Lights Out at the Campbell House

2014So, as you may or may not have heard, with the New Year came some new regulations on the types of light bulbs that can be imported  and manufactured in the United States.  As of January 1, 2014, forty and sixty watt incandescent light bulbs are no more, or will be as soon as retailers exhaust the supplies that they still have on their shelves.  There are a few good reasons this is happening.  Perhaps the most obvious is that, well, incandescent light bulbs have been on the scene for a long time.  A looooooong time.  In fact, incandescent light bulbs have been America’s primary source of electric illumination since Thomas Edison first introduced his version to the public… in 1879.  135 years ago.  To put that in some historical perspective, that’s the same year our main man Robert Campbell died.

So obviously it’s probably time for a change.  But there’s one small problem, or at least there is for us.  We use a whole bunch of light bulbs at CHM.  272, to be exact.  (Yes, we counted.)  And of those nearly 300 bulbs, almost 120 of them are currently incandescent.  Along with all of its original furniture and artwork, Campbell House has many of the family’s light fixtures, chandeliers, and wall sconces that, though originally lit with gas, were converted to electricity throughout the first few decades of the 20th Century.  Most of these require small, 40-watt chandelier-style bulbs.

Now, don’t get us wrong.  We’re all for efficiency and modernizing and newer, cleaner sources of light.  But let’s face it.  Fluorescent and LED bulbs are kind of funky looking, both in the light they produce and the overall shape of the bulb.  Here are some photos for perspective:


40-watt incandescent bulb in a Parlor sconce


The same Parlor sconce with a taller, spiraled fluorescent bulb.


Incandescent, pt. 2


aaaaand fluorescent, pt. 2

So, we here at Campbell House have initiated what we call “Operation: Buy All the 40 Watt Incandescent Bulbs We Can Get Our Hands On”.  Our storage room looks a little like the light bulb aisle at Home Depot.  We’re sure house museums all over America are dealing with the changeover, and we aren’t too terribly worried about it.  History has shown that when people are unhappy with something, some brilliant mind is usually able to come up a solution.  So we’re hoping that in the next year or so someone will design a more compact, nicer looking fluorescent or LED bulb to replace our aesthetically-pleasing, energy-wasting incandescents.  But until then, we’re stocking up.


A small portion of our stash of 40 watt incandescent bulbs. It grows daily!

Want to know more?  Click here to check out a recent piece by Don Marsh and St. Louis on the Air on the incandescent light bulb ban and what you need to know.


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5 thoughts on “Lights Out at the Campbell House

  1. demenilmansion says:

    Great post!

  2. Imran says:

    The other day I saw candelabra bulb shaped compact florescent bulbs at Lowe’s. In time the technology will improve and you wont have to worry about stocking up. The color temperature of the compact florescent bulbs is also improving. Im sure we will soon see CFLs with warm light.

  3. J Spencer says:

    Reading Don Marsh’s article, it mentions appliance three-way & chandelier bulbs are not outlawed. It looks like you are using a lot if those. If so, it should not be a problem.
    However, it’s always good to be prepared, so sticking up might be a great idea. Great article! You give more me to ponder.

    • You’re right, chandelier bulbs will still be around. Unfortunately, that exception only applies to chandelier bulbs with the small E12-sized bases. Not to the regular 40 watt decorative bulb bases, which are what’s used by almost all of CHM’s fixtures. We have very few of the small-based chandelier bulbs throughout the house. Call it a quirk of piecemeal electrification throughout the early 20th century!

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