Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 148,415 pages of information and 233,868 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Edison Electric Light Co

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1877 Thomas Edison turned his attentions to electric lighting towards the end of 1877. He believed that commercially successful lighting needed to have similar characteristics to the existing gas lighting. His early experiments using carbonized paper and carbon were failures. The lamp usually cited as his first success was made on 19th October 1879 but the carbonized cotton used as the conductor was still very fragile. He later found that a particular type of Japanese bamboo was the most satisfactory.

Edison was not the first to patent the modern design of the light bulb. It seems that Joseph Swan demonstrated the same carbon filament light bulb in Newcastle at least ten months prior to Edison's announcement. In addition, Swan received a British patent in 1878 for the same bulb that Edison patented in the U. S. in 1879.

1882 Company established in London to control Edison's British patents; it was a subsidiary of Edison's American company, presumably of the same name.

1882 12 January Demonstration of Edison's electric lighting at the company's offices at 57 High Holborn, London - see Edison's first public electricity generation station. Two engines were used to drive dynamos - one a Porter-Allen engine, the other an Armington and Sims engine[1].

Edison lost in the British courts for infringement of Swan's patent. As part of the settlement, Edison was forced to take Swan in as a partner in his British electric works. The company was called the Edison and Swan United Electric Light Co.

1883 Edison and Swan United Electric Light Co was established by the amalgamation of the Edison Electric Light Co and the Swan United Electric Light Co, and incorporated on 26 October. Eventually, Edison acquired all of Swan's interest in the company. It seemed the obvious choice to merge their British companies and join forces in developing the electric filament light.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Edison: His Life and Inventions, By Frank Lewis Dyer, Thomas Commerford Martin