Thomas Alva Edison was called "The Wizard Of Menlo Park."  And, this prolific inventor certainly wasn't afraid to enhance his reputation through attention-getting stunts!

Edison created the incandescent light bulb in 1879.

During the Christmas season of 1880, he assembled the first strand of Christmas lights.

Edison promptly hung strings of the electric lights outside of his laboratory at 37 Christie Street in Menlo Park, New Jersey.  A railroad line passed nearby, and commuters would marvel at his festive display, each night!

This 1880 "stunt" is credited as the first "official" outdoor Christmas lights display, separate from decorating a Christmas tree.

Colored lights...waiting for darkness to fall... (Craig Allen photo).

The first use of Christmas lights indoors, on a Christmas tree, is credited to Edward H. Johnson in 1882.  Johnson was an Edison friend, and president of the company Thomas Edison had formed to light New York City.

Mr. Johnson hand-wired 80 red, white and blue lights, and wound them around his tree. Plus, his electrified tree...rotated! Do that, today!

This electric light, rotating tree was a sensation in New York City and, thanks to numerous published reports, it made made news across the nation.

However, it would be many years before electric lights would become a tradition across the United States.  A string of Christmas lights, and the services of an electrician to install them, could only be afforded by the wealthy.

"Experts" say that until 1903, when General Electric started making pre-assembled Christmas light sets, lighting the average tree would have cost more than $2,000 in today's money!  For this reason, candles remained popular on Christmas trees, despite the obvious fire risk, until the 1920's and 1930's.

Today's boxed Christmas lights. And, it all started in Menlo Park! (Craig Allen photo)

Learn more about the "Wizard Of Menlo Park!"  Thomas Edison's Menlo Park lab is operated as a museum, Thursday thru Saturday. For more information, click here!

(More) modern Christmas lights...that all of New Jersey can relate to... (Craig Allen photo)