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Maine Memory Network

Distribution: Light Bulbs

This slideshow contains 14 items
1
Reproduction 1879 light bulb, ca. 1929

Reproduction 1879 light bulb, ca. 1929

Item 74866 info
Maine Historical Society

Since 1802, when Sir Humphrey Davy made the first incandescent lamp, scientists have worked to develop better filaments and more reliable light bulbs.

Heating the filament produces light – and blackens the inside of the bulb. Creating a vacuum inside the glass decreases the blackening and, hence, increases the light.

Over the years, Joseph Swan, Thomas Edison, and others experimented with filaments made of platinum, carbonized threads or paper, carbonized bamboo, cellulose, tantalum, and tungsten.

They also perfected the vacuum process.


2
Carbonized cellulose filament bulb, ca. 1895

Carbonized cellulose filament bulb, ca. 1895

Item 74867 info
Maine Historical Society

Some of the filament materials were chosen to make light bulbs more efficient – producing more light while using less energy.

Though Edison achieved success with a carbonized bamboo filament, research continued for filaments that lasted longer and burned more efficiently.

Among the filament materials that proved most successful was carbonized cellulose, which became the industry standard for almost 20 years. This produced 2.7 lumens per watt.


3
Metalized filament bulb, ca. 1904

Metalized filament bulb, ca. 1904

Item 74868 info
Maine Historical Society

With increased competition and the search for more efficient lamps, Willis Whitney, an employee of General Electric, found that carbonized cellulose filaments prepared at very high temperatures took on metallic properties.

These lamps could then be operated at higher temperatures, giving more light – 4.25 lumens – per watt.


4
Tantalum filament bulb, ca. 1904

Tantalum filament bulb, ca. 1904

Item 74869 info
Maine Historical Society

In the search for greater efficiency and more light, for less cost, German inventors von Bolton and Feuerlien developed a filament made of element number 73, Tantalum, which had almost the same efficiency as metallized carbon, but was superior in strength. This lamp produced 5 lumens per watt.


5
Hy-Lo light bulb, ca. 1904

Hy-Lo light bulb, ca. 1904

Item 74873 info
Maine Historical Society

The Hy-Lo bulb uses two carbon filaments connected to different poles of a rocker switch on the side of the bulb base.

One is a large filament, giving off bright light, while the other is smaller, giving off less light.

The lamp was therefore more efficient.


6
Bulb with carbon filament, ca. 1905

Bulb with carbon filament, ca. 1905

Item 74874 info
Maine Historical Society

The inside of this lamp has a coating of carbon that is the result of carbon vaporizing off of the filament, hitting the cooler sides of the bulb, and forming depositing there, thus reducing the amount of light emitted by the bulb.


7
Tungsten filament lamp, ca. 1909

Tungsten filament lamp, ca. 1909

Item 74870 info
Maine Historical Society

In 1909, General Electric created uniform manufacturing specifications for light bulbs. Companies that chose to adhere to the standards and use only tungsten filaments, paid GE a fee and used the Mazda name, which GE heavily advertised.

General Electric began using tungsten for greater efficiency. Powdered tungsten was squirted through a small hole in a die and then heated and pressed, in a process called sintering.

The resulting filaments, however, were brittle and could not be bent so short segments were used and were “welded” to the support wires.

This lamp produced 8 lumens per watt.


8
Coiled tungsten filament bulb, ca. 1915

Coiled tungsten filament bulb, ca. 1915

Item 74872 info
Maine Historical Society

Tightly coiling ductile tungsten filaments extended the overall life of the bulbs.


9
Edison Mazda light bulb display, ca. 1925

Edison Mazda light bulb display, ca. 1925

Item 18281 info
Maine Historical Society

General Electric hired artist Maxfield Parish to design their advertising campaign.

The display allowed customers to evaluate and compare various light bulb styles.


10
'E' neon glow bulb, ca. 1930

'E' neon glow bulb, ca. 1930

Item 74875 info
Maine Historical Society

Neon lamp technology, developed in the late 1890s, uses two electrodes that are sealed within a bulb containing an inert gas like neon or argon.

When voltage is applied, a small region of gas near the electrodes begins to glow.

In the 1930s, neon lights began taking on various shapes, including letters of the alphabet, and were used for signs


11
'Mazda' tungsten filament bulb, ca. 1935

'Mazda' tungsten filament bulb, ca. 1935

Item 74871 info
Maine Historical Society

William D. Collidge, working for General Electric, found that by taking the sintered tungsten filament and forcing it though increasingly small dies, a wire could be produced that was flexible, yet strong.

This material was used in light bulbs beginning in 1911 and is still used in incandescent bulbs today. Many methods were tried to reduce the glare of light bulbs including outside frosting, either by etching or coating the bulb, and the use of white glass for bulbs.

A method for frosting was developed in 1925. This lamp produced 10.1 lumens per watt.


12
Blackout lamp, ca. 1940

Blackout lamp, ca. 1940

Item 74876 info
Maine Historical Society

During World War II, especially along coastal areas, periodic blackouts required all street lights to be turned off, cars and truck lights to be dimmed, and lights turned out in homes so that enemy bombers or ships wouldn’t have light to identify targets.

In order to be able to have low levels of light in the home, blackout lamps were developed.

This bulb has a mirror coating on the inside to help focus the light to the bottom.


13
Quartz-arc halogen lamp, ca. 1980

Quartz-arc halogen lamp, ca. 1980

Item 74877 info
Maine Historical Society

Able to produce high quantities of light very efficiently, metal halide lamps became commercially viable in the 1960s. While expensive and difficult to build, they produce approximately 75-100 lumens per watt, which is three-to-five-times greater efficiency than incandescent lamps.

Because they require high voltage to start, but then run on standard electric current, they require special fixtures with a starter ballast.

Metal halide lamps are used to light industrial buildings and sports stadiums as well as for street lighting.

They are characterized by an inner arc tube that contains gaseous mercury and compounds of metals with bromine or iodine inside of a larger, outer tube filled with argon gas with a slight vacuum.


14
Souvenir lamp with meter, 1985

Souvenir lamp with meter, 1985

Item 74856 info
Maine Historical Society

With the light bulb switched on, the meter on this lamp turns and illustrates the reality of the electric grid: light bulbs (and other electrical appliances) use electric power.

These lamps are a common gift item from and for electrical engineers.

The internal mechanism of the Sangamo watt-hour meter has been partially de-magnetized, so the dial turns faster than it would if the meter were mounted on the side of a house.


This slideshow contains 14 items