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Electricity was installed in1891. However, few people at the time had enough faith in electric lighting to use it exclusively instead of gas lighting – its commercialization was barely a decade old. The electrical work at the White House was planned as part of a project for wiring the State, War, and Navy Building next door, today’s Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

The Edison Company installed a generator for both buildings, with wires strung across the lawn and introduced into the White House under the conservatory. Wires were buried in the plaster, with round switches installed in each room for turning the current on and off. President Benjamin Harrison and his wife, Caroline, refused to operate them for fear of a shock.