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The Age of Edison: Electric Light and the Invention of Modern America
Wednesday, February 27, 2013 from 6:00 PM to 7:30 PM (EST)
The late nineteenth century was a period of explosive technological creativity, but arguably the most important invention of all was Thomas Edison’s incandescent lightbulb. Unveiled in his Menlo Park, New Jersey, laboratory in 1879, the lightbulb overwhelmed the American public with the sense of the birth of a new age. More than any other invention, the electric light marked the arrival of modernity.
In THE AGE OF EDISON: Electric Light and the Invention of Modern America, Ernest Freeberg explains how the lightbulb became a catalyst for the nation’s transformation from a rural to an urban-dominated culture. City streetlights defined zones between rich and poor, and the electrical grid sharpened the line between town and country. “Bright lights” meant “big city.” Like moths to a flame, millions of Americans migrated to urban centers in these decades, leaving behind the shadow of candle and kerosene lamp in favor of the exciting brilliance of the urban streetscape.
Ernest Freeberg is a Distinguished Professor of Humanities at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He is the author of Democracy’s Prisoner: Eugene V. Debs, The Great War, and the Right to Dissent, and The Education of Laura Bridgman. Freeberg is a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians, has served on the editorial board of the History of Education Quarterly, and has produced a number of public radio documentaries on historical themes.
A special thank goes to Carmichael’s Bookstore and the Edison House Museum.
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The Filson Historical Society
The Filson has been collecting, preserving, and telling the significant stories of Kentucky and Ohio Valley history and culture since 1884.