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Illuminating our Holidays

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Photo shows night view of Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., decorated with electric lights for the first inauguration of President Woodrow Wilson

In the spirit of the holiday season, we are highlighting another Everyday Mystery relevant to this time of the year: Who invented electric Christmas lights?

The short answer is Thomas Alva Edison and Edward H. Johnson. After all, Edison created the first practical light bulb and successfully strung together the first strand of electric lights outside his Menlo Park Laboratory during the 1880 holiday season. Two years later Edward H. Johnson, Edison’s friend and partner, hand- wired a strand of red, white, and blue bulbs to go around his revolving Christmas tree.

President Coolidge illuminating the community Christmas tree, which has been erected on the Monument Grounds, south of the White House

Edison and Johnson demonstrated to the public the use of electric lights for the holiday season. However when talking about the popularization of electric Christmas lights, we must acknowledge the work of Albert Sadacca. Sadacca saw a future in selling and marketing electric Christmas lights. By the 1920’s, Albert and his brothers organized the National Outfit Manufacturers Association (NOMA), which became NOMA Electric Co., with its members cornering the Christmas lights market until the 1960’s.

There is much more about the history of electric Christmas lights that I am not mentioning here. I go into more detail in Who invented electric Christmas lights mystery, as well as list resources where you can find more information.

Happy Holidays!

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