This Lightbulb Hasn’t Gone Out Since 1901

It’s been on continuously since 1901 at a fire station in Livermore, California.

Have you ever heard somebody say that they don’t make things like they used to? It seems as if there may be some truth to that statement, at least when it comes to a very special lightbulb.

The lightbulb is a 4W Shelby lightbulb that has been turned on in a fire station and has remained on since 1901.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

That fire station, located in Livermore, California, also has a video camera that points to the light so that you can check on it at any time.

As far as the bulb itself is concerned, it was a donation to the fire station so that firemen would not be in the dark if the oil in their lanterns ran out. Lightbulbs were not in use as much as they were today, including in fire stations and other public locations.

The power grid was being constructed in many cities around the world, and they didn’t have a lot of energy to power lightbulbs, even for important places like fire departments. That doesn’t mean that they couldn’t have a lightbulb in place, they just needed to rely on electrical connections that weren’t always the most reliable.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Since the bulb was an emergency option, firemen never shut it down and it continued to stay lit from one generation to the next. In 2010, the lightbulb became an official Guinness world record for being the longest burning lightbulb in history. It had already burned well past its life expectancy.

The same electrical wire has been in place since 1901 that fuels the lightbulb. The fire department, located at 4555 East Street from Livermore, California has even become somewhat famous. Not only has it produced advanced military technology, the lightbulb that has been burning for over 120 years is also significant.

This likely leads you to wonder why it is still burning. In fact, it is one of the more common questions that is asked about this unusual phenomenon.

Photo: flickr/Jay Galvin

One of the reasons why it is popular is because there is a live feed that shows people a lightbulb 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Even with people watching it, the lightbulb continues to burn and some people wonder if the camera will die first.

There have also been many people that have looked at the lightbulb and a model of it to see why it is still burning. This included electricians and engineers and they have come up with some ideas.

It may be due to low voltage or perhaps because there is not a heat source that is nearby. The circuit may be stable or perhaps the lightbulb was manufactured with a superior seal. The carbon filament may be the perfect thickness and then again, when you turn the lightbulb off, it reduces the lifespan.

Photo: flickr/Ramunas Geciauskas

Not only has the bulb not been turned off since 1901, nobody has actually touched it since the Vietnam War. When soldiers left for the war, they would come to touch the bulb for good luck but since that time, it has just been burning on its own.