This Lightbulb Was Switched On In 1901 — And It’s Still Going

By | January 10, 2018

In a little fire station in Livermore, California you'll find light bulb that has been burning since it was first set alight — in 1901.

The Centennial Bulb, as it has come to be known, is the longest-lasting light bulb of all time. It has been burning continuously since 1901, excluding a short interval in 1976 when it was disconnected from electricity for 22 minutes while the firehouse was moved to a different location.

The Centennial Bulb was manufactured in Shelby, Ohio by the Shelby Electric Company sometime in the late 1890s. It first made its way to Livermore when Dennis Bernal, owner of the Livermore Power and Water Company, bought it in 1901 by. When he sold the company that same year, Bernal donated the bulb to the local firestation.

The bulb was initially hung in a hose cart house, before being moved to the fire department garage, and then to city hall. Finally, the bulb made its way to what would become its permanent home: Firestation #6.

There the bulb stayed and continue to burn more than 116 years and 1 million hours of use later. Though today the bulb has dimmed from the original 30-watt output to a comparatively meager four watts (about the output of an average night light).

Given such accomplishments, the Centennial Bulb was recognized as “the most durable light” by the Guinness Book of World Records in 1972, and is now listed as the “longest burning light bulb.”

What is so remarkable about this bulb, however, is how unremarkable it actually is. Though researchers are not certain of the exact design of the Centennial Bulb — checking it thoroughly while it is still running is impossible — it is believed to be not much different from any other bulb developed by the Shelby Electric Company at the time of its creation.

Today, you can view the bulb in real time around the world via a live webcam broadcast on the bulb’s official website.