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Lightbulb feud heats up

NEW YORK -- The owner of a light bulb that has burned since 1912 in a Manhattan hardware and plumbing supply store wants the Guinness Book of World Records to list the bulb -- and not a California bulb -- as 'the most durable light.'

'They'd be darn fools not to,' says Jack Gasnick, a mechanical engineer and owner of Gasnick Supply Co. on Second Avenue in Manhattan.

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'Three or four years ago' Gasnick wrote to Guinness expressing 'suspicion' and skepticism that the current record holder -- a bulb that has been shining since 1901 in a California firehouse - legitimately holds claim to the distinction.

The entry reads: 'Most Durable Light. The average bulb lasts for 750 to 1,000 hours. There is some evidence that a carbon filament bulb burning in the Fire Department, Livermore, Calif., south Alameda County, Calif., has been burning since 1901.'

For years, Gasnick got no reply to his letter.

But last week the record people wrote him to say they would investigate his claims and get back to him.

Gasnick bases his challenge on newspaper photographs he has seen of the California bulb and gives several reasons for his suspicions:

-- No. 1. The bulb is not dark enough to have burned continuously. 'Right away, I saw it was so clear ... It does not show any sign of carbonization,' he said. A bulb that has burned '20, 30 or 40 years' would be extremely dark from carbon.

-- No. 2. The bulb is in a brass turnknob socket. 'You can't have a bulb burn continuously in a brass turnknob socket. It would get so hot it would burn the wires,' he said.

The challenger was installed in 1912 by his father, and 'except for a few (citywide) blackouts' has glowed without interruption, he said.

Gasnick, 62, said records show that the bulb was manufactured by Champion under an Edison license.

The bulb, which is in a China socket that allows it to burn coolly, is now used as a 'kind of nightlight' in a hallway near his desk. Probably a 60 watt bulb, it now puts out about 10 watts, he said.

Livermore residents, who have been showing their bulb off to tourists for years, have dismissed Gasnick's challenge.

'I'm confident that criteria used by Guinness officials is accurate and valid,' said Fire Chief Jack Baird. 'We're sticking to our guns on this one.'

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