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Blog: Proof Some Things Do Last Forever

Over the years how many times have you heard someone say “nothing lasts forever?”
Centennial Bulb via Wikimedia Commons.

Over the years, how often have you heard someone say, “Nothing lasts forever?” Most of us have heard this numerous times and likely uttered these words ourselves.

I, too, have said it to people many times and believed it to be true….until now.

Something does, in fact, exist that defies this age-old saying, and it’s right here in the Bay Acentennial-light-bulb-wikipediarea.

Okay, let’s dispense with the drama and get to the point. The item in the spotlight, which defies the famous phrase, is a light bulb. Yes, a light bulb.

Typical light bulbs, (incandescent or other types) generally have a life of months, some maybe a bit longer.

However, there exists a light bulb that has been burning non-stop for over 120 years! Yes, you read correctly: 120-plus years. Where is it, you ask? It’s hanging in the Livermore Fire Department, located at 4550 East Avenue, and is burning right now.

It’s known as the Centennial Light.

Manufactured by the Shelby Electric Company in Shelby, Ohio, it first lit up in 1901 and has remained in use ever since.

The bulb initially gained public interest in 1972, when an article was written about it in the Tri-Valley Herald. The author of the Tri-Valley Herald article contacted the Guinness Book of World Records, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, and General Electric. All of the agencies confirmed its authenticity and service record.

The bulb is available for public viewing. Just visit the Livermore Fire Department and tell them you wish to see the Centennial Bulb. If you don’t wish to see it in person, there is a live webcam focused on the amazing light bulb.

This is a stark reminder that most manufacturers build products designed to have a limited lifetime. Some call it planned obsolescence. Without this, most companies couldn't survive, as they need repeat business.  

One example is Preston Tucker, who built a far-sighted automobile in 1948. It had unique features and was designed to last much longer than the Big Three production cars. The true story is portrayed in a film called Tucker and is well worth the view.

Back to our light bulb.....Now, when someone says to you, “Nothing lasts forever,” you can prove them wrong!

Everything else is just history

Some of the photos used in this blog are courtesy of the Local History Room, Redwood City's best-kept secret. The Local History Collection covers all aspects of Redwood City's development, from the 1850s to the present day, with particular emphasis on businesses, public schools, civic organizations, city agencies, and early family histories. The Local History Room is not affiliated with the Redwood City Public Library, but it is inside it. 

Dan Calic

About the Author: Dan Calic

A product of Goodwin (JFK), Henry Ford, Roosevelt, Sequoia High and Canada College, Dan has deep Redwood City roots. He’s witnessed Redwood City transform from a sleepy peninsula town into a thriving high-tech hub.
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