You can see on the left the picture of an electric light bulb, which is unique and appears in almost every
edition of “Guinness Book of World Records.” The bulb was not made by a machine but by an expert
glass-blower whose job was to give shape to melted glass by blowing air in it through a tube. The bulb is
only 4 watts. This record holder light bulb is in use at the Livermore fire brigade station of California.
The incandescent light bulbs are known to be heated and lit by a wire filament that has an average
lifespan, ranging from 1,000 to about 2,000 hours, in general. On the other hand, the light-emitting
diode (LED) bulbs have documented a lifespan of about 25,000 to 50,000 hours. This is the reason why
LED bulbs are replacing incandescent light ones. However, nothing has been able to beat this peculiar
Centennial Light lighting up a little portion of a fire station in California.
The giants of the electrical industry, such as General Electric, have termed this longest lasting light bulb
as the “Eternal Light.” This record-breaking bulb lighting up the parking area of Livermore fire brigade
station still gives light (as of June 2020) since it was put in the bulb holder in 1901! This bulb is kept on
24×7 and has been continuously spreading light for more than a century except for a brief interruption
when it was removed and hung from another place.
The history of this magical eternal light can be traced back to the 1800s. Adolphe Chaillet, born in 1867,
was always intrigued by lights and their manufacturing. Combining his interest in physics and first-hand
learning of how light bulbs were made at that time, as his father worked at a bulb company, Chaillet
formed his own company named “Shelby Electric Company.”
Chaillet proposed and staged a real-life experiment for the potential American consumers claiming that
his light bulbs can give off 20% more brightness while lasting 30% more than the best performing light
bulbs of those times. His experiment was a huge victory, and his company got successful overnight. For
the next few decades, Shelby Electric Company ruled the light bulb industry until it could not keep up
and was bought by General Electric.
The actual lineage of this Centennial Light also connects it to the Shelby Electric Company. Reported to a
local newspaper by a fire marshal, Shelby light bulb instantly became popular. The initial tabloid report
read that this longest lasting Shelby light bulb had been burning on for so many decades. It had outrun
numerous firefighters as well.
This light bulb has had numerous homes. It has been hung for a brief stint in the City Hall also after
which it has been permanently hanging at Livermore’s fire station. This light bulb is never turned off.
The Centennial light bulb has a huge fan and press following. In 1930, when this light bulb was removed
for a while due to firehouse remodeling, there was a huge crowd present when it was being hung again.
Interestingly, a 24-hour security camera is also installed to monitor this light bulb. This security cam has
a live telecast online. An uninterrupted power supply keeps providing this light bulb with the current to
keep on burning, and it has not failed!
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