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Who Invented Electric Christmas Lights? - Retrolight

Who Invented Electric Christmas Lights?

Winter and quirky lighting solutions go hand in hand, with many homes putting up elaborate strings of multi-coloured lights and flickering decorations to capture the joy and fun of the festive season, as well as brighten up a season that is on the whole relatively dark and cold.

The first person to fit a light source to a Christmas tree is believed to be Martin Luther, a religious reformist who established a range of religious traditions that would later be known as Protestantism.

He was said to have pinned candles to an evergreen tree and by the 18th century, this tradition had been adopted by the German upper class, spreading throughout Europe and the United Kingdom by the middle of the Victorian age, helped by the growing popularity of tea lights and miniature candles.

However, the first known tree to have electric lights fitted to it was credited to an unsung figure who proved instrumental to the development of the light bulb.

Edward H Johnson was the man who first hired Thomas Edison, and would be one of his most ardent supporters in establishing his Menlo Park base of invention.

During his time as vice president of the Edison Electric Light Company (later General Electric), he asked for 80 walnut-shaped light bulbs to be made for him.

He would then wire the red, white and blue bulbs into his Christmas tree at home, one of the first places in New York with electric wiring, which he proudly displayed hoping to garner press attention.

At the time, Thomas Edison was somewhat infamous for his self-promotion, so a lot of newspapers in the New York area dismissed the tree as a publicity stunt.

This was not the case, however for William A Croffut, a reporter for the Detroit Post and Tribune.

He published the story and the concept spread slowly amongst the upper class, only being widely adopted in 1930 when many working-class families received access to electricity and affordable light bulbs for the first time.

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