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In 1897, French immigrant Adolphe Chaillet developed a coiled filament carbon lamp that burned brighter than existing bulbs of the day. In fact, this bulb has outperformed every single bulb since. As one made in 1901 is still on to this day.

 

First a little history. Chaillet met with John C. Fish in Shelby, Ohio. An instant partnership was born. Fish sought out investors and ended up with 50 people backing a new bulb effort and $100,000 dollars. The Richland Mazda Lamp Company was born (1897).

 

By 1898 the dubbed "Lamp Works" within Richland Mazda Company increased its employee base to 150. They advertised the bulbs as handling "any voltage from 30 to 250," with "efficiencies from 3 to 4 watts," and "the longest life with the greatest economy." Although in competition with Edison's bulb, the Lamp Works team adopted the Edison socket. By 1902 they were producing 10,000 lamps a day. 1905 they made an even more refined carbon based on an Edison General Electric bulb. 1907 "Lamp Works" had 400 employees. Interestingly, almost the entire work force was women. This was due to the thought that finer detail and dexterity was required to make each bulb. By 1908, tungsten bulbs were being considered, while demand for bulbs were outstripping production.

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Lamp Work's employees ~ 1900

 

By 1910 the company was now called The Shelby Electric Company Lamp Works. By 1912 General Electric built a facility in Ohio near Lamp Works, and absorbing all the smaller bulb companies. In 1913 a new hollow filament support stem, assembled through the bulb's base made production more efficient. Shelby's Lamp Works could not compete anymore due to financial issues. By 1914 Lamp Works was taken over by General Electric. However, Mazda and Shelby names are still used at the Nela Park, Cleveland General Electric facility.

 

 

To this very day, after over 100 years, one of Adolphe Chaillet's bulbs is still on and burning brightly at a fire house in Livermore Califonia, donated by the Livermore Power and Light Co.'s Dennis Bernal way back in 1901. Of course, the bulb holds the Guiness World Record.. However, the bulb was connected to 110 v city power for 75 years (with some power outages), since 1976, it has had its own power source.


The hand blown bulb's approximate wattage is 4 watts at the moment, much like the advertised ratings from 1989. The low wattage may have something to do with its longevity. During its first year in operation, the bulb did malfunction. The concept of burning it in comes to mind here. Also, another week in 1937 had issues. And power outages turned it off up until 1976. Overall, it has only been off for about a week.


So why has it burned so long? After almost 100 years of study, nobody knows. "They just don't make like they used to!"--goes the old saw. Other bulbs from the same period blew out a century ago. Maybe it has the perfect filament symmetry or perfect heat balance, low cycle times, or the extreme care the bulb experienced over the past 110 years. Whatever the reason, John C. Fish was certainly validated for believing in Adolphe Chaillet's original design.

 



 

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