Edison's Bulbs0 comments
You’ll recognize these neat line drawings as the early incandescent light bulb—Thomas A. Edison’s patented version of a 16-watt bulb with bamboo filament, to be exact.
Patenting his electric lightbulb would, more than Edison’s 1,093 other inventions, cement his spot as American inventor extraordinaire. Other than maybe Benjamin Franklin, no other man is as associated in the popular imagination with electricity. As the language of the patent makes clear, Edison’s invention was only an “improvement” on the filament bulbs that already existed (the bamboo, he discovered, could burn for 1,200 hours). But when an improvement so looses the flow of electricity to the masses, the guy who does it gets all the glory.
You might have noticed the cozy glow of old-fashioned filament bulbs filling the Driehaus Museum. (Well, ‘filling’ as much as historically-accurate lighting levels will allow…) In our mission to provide a historical and welcoming space for our guests to enjoy the collection within, we continue to use Edison-style incandescent bulbs. They use a carbon filament that has been double-looped like rabbit ears, while the glass surrounding it has a nice hand-blown shape with a tiny finial atop. We use 30-watt early-20th-century model the manufacturer calls, fittingly, the “Victorian Bulb.”
The original homeowners of this historic mansion, the Nickersons (1883–1900) did have some ultra-modern light fixtures fitted for electric bulbs, but just a few concentrated in the first floor rooms, such as the parlor, where guests were entertained (and, I’m sure, impressed!). The greatest burden still remained on the gas fixtures. But by 1900, when the Fisher family (–1916) moved into this mansion at Erie and Wabash and began fixing up the place for their updated tastes, they installed a series of fixtures along the cornice of the first and second-floor halls that displayed the bulbs without shade or adornment.
In honor of the 133rd anniversary this week of Edison’s improvement/invention, here is the original patent petition, courtesy of the National Archives (text follows below).
To the Honorable Commissioner of Patents:
Your Petitioner Thomas A. Edison of Menlo Park in the State of New Jersey prays that letters patent may be greeted to him for the invention of an Improvement in Electric Lamps and in the method of manufacturing the same (lease no. 186) set forth in the annexed specification.
And further prays that you will recognize Lemuel W. Serrell of the City of New York, N.Y., as his Attorney, with full power of substitution and revocation, to prosecute this application, to make alterations and amendments therein, to receive the Patent, and to transact all business in the Patent Office connected therewith.
August 15, 2014
Remaining Relevant: A look at Washington’s Fascinating House Museums
Washington's most fascinating house museums allow visitors to relive history. Most historical house museums today have successfully evolved with the times and have made great strides in historical preservation. These museums are thriving, boosted in part by advances in the field, as well as growing appreciation for preservation among the general public.
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Book Club: The Picture of Dorian Gray
Saturday, October 11
Discuss Gilded Age fiction, biography, and history with the authors and historians. Join us for a lively discussion of Oscar Wilde’s only published novel. Read more
Gypsy Jazz: Swing Gitan
Friday, October 17
Back by popular demand! Chicago's premiere gypsy-jazz band, Swing Gitan, led by Alfonso Ponticelli returns to the Museum for an evening of foot-tappin' swing played on acoustic instruments in the 1930's-style music of guitarist Django Reinhardt. Read more
Nickerson Lecture: Gardens for a Beautiful America
Thursday, October 30
Gilded Age industrialism brought a new prosperity, but at the price of once pristine forests, rivers, and blue skies, devastated by continental railroad building and factory pollution. This lecture will explore the work of wealthy women and landscape architects to green America. Read more
Tiffany Glass: Painting with Color and Light
Wednesday, November 12
Louis C. Tiffany used colored glass as a painter uses pigments. In this illustrated lecture, Lindsy Parrott, Director/Curator of the Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass, will explore the history of Tiffany's glass and highlight some of the special types of glass found in his celebrated windows and lamps. Read more
An Intimate Evening with Bach
Thursday November 13
Join us as award-winning and nationally celebrated Colombian-American cellist, Christine Lamprea makes her debut at performing J.S. Bach’s classic, Suite No. 6 together with an inspired medley of 20th-century compositions. Read more
Sounds of the Season
Saturday, November 22
Once again this year, period-dressed carolers treat passersby to their favorite holiday songs from the Museum's front porch. Stop by before making your way to the Magnificent Mile's Lights Festival! Read more
Glitter & Gold Holiday Brunch
Saturday, December 6
Gather with family and friends for our first holiday brunch in the Museum’s historic Ballroom. Read more
The Most Wonderful Time of the Year: Holiday Cabaret
Friday, December 12 and Saturday, December 13
‘Tis the season to delight in the sensational vocal-stylings of acclaimed artist, David Edelfeldt. Together, he and Chicago’s favorite chanteuse, Becky McKenzie will perform winter and holiday favorites in their popular cabaret-style, while you enjoy drinks and light hors d’oeuvres. Read more
Santa Saturday 2
Saturdays, December 13 and 20
Celebrate the traditions of Gilded Age America that continue to make our winter holidays special! Read more