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A light bulb is manufactured from resources found across the world. Knowing what role these resources play in manufacturing processes helps us understand why some technologies were successful and others were not. The glow from light bulbs depends entirely on the metals in the filament. In the late nineteenth century, manufacturers struggled to find a metal that did not melt when emitting a soft, warm glow. Only a few metals had the sought-after properties, and these became valued resources.
This article explores how the manufacturing of light bulbs affected and was affected by access to metals. Manufacturers competed fiercely to ensure they acquired the resources only found in a few places worldwide in their quest to take over the expanding lighting market. Making light bulbs in an era of protectionism affected extraction sites and politics globally.