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The Men Behind the First Ever Christmas Lights

So where did it all start? The Christmas lights we know and love have come on a long way since they were first invented. Here is the story behind the people who created the first ever Christmas lights. 

Before we had electrical Christmas lights, families would use candles to light up their trees through the festive period. This created the obvious disadvantage of being very dangerous and they were a very common cause of house fires in those days.

The first electrical light bulb was invented by Thomas Edison, and from here he created the first string of lights. Throughout Christmas in 1880 this string of lights were strung around his laboratory. People passing this building by railroad would see these lights, but it will be a long time until they become the tradition we have today!

Edward H Johnson, Edison’s friend and partner in the Edison’s Illumination Company, was the first person to put together a Christmas string of lights in 1882. He hand-wired a string of red, white and blue bulbs and placed them around his Christmas tree. The now illuminated Christmas tree also revolved!


At this time, the use of electricity was still not trusted, so it would still take many more years until they were used as commonly as they are today. 

President Cleveland was given some credit for encouraging the public to use indoor electrical lights. In 1895 he asked for the White House to be illuminated with hundreds of multi coloured lights.

On Christmas Eve in 1923, President Coolidge began the country’s Christmas celebrations by illuminating the National Christmas Tree with 3000 Christmas lights! 


Before 1903, stringed electrical lights were reserved for the rich, as it was very expensive to wire the lights and required hiring a serviceman to set them up. It is said that the average cost of running a Christmas tree would have cost the equivalent of $2000 in today’s American dollars!

It wasn’t until 1917 that strings of electric lights were sold. It was Albert Sadacca and his family who began to sell brightly coloured to the public. By 1920 the light company NOMA electrical company (National Outfit Manufacturers Association) was formed, where they specialised in selling Christmas lights until the 1960’s.

During the festive season of today we can appreciate thousands if not millions of different types of electrically powered lights, and we have Edison and Johnson to thank, for starting the whole thing off!

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