People

Bring On The Christmas Lights

Thank Thomas Edison if you’re piling on extra Christmas tree lights this year. Thank Thomas Edison if you’re cheering on neighbours as they bedeck their roofs, windows, and bushes with multi-coloured, glowing strings.

Before Edison, Christmas light came courtesy of flaming candles on cut trees. Royals, like Queen Victoria, showcased their flammable finery.

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But, in 1882, Edward Hibbard Johnson, Thomas Edison’s business partner, decided to wire 80 red, white and blue Edison bulbs and wrap them around his extravagant Christmas tree. To up the ante, Johnson built a hidden electrical system to make the tree rotate, and placed the entire display in easy view of the street. Passersby gawked, and reporters came knocking.

Writer William August Croffut described the scene for the 1882 Detroit Post and Tribune:

“Last evening I walked over beyond Fifth Avenue and called at the residence of Edward H. Johnson, vice-president of Edison’s electric company. There, at the rear of the beautiful parlor, was a large Christmas tree, presenting a most picturesque and uncanny aspect. It was brilliantly lighted with many colored globes about as large as an English walnut and was turning some six times a minute on a little pine box. There were eighty lights in all encased in these dainty glass eggs, and about equally divided between white, red and blue. As the tree turned, the colors alternated, all the lamps going out and being relit at every revolution. The result was a continuous twinkling of dancing colors, red, white and blue, all evening.’

‘I need not tell you that the scintillating evergreen was a pretty sight – one can hardly imagine anything prettier. The ceiling was crossed obliquely with two wires on which hung 28 more of the tiny lights; and all the lights and the fantastic tree itself with its starry fruit were kept going by the slight electric current brought from the main office on a filmy wire. The tree was kept revolving by a little hidden crank below the floor which was turned by electricity. It was a superb exhibition.’

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Thanks to Edison, Johnson, and all those of you who don’t see the wide eyes and smiles your displays inspire each year. Below, talented photographers capture holiday light displays from around Europe …

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Jonas Smith. Tivoli Gardens. Copenhagen. Denmark

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Ian Stauffer. Krakòw. Poland.

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Stephanie LeBlanc. Paris. France

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Stephanie LeBlanc. Amsterdam. The Netherlands.

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CMO Photo. Frankfurt Christmas Market. Germany.

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Claudio Schwartz. Zürich. Switzerland

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Kriztian Tabori. Budapest. Hungary

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Cristina Gottardi. Milano. Italy

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Andrea Reggiani. Milano. Italy

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www.creatorsvancouver.com

Header: Jamie Davies. London. England.

 

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Elizabeth Newton

Elizabeth Newton