Mazda (light bulb)

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Mazda brand bulbs at the Edison and Ford Winter Estates

Mazda was a trademarked name registered by General Electric in 1909 for incandescent light bulbs. The name was used from 1909 through 1945 in the United States by GE and Westinghouse. Mazda brand light bulbs were made for decades after 1945 outside the USA. The company chose the name due to its association with Ahura Mazda, the transcendental and universal God of Zoroastrianism whose name means light of wisdom (Ahura = light, Mazda = wisdom) in the Avestan language.

In 1909 the Mazda name was created for the tungsten filament light bulb. GE sold bulbs under this trademark starting in 1909. GE promoted the mark as identifying tungsten filament bulbs with predictable performance and life expectancy. GE also licensed the Mazda name, socket sizes, and tungsten filament technology to other manufacturers to establish a standard for lighting. Bulbs were soon sold by many manufacturers with the Mazda name licensed from GE, including British Thomson-Houston in the United Kingdom, Toshiba in Japan, and GE's chief competitor Westinghouse.

Tungsten-filament bulbs of the Mazda type were initially more costly than carbon filament bulbs, but used less electricity. Often electrical utilities would trade new lamps for consumers' burned-out bulbs. In at least one case the authority regulating energy rates required the utility to use only tungsten bulbs so as not to inflate customer's energy use.[1]

Ad for the Mazda service mark, 1917.

The company dropped the campaign in 1945. GE's patents on the tungsten filament lamp expired in the late 1930s and other forms of lighting were becoming more important than incandescent bulbs. GE stopped licensing the trademark to other manufacturers, although it continued to renew the trademark registration up to 1990. The registration on trademark no. 77,779 expired in 2000.[1] Today, the Mazda name is mostly associated with the Mazda automobile manufacturer of Japan (which coexisted with Toshiba's Mazda bulbs in its early years). The Mazda trademark is now split between the Japanese manufacturer where it applies to automobiles (including automobile lights and batteries) and GE for non-automotive uses.

GE's Mazda bulbs were manufactured in Northeast Minneapolis. From the 1930s until 2013, the building was headquarters for Minneapolis Public Schools.

Popular culture[edit]

In the 1925 Felix the Cat cartoon The Cat and the Kit, Mazda lamps are Felix's choice of car headlights.[2]

In the Laurel and Hardy short, Tit for Tat, 1935, as owners of a small electrical repair shop, Mazda lamps are prominently displayed.

In her essay A Photographer In Moscow (March 1942), Margaret Bourke-White writes "...It could be held up to the Mazda lamp on the radiator, to expose the prints, but I must conjure up a red-safe-light to develop them."

In the play The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams (1945), after the rain knocks out the electricity, Amanda says: "We'll just have to spend the remainder of the evening in the nineteenth century, before Mr. Edison made the Mazda lamp!"

In Ian Fleming's James Bond novel Goldfinger, Bond awakes strapped to a table in Auric Goldfinger's Swiss factory. He is disoriented and mistakes the print Société Anonyme Mazda on the naked bulb above him for " important message."

It is also mentioned in Here is New York, by E.B. White; in his 1949 essay about New York City, White says the following when describing the ease with which a citizen can carry out a number of errands en route home from work: "...he buys a bunch of pussy willows, a Mazda bulb, a drink, a shine – all between the corner where he steps off the bus and his apartment."

The Mazda light bulb is improbably mentioned in the 1952 Johnny Mercer song Glow Worm: "You got a cute vest-pocket Mazda/Which you can make both slow and fazda."[3]

Reference to Mazda Lamps appears on a billboard in the 1959 film On The Beach.

A Mazda bulb container is seen in a box of home-movie reels in the 1989 film National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation when Clark Griswold is trapped in the attic and must amuse himself by watching the films on a projector.

In Clifford Odets' play Rocket to the Moon, Willy Wax refers to the "Mazda glow" in Cleo Singer's eyes.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Carl Sulzberger A Bright and Profitable Idea in "IEEE Power&Energy Magazine, May/June 2006, pages 70-78
  2. ^ Jerry Beck (March 6, 2012). "Felix The Cat in "The Cat and The Kit" (1925)". Cartoon Brew. Retrieved 2012-06-28. 
  3. ^ Web Archive of "The Glow-Worm" lyrics. Retrieved 12 August 2010

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