Employees at GE’s NELA Park in East Cleveland, Ohio, opened a century-old time capsule this afternoon. Among the items uncovered were five light bulbs. Three of them appeared to be in working condition.
GE Lighting engineers cleaned one of the bulbs, screwed it into a socket, and powered it up to 60 volts. It started emitting a soft glow, a distant incandescent echo of Thomas Edison’s ingenuity. “It’s a remarkable testament to the craftsmanship and quality of GE products that one of the tungsten filament lamps buried for 100 years showed signs of life,” said Maryrose Sylvester, president and CEO of GE Lighting.
100 year old GE bulb ready for testing. Five incandescent bulbs were found packed in sand in a cornerstone that also housed a lead box full of written material and other historical documents. GE engineers cleaned the bulbs and put one in a socket connected to a variable transformer. Sharon Stewart, a mass spectrometry lab technician with GE Lighting, oversaw the lighting of a 100-year old incandescent bulb unearthed today. Power was slowly ramped up to about 60 volts, at which point the bulb began to glow. When you flick on a light switch at home, it delivers 120 volts to run your lights.
The capsule hid for 100 years inside a cornerstone of a NELA building. Other items in the container and an accompanying led box included a daily newspaper, pamphlets, pins and photos.
GE built NELA Park, which is celebrating a centenary this year, on the site of abandoned vineyard and opened it in 1912. It was the country’s first industrial campus and GE Lighting’s world headquarters. Aside from the incandescent light bulb, NELA Park engineers perfected other innovative light sources like halogens and LEDs. In 1975, the site was added to the National Registry of Historic Places.