Before October 14, 1878, the popular illustration for a good idea was a candle burning above one’s head, nowhere near as clear a visual as the one we celebrate on 


Like many things associated with Thomas Edison, he got all the credit for the little glass globes that did nothing less than transform the planet, but none of the blame for bathing humanity in unflattering artificial light.

The truth may be more complicated, since research on incandescent light dated back to the 1760s, and generations of scientists built on the work of others before them until Edison came up with his commercially viable lightbulbs on October 14, 1878.

To this day, scientific historians debate who was first to invent the incandescent light bulb, but Thomas Edison was never burdened with an aversion to fame and fortune, or of hogging the credit for the work of others (just ask Nikola Tesla).

Prior to the universal application of incandescent lightbulbs, America’s cities, towns and farms were basically kindling wood waiting for the spark that was all too frequent with the kerosene and gas lamps that lit up our homes (sometimes literally).

As America expanded upward and outward, electricity began running trolley cars, factories and railroads, all of which were suddenly well lit at night, thus creating the night shift and the all-night diners to feed them, as well as the saloons and brothels necessary to fill their needs.

Next thing you know The Night Life is a thing, Paris is the City of Lights, Times Square is a neon circus, Coney Island can be seen from miles out to sea, and it’s the Roaring Twenties with farm girls swilling bathtub gin and dancing the Flora Dora into the wee hours of the morning while decadent bankers squander the easy money of unlimited credit until everything blows up in everyone’s face and it’s the Great Depression.

Or something like that.

•Suggested Activities:  Flipping the switch, pulling the chain, dimming. 

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