Nothing says Christmas like a bunch of lights on the trees, clumsily packed away after last year’s festivities. Untangling bulbs is an annual ritual in many homes.
Thomas Edison’s connection – and thus New Jersey’s connection – to the unpleasant task is clear. Edison and his team developed the first long-lasting incandescent light bulb in 1879. Ever the showman, Edison liked to trick potential investors with light displays. At Christmas 1879, “he decorated his laboratory in Menlo Park with his new lights, drawing spectators from near and far to witness the wintry magic,” according to the National Park Service, which runs the wonderful Thomas Edison National Historical Park in West Orange. This was at a time when many families lit their Christmas trees with living candles.
But we can thank Edison’s fellow inventor and business partner Edward H. Johnson for the idea of hanging electric lights on Christmas trees. In 1882, he connected 80 red, white and blue bulbs and surrounded his Christmas tree with them.
It wasn’t until then 1901 year, however, that the Edison General Electric Company produced the world’s first commercially produced Christmas tree lights in rows of nine sockets each. They were made in Harrison, New Jersey. Thus was born a tradition that mostly enchanted, but sometimes burdened millions of people around the world.