At First, Some Feared Electricity

(p. 133) Something of the prevailing ambivalence was demonstrated by Mrs Cornelius Vanderbilt, who went to a costume ball dressed as an electric light to celebrate the installation of electricity in her Fifth Avenue home in New York, but then had the whole system taken out when it was suspected of being the source of a small fire. Others detected more insidious threats. One authority named S. F. Murphy identified a whole host of electrically induced maladies – eyestrain, headaches, general unhealthiness and possibly even ‘the premature exhaustion of life’. One architect was certain electric light caused freckles.

Bryson, Bill. At Home: A Short History of Private Life. New York: Doubleday, 2010.

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