More than 100 years ago — on March 25, 1912 — executives and employees gathered at GE Lighting’s newly formed Nela Park campus in East Cleveland, Ohio, to bury a sealed time capsule packed with a daily newspaper, pamphlets, pins, photos, and some GE light bulbs representing available and emerging incandescent technologies of the era. The collection of treasures was placed inside a cornerstone of Marketing Building #307, where it was intended to speak to future generations about the state of lighting technology and the transformational growth that GE was experiencing in 1912.

Hundreds of GE Lighting employees and retirees gathered a century later – on March 26, 2012 — at the base of Building #307 for a real-time history lesson. The time capsule was unearthed, and its contents were carefully removed and put on display before being moved to a secure temperature- and light-controlled space across the Nela Park campus.

In a remarkable testament to the craftsmanship of the product, one of the tungsten filament lamps buried for 100 years showed signs of life. It was cleaned, screwed into a socket near the time capsule site, and slowly powered up to the point of emitting light.

Following are a few of the descriptions items from the sealed lead box, written in the exact words of the men who placed them there:

  • Copy of the booklet entitled “Developing an Industry” which will give some slight idea of the spirit of cooperation which has permeated the National Electric Lamp Association (NELA) since its formation.
  • A photograph of the Advisory Board of the National Electric Lamp Association – Mr. F.S. Terry, Mr. B.G. Tremaine, Mr. J.B. Crouse, Mr. H.A. Tremaine, and Mr. J. Robert Crouse.
  • A 40-watt “Mazda” lamp of the 110-volt class with filament of drawn tungsten wire. The Mazda lamp is rapidly coming into use.
  • A 40-watt Mazda lamp of special construction used for standardization work.
  • A 40-watt lamp with tantalum filament of the 110-volt class. This type of lamp is now being but little used.
  • A 60-watt Gem lamp (metalized carbon filament). The Gem lamp is rapidly replacing the Carbon filament lamp at the present time.
  • A 60-watt Carbon lamp of the 110-volt class. The Carbon lamps are rapidly giving way before the Mazdas and Gems.

In addition to being the nation’s first industrial campus and GE Lighting’s world headquarters, the Nela Park property was once a vineyard known as “Panorama Heights.” Chosen for what was then a rural location, the 92-acre campus sits approximately 234 feet above — and three miles from — Lake Erie. “Nela” stands for “National Electrical Lamp Association,” an organization that was eventually purchased by GE. On April 18, 1913, GE Lighting moved its headquarters from a downtown location at East 45th Street and Hough Avenue to Nela Park in a caravan of cars and horse-drawn carriages. At the time, the move was known as one of the biggest in Cleveland’s history. Not only was it completed in a day, but employees only missed three hours of work. Since its establishment, Nela Park has been home to a number of innovations including both halogen and LED technologies. In 1975 Nela Park was listed in the National Registry of Historic Places.