|| The late nineteenth century was a period of explosive technological creativity, but arguably the most important invention of the era was Thomas Edison's incandescent light bulb. Unveiled in his Menlo Park, New Jersey, laboratory in 1879, the lightbulb overwhelmed Americans with the sense that they were witnessing the birth of a new age. More than any other invention, electric light marked the arrival of modernity, and Edison became a mythic figure and the avatar of an era. To modern readers, electric light is so common that its remarkable qualities are buried under a thick layer of the obvious. We have forgotten the excitement and wonder that people felt when they saw electric light for the first time. But Americans were not simply passive consumers of Edison's "miraculous" new light; rather they played an active role in its creation. In myriad ways, they grappled with its meaning and used their own powers of invention to adapt the technology to a full spectrum of new uses that no single inventor, no matter how farsighted, could have anticipated.