Main Content

Electric lighting was installed in the White House in 1891. Few people at the time had enough faith in electric lighting to use it exclusively-its use was barely a decade old. The electrical work at the White House was planned as part of a well-funded project for wiring the State, War & Navy building next door. The Edison company installed a generator for both buildings that was put in the State, War & Navy's basement, with the wires strung across the lawn and introduced into the White House under the conservatory. The relatively new method of illumination was initially intended to be only a supplement to gaslight. Wires were buried in the plaster, with round switches installed in each room for turning the current on and off. President and Mrs. Harrison refused to operate the switches because they feared being shocked and left the operation of the electric lights to the domestic staff.

A light fixture converted from gas to electricity, c. 1899.

Library of Congress

Footnotes & Resources

William Seale, The President's House, 594.

You Might Also Like