United States

The Light Bulb and its Impacts

One single invention, not even the size of your palm, completely reconstructed daily life monumentally. One of the most important major turning points in American society was the invention of the light bulb by Thomas Edison. Its origins, income, benefits in the workplace, and influence on homes and culture made it absolutely revolutionary. Even Franklin Roosevelt said, “Electricity is a modern necessity of life” in 1938 (Lighting A Revolution).

The period of the Gilded Age was essentially a whole new world for America as a whole. Industrial advances between 1870 and 1899 grew like wildfire. Preceding the invention of the lightbulb, the fat of seals, cattle, and fish was used to fuel several types of lamps. Unfortunately, this process was not ideal, for animal fat made for a smokey, dangerously foul fire (“Lighting the Ancient World”). Lamps were also insufficient, only burning for a couple of hours. With lots of effort and persistence,testing thousands of materials, Edison eventually invented the lightbulb, which would change the economy, daily life, and culture of the world forever (“Edison’s Light Bulb”).

The light bulb’s central contribution to the economy was the shifting in working hours. As productivity picked up, the economy and its supply increased, and goods became cheaper. In the early 1880s, Edison planned and supervised the construction of the first commercial, central electric power station in New York City (“Edison’s Light Bulb”). In a world defined by the hours of the sun, the light bulb reconstructed the basis of time in daily life. Work hours stretched, from sunrise to sunset into this new idea of endless time, in turn changing the economy and wellbeing of society. Industries and plants could now work endlessly without the aid of dim candles, giving way to the phrase, “the city that never sleeps”. As electric light became dominant, prices of lamps and electricity fell fast. Previous kinds of lighting, like candles and oil lamps, were now primarily only used on certain occasions, like power outages.

Brand new aspects were added to the office setting to make it how we know today. Networks of wires, new machines, and later appliances found a place in office buildings and often homes (Lighting A Revolution). Along with increased workplace productivity, safety within the workplace increased with better lit areas and less fire hazards by dangerous lamps.

The lightbulb also helped out in the homes, daily life, and culture of America as they grew in popularity and exposure. Longer days, better lighting, and a new introduction of leisure hours increased the standards within daily life. The invention of the lightbulb allowed for more leisure hours in the night, when this wasn’t possible before. Interest in reading and art also added to the culture. Over time, homes incorporated electric outlets and later allowed things like television, video games, and radios to find a place in the home (Kalinowski). Novelty lights quickly found a place in society’s decor. In the home of Edison Company, the first Christmas tree used electric lights in 1882. Other practical uses were discovered with the modification of the light bulb to produce a handheld flashlight in 1898 (Lighting A Revolution).

Today’s light bulb is almost completely different from the first ones invented, but they also have similarities with how they work and what they are used for. Today the use of the light bulbs starts from everyday usage around the house to it being used in holograms and lights shows. Back when the light bulb was first invented it was only used around the house and at work, the thought of it being used for such advanced products most likely didn’t even cross the people’s mind in the 1800’s. Although the light bulb is more advanced with how it is built, they way it is used, and how it is used than what it use to be, the similarities are still among the light bulb.

From 1800 to 2017 the advancements of the light bulb are extraordinary and we as a nation owe so much to Thomas Edison and everyone who contributed to the invention of the light bulb. We have so many more opportunities due to the easy access of light bulbs and we would not be living the way we do know without this invention.

Article by Taylor Pollard and Kelly Owens

Works Cited:

“Edison’s Lightbulb.” The Franklin Institute, 19 May 2017, www.fi.edu/history-resources/edisons-


Kalinowski, Richard. “The Impact of Light Bulbs on Society | Hunker.” Hunker.com, Hunker, 17 July

    2017, www.hunker.com/13412721/the-impact-of-light-bulbs-on-society.

Lighting A Revolution: 19th Century Consequences, Smithsonian National Museum of American

    History, May 2017, americanhistory.si.edu/lighting/19thcent/consq19.htm.

“Lighting the Ancient World.” Science and Its Times, edited by Neil Schlager and Josh Lauer, vol. 1,

     Gale, 2001. U.S. History in Context, link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CV2643450057/UHIC?

      u=eld16218&xid=87484ad6. Accessed 9 Nov. 2017.

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