The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

December 20, 2013

Edison invented Christmas lights too

By Ashley Wislock
The Danville News

— DANVILLE — Thomas Edison, who famously lighted up Sunbury’s Edison Hotel — then known as the City Hotel — in 1883, also is the patriarch of electric holiday lights, which can be found across the Valley and nation this holiday season.

Three years before he wired the Edison Hotel for electricity, making it the first building ever to successfully use a three-wire electric lighting system, Edison created a string of his new electric lights during the holiday season and put them on display outside of his New Jersey laboratory for railroad passengers to see as they passed by, according to the Library of Congress.

The stunt was to draw attention to the electric light bulb, which Edison had successfully invented in 1879, according to researchers.

Previously, families had used candles to light their Christmas trees, which caused many home fires, according to the Library of Congress.

In 1882, Edison’s partner, Edward H. Johnson, wrapped a strand of Edison’s lights around a Christmas tree, creating the first electrically lighted Christmas tree, using “hand-wired 80 ‘patriotic’ red, white and blue bulbs and wound them around a rotating evergreen tree in his home,” according to the National Electric Contractors Association.

However, the practice would not become common for at least 20 more years, when the lights were first sold commercially by major companies, according to the Library of Congress.

Nowadays, electricity use typically spikes during the holiday season, said Joe Nixon, a spokesman for PPL Electric Utilities.

“Typically, winter along with summer are the two high-use periods for customers,” he said.

To keep electric bills down during the holiday season, PPL recommends using LED lights in displays, Nixon said.

“(Other lights) can use up to 10 times the electricity,” he said.