GE Unearths 100-Year-Old Light Bulb in Time Capsule
April 4, 2012 - 2:25pm
A working 100-year-old light bulb found in GE Lighting's time capsule.
A working 100-year-old light bulb was one of the items found in GE Lighting's time capsule.

GE Lighting uncovered a century-old time capsule containing historic documents and incandescent light bulbs at the company’s Nela Park campus outside Cleveland on March 26.

The time capsule was buried on March 25, 1912, as the Nela Park campus was being built as a home for GE Lighting, which moved to the campus in April 1913. 

“It’s fitting that this time capsule was meant to be unearthed when significant changes in the incandescent light bulb occurred,” GE Lighting President and CEO Maryrose Sylvester said in a statement. “We’re celebrating innovation at a time when GE scientists and engineers at Nela Park and around the world are developing advanced lighting solutions that are transforming not only the application of lighting, but also the business of lighting.”

According to GE Lighting's Community Relations Manager Andrea Timan, the time capsule's existence was discovered in a book on the history of Nela Park while doing research for next year's centennial celebration, but finding it was not easy. 

"We were led to believe that this time capsule was on the campus in Building 307 behind a Nela carving in the building cornerstone," Timan says.

But further investigation led to a dead end when the capsule could not be reached from the inside of the building. Soon after, an expert was brought in to use radar and drilling ot find the capsule. 

"From the initial drilling and radar they were able to ‘see’ the contents inside the cornerstone and determine there was a cavity about 9 inches in from the side of the cornerstone," Timan says. 

Although the team could "see" the items on the radar before the time capsule was uncovered, Timan says the capsule still held surprises.

"We were aware of the items, but were pleasantly surprised by the pristine quality of the items," Timan says. "We were very surprised the lamps that were found were placed loosely in sand on top of the lead box, and that the glass vessel we were prepared to find was not there."

Hundreds of GE Lighting employees and retirees witnessed the opening of the time capsule, which contained a newspaper, pamphlets, photos and several GE tungsten filament light bulbs, one of which was still in working condition.

A 92-acre campus that formerly served as a vineyard, Nela Park is home to GE Lighting’s World Headquarters and the GE Lighting Institute. Nela Park, which was named for the National Electric Lamp Assn., was added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 1975. 

In April of 2013, GE Lighting will host another ceremony at Nela Park – this time to bury a new time capsule containing marketing materials, current light bulb packaging, an employee photo and a GE Energy Smart 60W LED bulb. 

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