WEST ORANGE, NJ — With Christmas fast approaching, millions of Americans are preparing to undertake the annual ritual of decorating their homes and their trees with strings of multi-colored lights. According to Downtown West Orange Alliance (DWOA) Secretary Mike Brick—who also serves as a board member of the Friends of Edison and chair of the West Orange Environmental Commission (WOEC)—this tradition should take special significance in West Orange since its most famous resident, Thomas Edison, invented the light bulbs now used in holiday decorations all over the world.
Noting that many people take this information for granted, not realizing that the famous string lights were among Edison’s many inventions in the early 1880s, Brick announced that he is hosting a lecture on Thursday at 7 p.m. at the West Orange Public Library (WOPL) about Edison and the evolution of his Christmas Lights.
The lecture will touch upon the story of how Christmas lights came to be and how history was changed with the introduction the first indoor tree, which was decorated with 80 red, white and blue electric colored bulbs at the home of Edward Johnson, vice president of Edison Electric Company, in New York City in 1882.
“Last year, I took the ‘Bulb Beam’ and have been traveling around town with it for the past three or four years,” said Brick. “I decorated it with LED lighting, I put a little Christmas Tree at its base, and I put copies around it about Edison inventing Christmas lights and it was a lot of fun.
“People enjoyed going over to it and reading it, so in talking with the library and the DWOA, we said, ‘Hey why not do a lecture about it?’ It helps the library and it helps the DWOA and the Friends of Edison and the [Edison] Museum.”
With the help of the “Bulb Beam”—a structure that features six iron-pipe electrified arms holding six historical bulb designs from the 1880s to the 1920s is currently on display at the WOPL and was built by Brick in 2017 using a 175-year old hand hewn restored hardwood beam—Brick will also discuss how current LED lighting has evolved geometrically from the lights first created by Davy containing a “voltaic arc” in the 1870s to the improved incandescence bulb with a tungsten metal filament in 1910.
The room will be decorated with modern LED lights, and a reproduced strand of 10 original Edison colored bulbs—meant to represent how the lights must’ve looked in 1882—will be raffled off to a lucky attendee after the lecture.
“It should be a lot of fun,” said Brick, adding that the lecture is “a truly easy, informative, fun experience for young and old alike,” as everyone has experienced some aspect of the evolution of lighting in their lives, he said.
Also coming up at the WOPL are the following events:
Wednesday, Dec. 11 at 10 a.m. — How to Avoid Falling in Every Season
With winter well on its way, this informative presentation will teach participants how to be mindful of environments that may increase their chances of falling as well as ways in which they can recover from slip-and-fall situations.
Saturday, Dec. 14 at 11 a.m. — Crocheting with Carlotta
Carlotta will show participants how to enjoy the art of crocheting in this cozy program open to people all ages. Yarn and needles will be provided in limited quantities.
Sunday, Dec. 15 at 2 p.m. — WOPL Inaugural Holiday Cookie Exchange
The public is invited to sample cookies made by their own neighbors and share family recipes so that everyone can get into the holiday spirit. Beverages will be provided at the event. Cookies entered into the exchange must have copies of the recipe used available and clearly visible. Entries without recipes will not be allowed in the cooking exchange.
Monday, Dec. 16 at 1:30 p.m. — Book Discussion on “The Tattooist of Auschwitz” by Heather Morris
Based on a true story, Morris' debut fictionalizes the romance between two concentration camp prisoners during World War II.
Call 973-736-0198 or visit the WOPL website to register for these events.