Lutron Donates Artifacts to Smithsonian
March 8, 2012 - 3:57pm

Pennsylvania-based Lutron Electronics donated artifacts representing its 50-year history to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History on April 29.

The donation included an early version of the original solid-state Capri dimmer manufactured by Lutron in September 1964. The company’s chairman and founder Joel Spira was the inventor and developer of the solid-state electronic dimming device, a game changer in the field of lighting.

Also part of the donation is a retail display featuring the fully functional dimmer and other Lutron dimmers and lighting-control systems that show lighting-control developments at the company through its history.

The museum requested objects and papers that would provide insight into Spira’s career as an innovator. The museum will receive his original inventor’s notebook with more than 100 pages of handwritten documentation and historic photographs, as well as product advertisements.

The Lutron materials will join other artifacts at the museum’s Electricity Collection, including experimental light bulbs from Thomas Edison, dimming light sockets from the 1910s, theatrical lighting controls from the 1920s and many types of light switches.

“As the nation’s history museum, we tell the story of this country in all its depth and breadth,” says Brent D. Glass, Director of the museum. “Collections such as this one from Lutron help us to understand the continuation of the electrical evolution, the process of invention and the history of business and manufacturing.”

Spira developed a way to reduce the light output of an incandescent bulb in his New York apartment in the late 1950s, which extended the life of the bulb and saved electrical energy. The commercialization of the solid-state dimmer has made such control of interior lights affordable for most homes.

"I am pleased to donate these artifiacts to the museum,” Spira says. “For the past 50 years, the solid-state dimmer has made homes more beautiful and offices more efficient — all while saving energy and increasing lamp life. It is an honor for me to be in the company of Edison and others in this collection. I am truly humbled.”

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