Who Invented Electric Christmas Lights

Find out more about this amazing invention

Published: 2022-11-23 10:56:17

In 1880, Thomas Edison changed the course of history by inventing and patenting the electric light bulb. This amazing invention allowed homes and businesses to be lit up at all hours of the day and night. But it wasn't until 1882 that Edison’s friend and partner Edward H. Johnson had the brilliant idea to put electric lights on Christmas trees. The rest, as they say, is history.  

Origins of Electric Christmas Lights

It took only a couple of years after the invention of the light bulb for Christmas trees to be lit electrically. Before the electric bulb, trees were often lit with candles and posed a dangerous risk of fire around the holidays each year. The first Christmas tree lit up with electric lights was on display at the home of Edward H. Johnson, one of Edison's business partners. He hand-wired the string of red, white, and blue festive lights, though the tradition took several years to catch on.  

The first electric Christmas lights were quite different from the ones we use today. They were large, expensive, and not exceptionally reliable. Additionally, they often required the work of an electrician to wire properly. It wasn't until 1903 that General Electric offered pre-wired light bulbs to be used without the help of professionals, allowing for more homes to get the benefits of electric lights. Some estimate the cost for these original Christmas lights to be thousands of dollars per home, far different from the accessible pricing we see today.  

How Electric Christmas Lights Have Evolved Over the Years

In the early years of lightbulbs, many were still wary of the potential dangers associated with electricity, even if they could afford electric lights, and some credit the White House with making the tradition more acceptable.  

In 1895, President Grover Cleaveland began the White House tradition of using multi-colored electric lights to decorate the façade of the building, which quickly evolved into the spectacular display we now see in Washington D.C. each year. 

In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt installed electric lights on the White House Christmas tree. This event helped increase the popularity of electric lights, which became more common in homes and businesses throughout the United States. 

Over the years, electric Christmas lights have undergone several changes. The most significant change came in the 1970s when miniaturization techniques allowed the creation of the now-familiar miniature light bulbs. These small, bright bulbs have become a staple of Christmas decorations worldwide. 
 
Since then, many have swapped out the older incandescent bulbs which get hot after minutes of use, for LED lights that are more energy efficient, last longer, and shine brighter, without as high a risk of fire. While there are always advancements to be made, some still prefer the look of heirloom and vintage Christmas lights.  
 
However you decide to decorate your home and tree, Blingle Premiere Lighting can help simplify your design, setup, and takedown process. Our lighting experts have seen it all and stock it all, from vintage displays of yore, to the latest in energy efficient LED lighting. Contact your local office to learn how you can achieve the display of your dreams this holiday season.