The Edison and Swan Electric Light Company Limited

The Edison and Swan Electric Light Company Limited was a manufacturer of electrical goods based in London, England. It was founded by chemist and inventor Sir Joseph Wilson Swan (1828-1914) on 26 October 1883.

In 1860, Swan began conducting experiments in electric lighting. After several setbacks, Swan successfully produced an incandescent electric lamp in 1878, which he patented on 27 November 1880 (Patent No. 4933). After setting up the Swan United Electric Company to commercially produce the lamp, Swan was threatened with legal action by the rival Edison Electric Light Company, who claimed infringement of the patents taken out by American inventor and scientist Thomas Edison (1847-1931). Instead of going to trial, the two companies agreed to merge, becoming the Edison and Swan United Electric Light Company Limited in 1883. By combining forces, the Company was able to suppress competition in Britain and dominate the market with their ‘Ediswan’ light bulbs, produced in factories in Sunderland, Brimsdown, and Ponders End.

In the early twentieth-century, the company expanded beyond light bulbs, opening the country’s first radio valve factory in 1916 and beginning the production of vacuum cleaners in 1924. In following years, Edison and Swan factories also produced radio sets, car batteries, cathode ray tubes, and electric cables. During the Second World War, the company assisted researchers at the Burden Neurological Institute, Bristol, in their production of equipment for electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) and electroencephalography (EEG).

In 1957, the Edison and Swan Electric Company was amalgamated with Siemens Brothers and Company within the Associated Electrical Industries Group (AEI) to form Siemens Edison Swan Limited. Siemens Edison Swan light bulbs were also produced under the Mazda (General Electric) brand licence.