The Story of the First Electric-Lit Christmas Tree

The Story of the First Electric-Lit Christmas Tree

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Nora Taylor
Dec 24, 2017
(Image credit: Emma Fiala)

Way back in the days of yore, people lit their Christmas trees with candles. While this look was hygge as all get out, it was also really, really dangerous. So who is responsible for the safer holiday tree-lighting system we use today? We've got questions and 6sqft has answers.

(Image credit: via History)

In 1882 Edward Hibberd Johnson, Thomas Edison's business partner, was the first person to put electric lights on a Christmas tree. Not only was Johnson a brilliant engineer, he was a bit of a PR maven as well. After he got the inspiration to wrap 80 red, white and blue lights around the tree, put it on a revolving pedestal and put it smack dab in the middle of his window, he called the papers to let them know the course of Christmas history was being changed right that very moment. Your Instagram fave could NEVER (they could, actually, but all thanks to Edward Hibberd Johnson).

Hibberd Johnson's electric tree became an instant sensation, but one that was only available to the affluent. Bulbs cost $12 at the time, which would set you back $325 today. Lucky for us, the cost of electric string lights has dropped dramatically, so we can now safely and affordably light our Christmas trees.

1904 GE ad
(Image credit: GE via History)

Hopefully one day we'll get an eggnog-fueled episode of Drunk History about Johnson, but until that day you can head over to 6sqft for more on this charming story.

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