Year of Innovation
Join The Edison Papers and Thomas Edison National Historical Park in West Orange, NJ as we celebrate a Year of Innovation. The Edison Papers will be offering an ongoing online series over the course of the year in partnership with programming at the Edison's West Orange Lab. We will be highlighting the documents in our editions and offering suggested readings. Be sure to check back each month for a new chapter in this ongoing series. Have a question or comment, feel free to contact us! See below for infomation on purchasing the book.
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The Year of Innovation Series
|Thomas Edison National Historical Park|
Visit Thomas Edison National Historical Park for THE YEAR OF INNOVATION programs and step back in time. Special programs for all ages will be offered throughout the year.
The Education of an Inventor
Explore Edison’s boyhood in Milan and Port Huron, his years as an itinerant telegrapher in the 1860s and his first experiences as an inventor in Boston, New York and Newark, where he introduced improved stock tickers, new telegraph systems and the electric pen, his first invention sold directly to consumers.
The Invention Factory
Edison’s experience as a reliable telegraph inventor and the support of telegraph industry leaders gave him the resources to open his first R&D lab at Menlo Park, New Jersey, where he vowed to turn out a minor invention every six weeks and a major invention every six months.
The Tinfoil Phonograph
Edison’s 1877 invention of the tinfoil phonograph, the first machine that could record and reproduce sound, astonished the world and made him an international celebrity.
A Big Bonanza: Edison’s Electric Lighting System
Edison did more than invent a practical incandescent electric lamp at Menlo Park; he introduced an entire system of electric lighting. From his first central stations in London and New York’s Pearl Street to his display at the 1889 Paris Exposition, Edison’s companies pioneered the electric utility industry.
Edison in World War I
Edison kept busy during World War I. He became a vocal proponent of military preparedness, faced the challenges of rebuilding his West Orange factory after a disastrous fire, chaired the Naval Consulting Board and conducted research aimed at helping the U.S. Navy respond to submarine warfare.
From Menlo Park to West Orange
The 1880s were years of transition for Edison - the death of his first wife Mary, the purchase of his Fort Myers, Florida, winter home, his marriage to Mina Miller and his move to West Orange. Explore these events, Edison’s relationship with his family and the construction of the West Orange laboratory.
Battle of the Systems
The competition between Edison's direct-current (DC) central station system and new alternating current (AC) systems, especially the Westinghouse system using Nikola Tesla's important improvements, becomes intertwined with the debate over humane executions and the development of the electric chair.
A Phonograph in Every Home
Turning the tinfoil phonograph from a curiosity into a commercial product became a major project at West Orange. From the late 1880s to the 1920s Edison’s lab designed talking machines for office workers and produced phonographs and records that provided millions of consumers with pre-recorded music.
Edison’s 1888 idea of inventing an instrument “which does for the eye what the phonograph does for the ear which is the recording and reproduction of things in motion” led to the creation of the movie industry. At West Orange, Edison and his team invented a motion picture camera, built studios to produce motion pictures and created companies to manufacture projectors and films.
Employing remarkable team work and persistence Edison spent much of the 1890s designing machinery to mine and process iron ore at his Ogdensburg, New Jersey, ore milling plant, a project that ultimately failed.
Turning lemons into lemonade, Edison used his experience handling iron ore to develop new methods of making Portland cement and designed a process to make affordable cement houses.
The development of a practical storage battery for electric vehicles was a major focus of Edison’s work at West Orange.
Collaborating with his close friends Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone in his last significant research campaign, Edison searched for a domestic source of natural rubber in the late 1920s.
Remembering the Wizard
The Year of Innovation concludes with a look at Edison’s final days, his role as a cultural icon and the preservation of the Edison legacy.
THE YEAR OF INNOVATION themes explore the chapters in EDISON AND THE RISE OF INNOVATION, a new book by National Park Service archivist Leonard DeGraaf. Published by Sterling Signature in October 2013 and produced in association with the Edison Innovation Foundation, the Charles Edison Fund and the National Park Service, EDISON AND THE RISE OF INNOVATION chronicles Edison’s life and work, making lively and lavish use of rarely-seen primary sources to reveal the places where he lived and worked, including his laboratories in New Jersey and Florida. The book draws on Edison’s personal and business letters, lab notebooks, drawings, advertising material, and modern and historic photos to reveal Edison the innovator. Another famous innovator - Bill Gates - has written the foreword to this fresh look at Thomas Edison.