Thomas Edison Memorial Lamp Day – October 21, 1936 – WJR-Detroit – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
On this day, 86 years ago, they were celebrating an event which took place 57 years earlier in the laboratory of Thomas Edison.
In the period from 1878 to 1880 Edison and his associates worked on at least three thousand different theories to develop an efficient incandescent lamp. Incandescent lamps make light by using electricity to heat a thin strip of material (called a filament) until it gets hot enough to glow. Many inventors had tried to perfect incandescent lamps to “sub-divide” electric light or make it smaller and weaker than it was in the existing arc lamps, which were too bright to be used for small spaces such as the rooms of a house.
Edison’s lamp would consist of a filament housed in a glass vacuum bulb. He had his own glass blowing shed where the fragile bulbs were carefully crafted for his experiments. Edison was trying to come up with a high resistance system that would require far less electrical power than was used for the arc lamps. This could eventually mean small electric lights suitable for home use.
His big breakthrough came when he invented a bamboo filament to create a successful incandescent lightbulb. Other people had been working on the making of light bulbs in the past, but none of the earlier bulbs was ever able to work for more than a few minutes. Finally, on October 21, 1879, Edison’s light bulb burned for a continuous thirteen and a half hours. The following bulbs lasted for 40 hours and Edison and his team worked hard to light the laboratory and his home with several of the new light bulbs for Christmas. On New Year’s Eve of the same year, Christie Street became the world’s first street to be lit by incandescent light bulbs with the help of a power system designed by Edison. By the summer of 1880, Edison had perfected the incandescent bulb enough to be able to produce and sell it in large quantities. He remodeled the wooden building on the east side of the Pennsylvania Railroad tracks and Lincoln Highway to serve as a Lamp Factory. Edison also laid down an experimental underground system and put up several lampposts in Menlo Park and successfully tested the first underground electrical system in November 1880. The first two homes to be lit by Edison’s incandescent lights were the home of Francis Upton (a mathematician who worked for Edison) located at Frederick Street at the corner of Woodbridge Avenue, and Sarah Jordan’s boarding house. Sarah Jordan was the widow of one of Edison’s associates from Newark, who Edison brought to Menlo Park to setup the boarding house for his single employees. This was also a place where the entire team gathered for social events during their free time.
Here is that celebration as it was held 83 years ago for an event that took place 57 years earlier and broadcast over WJR in Detroit on October 21, 1936.
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