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updated: 12/9/2012 7:13 AM

History of Christmas lights

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  • A telephone operator employee came up with the idea of mini-holiday lights while staring at a switchboard, but they didn't become popular until the 1970s.

      A telephone operator employee came up with the idea of mini-holiday lights while staring at a switchboard, but they didn't become popular until the 1970s.

 
 

Do you know when the first Christmas tree was adorned with lights? Or when blinking lights were invented?

Here are some random Christmas lights facts to chew on while I remind you about our holiday lights contest.

The contest deadline is midnight Sunday. Just go to dailyherald.com/contest/holidaylights and enter a picture of your house. Then come back between Dec. 10-16 to vote on your favorite. The winner will receive a Toro Power Clear 621 QZE snowblower valued at $830. If you vote, you will be entered in a random drawing for a Toro Power Clear 418 ZE snowblower valued at $400.

Now, back to those holiday lights facts:

1882: Edward Johnson hand-wired 80 red, white and blue bulbs and wound them around a rotating evergreen tree. Johnson was a colleague of Thomas Edison.

1895: President Grover Cleveland set up a Christmas tree with lights.

1903: Modern Christmas lights were created with screw-in bulbs by the American Eveready Co. Before that, those who wanted Christmas lights had to hire an electrician to wire together lights like beads on a string. It's estimated having lights hand-strung by these specialists would have cost $2,000 in today's dollars.

1904: First recorded use of Christmas lights outside was in San Diego, Calif.

1914: The first outdoor display was crafted in Denver when an electrician named David Sturgeon dipped light bulbs in colored paint to light a tree outside his desperately ill grandson's window. Written up in the local newspaper, the idea soon caught on around the country.

1917: 15-year-old Albert Sadacca had the idea, after a tragic fire in New York, that his parents should start making electric lights for trees. Only 100 strings sold the first year. The next year, he suggested painting bulbs in different colors and the NOMA Electric Co. became the largest Christmas lights company in the world. In 1946, NOMA invented bubble lights. The company went bankrupt in 1965.

1930: Blinking lights were introduced.

1956: Rockefeller Center Christmas tree started using modern electric lights.

1998: LED Christmas lights started to become popular because they were brighter and more energy-efficient. The first LED (light-emitting diode) was invented in 1907. For years, most LED lights were used in commercial applications, such as TVs or road hazard signs.

2005: Carson Williams garners national attention for synchronizing his holiday lights to music using 88 Light-O-Rama channels to control 16,000 lights.

2006: The White House Christmas tree's lights were 100 percent LED.

2012: More than 30,000 LED lights are strung on the tree at Rockefeller Center, which ads up to more than 5 miles of lights.

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