GE’s Hundred-Year-Old Bulb: Still Bringing Good Things to Life

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How many GE employees does it take to screw in a hundred-year-old light bulb? Hundreds of ’em — and the neat part is, it’ll still work.

On March 25th, 1912, a bunch of General Electric employees placed a time capsule inside the cornerstone of a new building at the company’s Nela Park facility in East Cleveland, Ohio. It contained photos, pins, pamphlets, a newspaper — and some GE light bulbs.

GE employees


Flash forward one hundred years. Throngs of modern-day GE employees and retirees gathered at Nela Park — which is still the headquarters of GE Lighting — and opened the capsule. They tried screwing one of the bulbs in, and it flickered to life.

I was pleased to learn this, but not completely surprised. I like to take photos with vintage Polaroid cameras; you can still buy film for them, but production of the various flashcubes, flashbulbs and flashbars they require ceased long ago. So I buy unused ones from GE and other companies on eBay, dating from the 1960s and 1970s. They work great.

Unlike batteries, film, food and beverage, bulbs apparently don’t have a limited shelf life. Or if they do, it’s more than a century.

In April of next year, GE plans to bury a new time capsule at Nela Park. It’ll include a modern 60-watt bulb which the company says can run for 22 years if you use it for three hours a day. If the citizens of 2113 decide to put that claim to the test, it should still be lit up in 2125 — or at least I sure hope so.