Sunday, December 11, 2011

Steampunk on Sunday : Fairy Lights

Who invented the electric lightbulb?

This is not a steampunk mash-up. This is the real deal!

That's right.

 Joseph Swan!

What does that have to do with fairy lights?

In 1882 Gilbert and Sullivan premiered their new production of Iolanthe

at the Savoy Theatre. 

Joseph Swan created the lights,
 making it the first public building in the world to be lit by electricity.

 That's all very well, but, 
what does that have to do with fairy lights??!

The plot of Iolanthe has a lot of disaffected fairies,
 death sentences and satire.

To offset the satire,
(and the rather dumpy fairies)
Gilbert and Sullivan wanted their costumes to be magical.

The costumes were fitted with little lights,
 powered by a battery on the shoulder which was covered by flowing fairy wigs.
and the singers carried glowing wands.

Yes, yes. I know we've all seen this fairy picture.
But it's a nice fairy picture and it's bleedin' three o'clock in the morning

(And you thought your LED Christmas earrings 
were cutting edge technology...)

The effect had such a charm for the British imagination,
 they call Christmas tree lights 'fairy lights' to this day.
The idea of little lights seems to have caught on rather well.
 Huzzah for Joseph Swan and the invention of the light bulb.

Edison? Never heard of him. 
Wasn't he a poor second to Tesla?




  1. First you have fairies atop your trees and now you have them lit with fairy lights....Somehow, a British Christmas just sounds more magical! ;o) Happy Monday.....Smiles & Hugs ~ Robin

  2. I quite agree with Cranky Crow.
    A simply magical post!

  3. love this post!!
    fairy the term as Christmas is so magical!!

  4. Thank you, everyone, for your sweet comments.

    I still don't have a tree up yet. I hope those fairies haven't been at my lights...

    Christmas starts for me, the moment I plug those lights in and everything is transformed. Light and magic. Yeah, I usually need a hanky, too.

  5. Hi Rhissanna, I expect you will be plugging in those lights soon, so I will wish you a very Merry magical Christmas. I love Carol of the Bells and thanks for sharing. I have just found your blog and am now following you, and will visit often. Please stop by my blog and perhaps you would like to follow me also. Have a wonderful day. Hugs, Chris

  6. Magical post! I love the video.

  7. Thank you, Mina! Yes, it is rather seductive isn't it?

  8. Nov. 15, 2013

    Oh how delightful!!!! I love this video.

    And I love Faerie Lights. I call little lights, Faerie Lights. No big bulb ones. Just me...



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