Origin of Christmas lights? Yep, it’s a Jersey thing
Outdoor Christmas lights. Driving up and down residential streets at night can certainly get you in the spirit. Some houses go all out to the point traffic control is necessary. Not to mention they are the stuff of comedy legend. Clark Griswold house anyone?
But where did the tradition of hanging lights outside come from? Look no further than New Jersey for the answer. It was 1880 and Thomas Edison had just patented the light bulb. The world had seen nothing like it before of course. Edison had the idea to string up his incandescent bulbs throughout his Menlo Park lab compound. You see, people had a good view of it from the train tracks where commuters passed. He did it to drum up excitement about his amazing invention, and he just happened to do it around Christmas time.
Then two years after it was an associate of Thomas Edison's who thought to use electric lights on a Christmas tree. Up until then people put candles on branches. And we were talking real Christmas trees here, real as in they could easily catch fire. The associate, Edward Johnson, wrapped a tree with 80 blue, red and white bulbs. Next he set the whole thing on a revolving platform in a window. These guys were all about the marketing!
As much as it amazed everyone who saw it, financial realities meant it would be decades before it caught on. Just like with any other technology, something brand new tends to cost a lot more. In 1894 electric lights were put on the White House Christmas tree, helping to further popularize them. Even so, by 1900 a string of 16 bulbs went for $12 which by today's standards equaled $350. So you can see why it took awhile. The good news was by 1914 that same row of lights went for $1.75. By the 1930's Christmas lights were finally everywhere.
So there you go Jersey. One of our own had way more to do with modern Christmas than you ever knew!
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