Burning 109 Years and Counting: The World’s Oldest Light Bulb

It’s been broadcasted on MythBusters, recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records and even featured in two children’s books.  George W. Bush called it “an enduring symbol of the American spirit of invention.”  It has its own website, as well as a fan club with thousands of members.

Yes, it’s just a light bulb.  But this light bulb has been burning for 109 years!

Called the “Centennial Light,” the bulb was installed in a northern California firehouse in 1901.  Since then, it has been transferred among various fire stations in the area a couple of times.  However, the longest it has been off since 1901 is a week, during renovations of its resident firehouse in 1937.

The Centennial Light now resides in Fire Station 6 of Livermore, California.  The bulb, which was designed by Adolphe Chaillet, is handblown with a carbon filament.  Chaillet competed against Thomas Edison in the late 1800s to design the brightest, most energy efficient and longest lasting bulb.  Obviously, Chaillet did not prevail; although accounts say his bulb could withstand much higher voltages than Edison’s.

Steve Bunn, who has been deemed Bulb Protector for the Centennial Light, said the fire station once received an offer of $5,000 for the bulb.  He said they have no intention of selling the bulb, and that the fire station will keep it burning as long as possible.

Emily Widle

Emily graduated from UNC Chapel Hill with a degree in journalism. She enjoys scouring the news to report on the latest in the lighting industry as well as bringing valuable remodeling tips and exemplar home projects to light.

One thought to “Burning 109 Years and Counting: The World’s Oldest Light Bulb”

  1. I saw the episode of Mythbusters that featured the bulb. Incredible. There comes a certain point when the discussion about durability and craftsmanship becomes something else, more like a metaphor for determination and human achievement. This is one of those stories, I think. It ties us to the past and gives us a symbol of continuity, which to me is pretty vital.

    Thanks for the post, Emily!

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