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.
July 11, 2014
New York's Historic Carnegie Mansion: Renovated and Re-imagined
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum Announces Dec. 12, 2014 Opening of Renovated Carnegie Mansion and Opening Exhibitions. Read more
Mansions and Millionaires: The McCormickville Walking Tour
First and third Saturdays, May 3 through November 15
Step back in time to enjoy a special walking tour of Chicago's River North district, led by historian Sally Sexton Kalmbach. Read more
Tiffany Girls Studio Tour
Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from June 25 through September 1
Sneak into the “studio” with Tiffany designers Clara Driscoll and Agnes Northrop. Read more
Nickerson Lecture: Achievements of the Low Art Tile Company
Thursday, September 18
The Low Art tile Company produced some of the finest ceramic tiles ever produced in the United States. Between 1878 and 1904 Low tiles were displayed in more than eighteen distributors showrooms around the United States, Canada and Britain. The talk will provide a window into the artistic world of late 19th century America. 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