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Did you know? | Christmas light trivia

Want a few facts to brighten your day? Here's some Christmas light trivia from Mentalfloss.com that you can sink your teeth into …

Thomas Edison was responsible for the first Christmas light display. Edison, in an effort to to draw attention to his incandescent light bulb during the 1880 Christmas season, laid 8 miles of underground wire to power strings of lights around the outside of his New Jersey laboratory. Two years later, his friend and colleague, Edward Johnson, debuted the first Christmas tree to be lit up with electric lights.

Grover Cleveland was the first president to have a Christmas tree decked out in electric bulbs. In 1895,Cleveland requested the first family’s tree be adorned with hundreds of multicolored bulbs. The 24th president is credited with warming the public to the idea of electric Christmas lights. At the time, many people mistrusted electricity and thought that dangerous vapors would seep into their homes through the lights and wires.

Early lights were expensive. By 1900, it could cost as much as $300 (around $2,000 today) to pay for the lights, a generator, and a wireman’s services to illuminate a Christmas tree with electric lights. A breakthrough came in 1903 when General Electric offered the first pre-wired, eight-socket strings of lights.

A 15-year-old helped make them popular. Inspired by a tragic fire that was started by candles decorating a Christmas tree, Albert Sadacca suggested adapting the novelty lighting his parents sold for Christmas trees in 1917. While only a hundred strings sold in the first year, once Sadacca painted the bulbs red, green, and other colors, the business took off.

Blinking lights couldn’t take the heat. While most modern lights use an integrated circuit to blink, it used to be red-tipped mini lights that enabled a string to twinkle. When electricity heats a strip of metal in the bulb, it bends and breaks the circuit. As the metal cools, it bends back and reconnects the circuit to create an intermittent flashing effect.

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