Advertising electric lighting

One of the Archives online exhibitions exploring popular topics in the history of science, engineering and technology. All the images are scans from originals held in the IET Archives.  

Advertisement for Mazda light bulbs

Electricity may be commonplace to us today but when it was first introduced it had to compete heavily with gas as the main power supply. It did not sell itself; it had to be cleverly marketed to appeal to customers. After the First World War a body known as the Electrical Development Association (EDA) was formed by electrical manufacturers, electricity supply undertakings and the Institution of Electrical Engineers (now the IET). 

Its aim was to promote electricity in every possible way by coordinating advertising. The Electrical Association for Women published many adverts in their magazine, The Electric Age, aimed at women to emphasise the attractiveness of electric lighting in the home.


Advertisement for Ediswan light bulbs emphasising their health benefits 1928
Advertisement for Mazda light bulbs emphasising their efficiency compared to candles
Osram advertisement used to highlight their strength by withstanding the weight of an elephant

A selection of advertisements from The Electrical Age and the S.P. Thompson Pamphlet collection. Favourite advertising themes included emphasizing the health benefits of good lighting, the comfort it brings to the home, its cost efficiency compared with older forms of lighting such as candles and the strength of the new bulbs and lights as illustrated with the elephant.

Ediswan advertisement from 1931 depicting the lamp that lights the Empire

Even themes referring to patriotism were popular- 'The lamp that lights the Empire'. Notice how the British Empire is alight with this new technology whilst the rest of the world is left behind in darkness.

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