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"If You Can Get Better Light...."

Image: man wearing bowler hat reaches into his pocket as a salesman behind a counter shows a lamp.
Blotter number 3904; image number: LAR_B3904.

Text on blotter reads:
"If you can get better light and save more than half the current isn't it worth while to buy the new lamp and make a big saving on your bills?"

"The G.E. Mazda Lamp has an improved tungsten filament which turns more electricity into light and is, therefore, more economical than old style lamps. We can supply it at a price which will enable you to make an important saving in the cost of your lighting."

Also stamped on bottom:
"General Electric Company
Schenectady, N. Y.
Main Lamp Sales Offices
Harrison, N. J."
Lamps featuring substantial technology improvements typically cost more when first offered for sale. High-priced general purpose lamps pose a challenge for salespeople: how to convince buyers to spend the extra money when the improvement may not be obvious. Sellers of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) today face this problem with consumers accustomed to inexpensive incandescent lamps. 

This same problem existed nearly a century ago as tungsten-filament lamps were introduced to consumers used to buying less-expensive carbon-filament lamps. Then, as now, salespeople tried to make their customers think in terms of long-term or "life-cycle" costs rather than the initial, upfront costs. This is the approach seen in the blotter above. 

The salesman is literally pointing out the features of the new lamp to his customer, while the caption explains (quite truthfully) that these lamps are more economical than the old. The economy stemmed for the higher energy efficiency of tungsten over carbon filaments. "Better light" in this context meant brighter light. 

    For additional information about advertising and marketing of lamps see: 
  • Arthur A. Bright, Jr., The Electric-Lamp Industry: Technological Change and Economic Development from 1800 to 1947 (New York: MacMillan Co., 1949) 
  • Leonard S. Reich, "Lighting the Path to Profit: GE's Control of the Electric Lamp Industry, 1892-1941," in Business History Review 66 (Summer 1992), pp. 305-34. 
  • Nathan Rosenberg, "Factors Affecting the Diffusion of Technology," in Explorations in

  • Economic History 10, no. 1 (Fall 1972), p.3. 
  • National Museum of American History, Archives Center collection #2002.3019, General Electric Nela Park Collection; collection # 60, Warshaw Collection of Business Americana. 

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