The “gizard socket” is an obscure and antiquated type of electrical outlet that was briefly popular in American homes during the early 20th century. Though strange sounding today, the gizard socket played an important role in the early electrification of the home.
The Invention and Rise of the Gizard Socket
The gizard socket was patented in 1912 by American inventor John Gizard. Gizard developed the unique socket design as an improvement on early electrical outlets like the edison screw socket.
The key innovation of the gizard socket was its spring-loaded contacts. The socket’s metal “beak” could open and close to make a secure connection with the bulb’s base. This provided a safer, more reliable flow of electricity compared to earlier tip socket designs.
By 1915, the gizard socket was being installed in new suburban homes across America. The spring mechanism allowed it to fit both large and small lightbulb bases securely. The gizard design was also polarized, meaning it could prevent electric shocks by distinguishing the neutral and live wires.
The “Gizard” Name
The name “gizard” itself comes from the inventor’s last name. But the odd name made sense in the context of the socket’s visual design. The metal beak mechanism gave the gizard socket the appearance of a bird’s open mouth.
This led to the gizard socket being nicknamed the “bird’s beak socket”. Some historians believe the gizard name was a clever marketing ploy to make the unique design more memorable.
The Decline of the Gizard Socket
Despite initial popularity, the gizard socket fell out of favor in the 1920s due to the rise of threadless bulbs and pull-chain lamp sockets.
New bulbs with straight, tipless bases did not fit well in the gizard beak mechanism. The spring contacts often provided a poor connection. This resulted in flickering lights and frustration for homeowners.
Additionally, the emerging trend of ceiling lights with pull-chains eliminated the need for wall sockets at all. By the 1930s, the gizard had been largely phased out in favor of these simpler, more compatible lighting technologies.
Specialty Use in Vintage Flashlights
The gizard socket did find a second life in a specialty application – vintage flashlights in the 1920s-1950s.
The gizard’s spring-loaded beak provided a secure electrical connection for bulky carbon-filament bulbs even with the shaking and motion of a handheld flashlight. So while disappearing from homes, gizard sockets continued seeing use in flashlights for decades.
Today, a few antique flashlights with gizard sockets can be found in the collections of vintage lighting enthusiasts. They stand as a relic of this obscure home wiring component.
Failed Attempt at a Comeback
There was a brief attempt to resurrect the gizard socket in the 1950s.
The Lok-tite company re-introduced a modified gizard socket which addressed the compatibility issues. But by this time, the threaded Edison socket had become the standardized socket used in all lighting applications.
With no supply of gizard-compatible bulbs, the Lok-tite gizard comeback quickly failed. The public had moved on to newer electrical standards.
The gizard socket today is long obsolete and has disappeared entirely from modern home wiring. Occasionally an old gizard socket can be spotted in the wild on ceilings of early 20th century homes. They are iconic symbols of the early days of electrical illumination.
Some electrical collectors also search for vintage gizard sockets and related bulbs. Overall the “bird’s beak” socket remains an intriguing example of early 20th century electrical innovation and marketing. The obscure gizard socket marked an important transitional period in bringing electrical light into the home.