Thomas Edison opened the first electric lamp factory on October 1, 1880:

Thomas Edison opened the first electric lamp factory on October 1, 1880:

Electric Lighting

John Browning installed the first electric light in the Guildhall London in 1873, the occasion being a banquet to honor the Shah of Persia during his visit to Queen Victoria. One light, run with Bunsen cells, was positioned outside each window, due to the fumes. The operating cost of each light was £3 per hour.

Joseph Swan, an English chemist developed a filament lamp in 1880. Swan’s first commercial customers were his friends, Sir William and Lady Armstrong of Cragside near Newcastle Upon Tyne in the north of England.

The James Coxon & Co drapery of Newcastle became the first shop to be lit by electric light on January 21, 1882.

Thomas Edison wanted to produce a long lasting electric bulb and he started off by studying the entire history of lighting. Edison filled 200 notebooks containing more than 40,000 pages with his notes on gas illumination alone.

Edison worked thousands of hours, experimenting with 1,200 different varieties of bamboo before finding the ideal one for the filament in 1879. The following year on October 1, 1880 Edison opened the first electric lamp factory.  It was situated along the line of the Pennsylvania Railroad, at Menlo Park, New Jersey, a short distance from the American inventor’s house.

Original carbon-filament bulb from Thomas Edison’s shop in Menlo Park. Author Terren. Wikipedia Commons

Edison bought electricity to the masses by digging up roads and installing cables. He designed the first hydroelectric plant which put electric light in the streets and houses in one square of New York on September 4, 1882.

The Vulcan Street Plant was the first Edison hydroelectric central station. The plant was built on the Fox River in Appleton, Wisconsin and put into operation on September 30, 1882.

Initially, the buildings’ direct connection to the generator caused many problems because the generator was directly connected to the waterwheel. The water from the Fox River did not flow at a constant rate, so the lights did not keep a constant brightness and often burnt out. This problem was resolved by moving the generator to a lean-to off the main building, where it was attached to a separate water wheel that allowed for a more even load distribution.

The first electric lighting system employing overhead wires, built by Thomas Edison, begun service at Roselle, New Jersey on January 19, 1883. Edison’s desire was to demonstrate that an entire community could be lit by electricity.

The First Presbyterian Church, located on the corner of West 5th Avenue and Chestnut Street in Roselle, was the first church in the world to be lit by electricity.

Electric light bulbs were safer and more efficient than the gas lamps they replaced. Yet it took decades for the technology to catch on, as municipal authorities had invested heavily in gas lighting.

When Edison declared an interest in supplying electricity to subscribers, the gas suppliers, in fear for their domestic lighting business took him to court. They argued that electricity was too dangerous to be supplied to households. The courts’ ruling was that a maximum 100-volt was safe to supply.

A British parliamentary committee said of the bulb, “It is good enough for our transatlantic friends but unworthy of the attention of practical or scientific man.”

The first town in the world to have electric street lights was Great Barrington, Massachusetts in 1886.

Harvey Hubbell received a patent for the electric light bulb socket with a pull-chain in 1896.


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