First came arc light and ‘sun towers’ with their brilliant beams of white-hot light casting shadows down among the holiday shoppers of Ladies Mile in 1880. But the genius of Menlo Park, Thomas Edison, envisioned an entire city grid wired for electricity. From Edison’s Pearl Street station, the inventor turned a handful of blocks north of Wall Street into America’s first area entirely lit with the newly invented incandescent bulbs.
ALSO: It’s the War of Currents, the enigmatic Nicola Tesla and the world’s first electric Christmas lights
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The home of Samuel Leggett, the first to be illuminated with gas lighting, at 7 Cherry Street. This home stood just a few blocks from the location of Edison’s Pearl Street Station (255-7 Pearl Street), which would also change the way people consider lighting their city. (NYPL)
Inside the Pearl Street Station: Direct current surged through Edison’s generators to the neighboring blocks.
‘New York The Wonder City‘, and indeed it was, thanks to electricity. Whole neighborhoods, like Times Square and Coney Island, were defined by it. Landmarks like the Brooklyn Bridge, thoroughfares like the Bronx’s Grand Concourse and even Broadway itself were transformed at night by electric power. (NYPL)
Nikola Tesla, the brilliant Serbian inventor who spent his final decades in New York living in hotels and communing with pigeons.
Behold! The first Christmas tree with electrical lighting, courtesy Edison employee Edward Hibberd Johnson. This tree glittered and twirled from Johnson’s home in Murray Hill. (Courtesy Jim on Light)
On the fiftieth anniversary of the invention of the lightbulb, an elderly Thomas Edison ‘reinvents’ it in 1929 at a reconstructed laboratory in Dearborn, Michigan, to the delight of Henry Ford and newly elected President Herbert Hoover.
And finally, footage of the death of renegade Coney Island elephant Topsy, electrocuted in an Edison experiment of the viability of electric power to kill.