Lutron Donates History to Smithsonian

May 1, 2010
In a special donation ceremony last month, Joel Spira, inventor and developer of the solid-state electronic dimming device and chairman and founder of

In a special donation ceremony last month, Joel Spira, inventor and developer of the solid-state electronic “dimming device” and chairman and founder of Lutron Electronics, Coopersburg, Pa., donated materials related to the company's 50-year history to the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.

The donation includes an early version of the original solid-state Capri dimmer manufactured by Lutron in September 1964, as well as a retail display featuring the fully functional dimmer and other Lutron dimmers and lighting-control systems that show lighting-control developments at the company over the past 50 years.

The museum requested objects and papers that would provide insight into Spira's career as an inventor. Spira developed a way to reduce the light output of an incandescent bulb in his New York apartment in the late 1950s, which extended the life of the lightbulb and saved electrical energy. The museum will receive his original inventor's notebook with more than 100 pages of handwritten documentation and historic photographs, as well as product advertisements.

The Lutron materials join other artifacts in the museum's Electricity Collection, including experimental lightbulbs from Thomas Edison, dimming light sockets from the 1910s, theatrical lighting controls from the 1920s and many types of light switches.

“As the nation's history museum we tell the story of this country in all its depth and breadth,” said Brent D. Glass, director of the museum. “Collections such as this one from Lutron help us to understand the continuation of the electrical evolution, the process of invention and the history of business and manufacture.”

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