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Ernest F. Freeberg III F'11

Ernest F. Freeberg III

Distinguished Professor of Humanities
University of Tennessee, Knoxville
last updated: 05/06/15

ACLS Fellowship Program 2011
Department: History
University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Incandescent America: Electric Light and America’s Culture of Invention

This project examines the impact of electric light on American culture, focusing on the first decades after it left Edison’s laboratory. Creative adaptations of this invention changed the rhythm of work and play, helped create mass culture and modern consumerism, changed interior design and urban planning, and were used to fight crime, disease, and dirt. Electric light played a central role in creating modernity, and its history tells us much about the origin of America’s technological creativity, its fascination with material progress, and the process of creative adaptation of new technologies.