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March 2023
1min read

Last night, reading through Southwestern Bell’s newsletter “Telephone Talk,” I saw that it said electrical Christmastree lights were invented by Ralph E. Morris in 1908. The frontispiece in last December’s issue tells a very different story. Perhaps the question of the “first electric Christmas tree” is somewhat like the question as to whether the hot dog, ice-cream cone, and iced tea all originated during the 1904 World’s Fair; but as one interested in history, I am curious to know which of the two stories is correct.

Although Christmas-tree lights were a good quarter of a century old when Mr. Morris first turned his on, in a sense he does deserve inventor’s laurels, for he had no idea that the lights were in commercial manufacture. In the winter of 1907, Morris, a Matapan, Massachusetts, telephone man, had a bad scare when his four-year-old son knocked a candle off the family Christmas tree and singed his hair.

Shaken by the near tragedy, Morris next year took small, clear switchboard bulbs, soldered them to a long wire, and wrapped them with colored paper. When night fell, he gathered four generations of his family around the tree and told his grandmother to throw a switch. She did, the display twinkled into life, and Morris went to his grace believing he had invented the Christmas-tree light.

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