Like so many things electrical, the history of electric Christmas lights begins with Thomas Edison.
Soon after Thomas Edison patented the first commercially viable light bulb, he strung a few together during the 1880 Christmas season and hung them outside his lab in Menlo Park, N.J.
But the first use of electric Christmas lights in a household is generally credited to Edward H. Johnson, a close friend of Edison and the president of the company Edison formed to provide illumination in New York City.
Edward H. Johnson put the very first string of electric Christmas tree lights together in 1882. Johnson, Edison’s friend and partner in the Edison’s Illumination Company, hand-wired 80 red, white and blue light bulbs and wound them around his Christmas tree. Not only was the tree illuminated with electricity, it also revolved.
Electrical World reported on Johnson’s tree and called it “the handsomest Christmas tree in the United States.”
However President Grover Cleveland Christmas tree lights more popular after he used them on the first family’s tree in 1895. And in 1923 President Calvin Coolidge began the tradition of the National Christmas Tree, adorning it with 3,000 bulbs on the White House’s South Lawn.
The NY Times reported that this year 300,000 girls are taking part in a Google project to use computer code to program the White House tree lights.