Visiting the oldest working light bulb in the world: The Centennial Light Bulb.


The Centennial Light Bulb has now made it to 115 years and in 2016 it surpassed 100,000 hours. You might be wondering what kind of lamp it is? It’s an incandescent bulb. Yes you read that one right. It was declared the oldest working light bulb by TheGuinness Book of World Records and Ripley’s Believe-It-or-Not. It makes you wonder if the incandescent technology will be the only technology to provide a bulb that will have 115 years in longevity? Time will tell.


Located near San Jose California, in the town of Livermore, Fire Station #6 is now the home of the oldest, still working incandescent bulb in the world: The Centennial Light Bulb. The lamp was first installed in 1901 in the old fire station where it stayed for 75 years. It was connected directly to the city power and subject to power surges. When the bulb was moved to its current location, in fire station #6, it was then connected to its own power source at 120V with a UPS back-up system. The UPS failed once for several hours and when turned back on, the bulb was using 60W again for the first few hours and then slowly dimmed to 4W. It doesn’t provide as much light as it used to and the color of the bulb has changed over the century but it is still on 24/7, gently lighting fire trucks at night.


  • The light bulb is a 60 watt Mill Type, Shelby lamp, probably constructed in 1900 and delivered to Dennis Bernal, the owner of the Livermore Power and Water Company. The lamp is a hand blown bulb with a carbon filament.
  • Initial claim: the new light bulb claimed to be 20% more efficient and would last 30% longer than the bulbs on the market at the time. In March 1898 it was declared the ” best lamp on earth.”
  • One of the secrets of success was the formula for the filament which was constructed from plastic cellulose substance and when properly baked it becomes pure carbon. The carbon was so compact and hard that it approached the hardness of a diamond.

Visitors at the Livermore fire station are invited to take photos with the Centennial Light Bulb. Firefighter Joel Ficher was on duty when I visited the fire station and he informed me that there are two to five visitors per week on average, all year long. The visitors are predominantly engineers, lighting designers and people working in the lighting industry.

Centennial_bulb-img03 From left to right: Martin Mercier, Product Manager Philips Lighting and Joel Ficher, Firefighter Livermore CA.

To get a selfie with old granny Shelby lamp, you just need to drop by fire station #6 and ring the bell so they will let you in. If you are planning to go in the morning, it is best to wait until after 10am to let them get their daily duties out of the way. Remember also that the crew might be on a call so you might have to wait for them to get back if there is no answer. If for some reason you can’t get in, there is also a webcam that streams the lamp 24/7 on the website. If you stand in the front of the station where you see the bulb and are in the cams line of sight, you can have a friend look for you and the bulb on the website and then save your photo on their computer.

With LED lighting technology, we have significantly improved performance and lifetime over other bulb lamp technologies. Will our current LED technology one day be able to last more than 100,000 hours? Bets are on, but most of us will probably never know.

For more information:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>