in bringing the wonder of electric Christmas tree lighting to the general public's awareness.

Reference Sources in BOLD Type This page revised March, 2005.
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