How the First Electric Wires Were Dangerously Installed in Homes

How the First Electric Wires Were Dangerously Installed in Homes


When Thomas Edison and others first began installing electric wiring in homes in the late 1800s, the process was extremely hazardous and resulted in many fires and electrocutions. As I research the early days of residential electrical work, I'm shocked by how dangerous it was for both homeowners and electricians. In this article, I'll provide an in-depth look at how the first electric wires were installed in homes and the many risks involved. There's no doubt that those pioneers paved the way for the safe electrical systems we rely on today. However, their trial-and-error approaches show just how little was known about electricity at the time.

The Dangers of Early Wiring Methods

In the early days of residential electricity, wiring methods were crude and downright dangerous:

As you can imagine, these poor wiring techniques led to many tragic fires, injuries, and deaths in early electrified homes. Clearly, safety standards and proper materials specific to electrical systems were desperately needed.

Hazardous Installation Methods

Aside from the inherent dangers of early wiring itself, installation methods also posed safety risks:

While creative in their own right, early electricians simply didn't have sufficient experience with the unique demands of electrical systems. They borrowed practices from other trades that transferred poorly.

Deadly Learning Experiences

As great as the benefits of electricity were, its dangers were poorly understood in the late 19th century. Many tragic stories emerged during this period:

These early electrical mishaps provided tragic indications of the dangers posed by electricity and how little was understood. Unfortunately, many more people were injured or killed over the next several decades as electrical use expanded.

Developing Electrical Safety Standards

After seeing increasing electrical tragedies, steps were taken to improve safety:

While electricity was still the cause of many fires and accidents in the early 1900s, each tragedy provided important lessons that brought us closer to the well-engineered electrical systems we know today. The cost was very high in human life and property, but critical knowledge was gained.


Looking back on the early days of residential electricity, it's clear just how dangerous many common practices were at the time. Hazardous wiring materials, crude installation methods, and lack of safety principles led to many needless tragedies. While heartbreaking, each incident ultimately advanced our understanding of electrical safety. Thanks to those painful lessons, codes and standards were developed to provide the reliable power that's essential to modern life. We owe a great debt to those who were lost for their unintentional sacrifice.