Updated 09-XII-2018

Edgar G. Bernard

This article was written by fellow lamp engineer and collector Edward J. Covington, and originally appeared on his own website of biographical sketches of persons involved in the lamp industry. Following his passing in February 2017, and with kind permission of his family, Ed's words have been preserved here in the hope of maintaining access to his writings for the benefit of subsequent generations.

In bygone days incandescent lamps often appeared in the marketplace that were not manufactured by the large companies, such as, for example, General Electric or Westinghouse. One such manufacturer was in business in Troy, New York in the time frame of about 1890-1902. The president of the company was Edgar G. Bernard.

The writer was employed in Schenectady, New York in 1958 when he started to collect early incandescent lamps as a hobby. In late 1960 a newspaper article appeared in the Schenectady Gazette regarding the lamp collection1. Then, a few weeks later a similar article appeared in The Record Newspapers, which was published in Troy, New York2. In addition, the writer inserted a classifed advertisement in the Troy newspaper for the purpose of purchasing early lamps.

As a result of the advertisement, word was received from a Troy resident who had a chest full of early lamps for sale. Among the lot of lamps were six that had been manufactured by the Bernard Company. These lamps had Thomson-Houston and Westinghouse bases rather than the screw-type Edison base which is standard in the United States today.

As a result of the Troy newspaper article a letter was received from a granddaughter of Bernard3. The following was extracted from the letter:
"E. G. Bernard was an electrical contractor. He started at the age of 17 when he obtained his first experience by installing an arc-light plant in NY City for Booth's theatre. This was in 1879. With the appearance of the incandescent lamp he entered into isolated-plant lighting, which field he was probably the first to work systematically as a saleman and also as an engineer in the development of constructional details. In 1884 he became chief sales agent and constructing engineer for the Sawyer-Man(n) Co., continuing in the same capacity with its successor, the Consolidated Electric Light Co.

"When the latter was purchased by the Westinghouse Co., about 1888, he remained in charge of the textile-mill work shortly before establishing his own business in Troy in 1890.

"A few years later he began the manufacture of dynamos and motors specially adapted to his line of work, which he continued until satisfactory machines could be obtained elsewhere.

"His electrical activities covered a wide range, including in early days, town arc and incandescent lighting. Much of his work was special in character, such as the installation of 7000 lamps in the capital at Albany in 25 working days. Practically all of this work was of special construction. He installed the generator and motor equipment of the US Arsenal at Watervliet and did the marine installation work for the US Navy yard at Brooklyn and for other ship yards.

"When I sold his summer home just a few years ago I left a barrel of bulbs in the tower house. They were called B and B bulbs.

"He was an intimate friend of GE's Steinmetz, Bell, Marconi and Edison. His association with Steinmetz probably stemmed from winding armatures and making dynamos for his company."
The six Bernard lamps recovered from the chest in Troy had a "square" label and were also marked "B and B".

  1. "A New Twist to Old Light Bulbs", Schenectady Gazette, Oct 20, 1960.
  2. "Early Electric Bulbs Were Made In Troy", The Record Newspapers, Dec 17 1960, p.B2.
  3. Letter from Elizabeth Bernard Miller to Edward J. Covington, Jan 11 1961.