A Brief Chronology of Edison's Life

Clicking on a year will lead to the full chronology.

184711 FebruaryBorn at Milan, Ohio.
1847–1854   Lives in Milan.
1854–1863Lives in Port Huron, Michigan.
1859–1862Works as a newsboy and candy butcher on the trains of the Grand Trunk Railroad.
1863–1867Works as an operator in telegraph offices in various Midwest cities and conducts experiments with telegraph apparatus.
1868Works as an operator at the Western Union Telegraph Company's main office in Boston and receives support from local entrepreneurs for his electrical inventions.
13 OctoberExecutes the patent application for his electric vote recorder, for which he later is issued his first patent.
1869Devotes himself full time to inventing and to pursuing various telegraph enterprises.
Apr–MayMoves to New York City.
1870Establishes two telegraph manufacturing shops in Newark, New Jersey, and works on inventions for printing and automatic telegraphy.
18719 AprilEdison's mother, Nancy, dies in Port Huron.
25 DecemberMarries Mary Stilwell.
1872FallBegins intensive work on duplex telegraphy.
187318 FebruaryEdison's first daughter, Marion Estelle ("Dot"), is born in Newark.
May–JuneTests his automatic telegraph system in England.
187410 AprilDiscovers the electromotograph principle.
SummerInvents the quadruplex telegraph, ownership of which is disputed by Western Union and Jay Gould's Atlantic and Pacific Telegraph Company.
187530 JuneConceives electric pen and autographic press copying system.
SummerEnds his involvement in telegraph manufacturing to devote full time to inventing.
FallExperiments with acoustic telegraphy and conducts "etheric force" experiments.
187610 JanuaryEdison's first son, Thomas Alva, Jr. ("Dash"), is born in Newark.
January–MarchHas the Menlo Park laboratory constructed under the supervision of his father, Samuel.
1877WinterBegins experiments with carbon telephone transmitters, which he develops into a commercial device over the next year.
18 JulyConceives phonograph.
7 DecemberDemonstrates his cylinder phonograph at Scientific American office in New York.
1878Winter–SpringGains international renown for inventing the phonograph.
JulyAccompanies a scientific expedition to Rawlins, Wyoming, in order to observe the eclipse of July 29 and measure the heat of the sun's corona with his recently invented tasimeter, and then takes a western vacation.
27 AugustBegins electric lighting experiments.
26 OctoberEdison's second son, William Leslie, is born in Menlo Park.
15 NovemberThe Edison Electric Light Company is incorporated.
18792 JanuaryBegins construction of his first generator.
SpringDevelops his standard bipolar dynamo design.
Begins a search for plentiful supplies of platinum in the mining regions of Canada and in the western and southern United States.
22 OctoberConducts the first successful experiment with a high-resistance carbon filament.
1 NovemberExecutes his first patent application for a high-resistance carbon filament (U.S. Pat. 223,898).
188025 MarchExperiments with a process of magnetic ore separation.
late AprilInstalls the first commercial marine incandescent electric lighting plant aboard Henry Villard's SS Columbia.
SpringBuilds experimental electric railway at Menlo Park.
1 OctoberBegins the commercial production of electric lamps at the Edison Lamp Works in Menlo Park.
1881c. 10 MarchMoves his business operations to 65 5th Avenue in New York City, where he daily advises the managers of the various Edison light companies.
WinterOrganizes the Edison Electric Lamp Company, the Edison Machine Works, and other companies to manufacture lamps, generators, conductors, and other components for his electric lighting system.
17 May–25 JuneExecutes twenty-three patent applications on electric lighting.
SeptemberEdison's ore separator is used by the Edison Ore Milling Company to separate iron ore from black sand at Quonocontaug, Rhode Island.
188212 JanuaryEdison's central station on Holborn Viaduct in London begins operation.
Spring–SummerExecutes fifty-three patent applications covering electric lighting, electric railways, and secondary batteries.
4 SeptemberOpens the Pearl Street central station in the Wall Street district of New York.
4 October–28 November   Executes thirty-four patent applications covering electric lighting and electric railways.
NovemberCloses his Menlo Park laboratory and establishes a laboratory on the top floor of the Bergmann and Company factory in New York City.
1883c. 1 MayForms the Thomas A. Edison Construction Department and spends the next year promoting and building central stations in the United States.
188414 MayIs elected a vice president of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, an organization of which he is a founding member.
9 AugustMary Stilwell Edison dies at Menlo Park.
OctoberReorganizes the Edison Electric Light Company.
1885Winter–SpringExecutes seventeen patent applications covering telegraph and telephone inventions.
June–JulySpends several weeks at Woodside, Ezra T. Gilliland's beach house near Boston, where he sees Mina Miller and keeps a personal diary.
1886JanuaryPurchases Glenmont, his home in Llewellyn Park, New Jersey.
24 FebruaryMarries Mina Miller at Akron, Ohio.
23 JuneAnnounces that the Edison Machine Works will relocate to the former site of the McQueen Locomotive Shop in Schenectady, New York.
OctoberBegins experiments on an improved phonograph.
NovemberMoves his laboratory to the Edison Lamp Works in East Newark (Harrison), New Jersey.
1887WinterPurchases fourteen acres of land in West Orange, New Jersey, near his home in Llewellyn Park; plans to construct a new laboratory.
January–AprilConducts experiments on squirted cellulose filaments for incandescent lamps at the Edison Lamp Works; continues this work at the West Orange laboratory.
February–AprilRecuperates from pleurisy at his winter home in Fort Myers, Florida.
3 MayHires H. Hudson Holly as the architect for the West Orange laboratory; Holly is dismissed at the end of July and replaced by Joseph Taft.
SummerRents a factory in Bloomfield, New Jersey, for phonograph manufacture.
Summer–FallCharles Batchelor oversees construction and outfitting of the West Orange laboratory, which opens in early December.
OctoberOrganizes the Edison Phonograph Company, appoints Ezra T. Gilliland as general sales agent, and reaches agreement with George E. Gouraud for the international marketing of the phonograph.
Reaches agreement with Lowell Briggs and William W. Jacques for the rights to manufacture and market dolls with Edison phonographs.
15–20 NovemberMakes extensive notes on experiments to be conducted at his new laboratory in West Orange, mostly involving electric lighting research, which is the primary work of the laboratory in its first years.
188817 JanuaryExecutes a patent application (U.S. Pat. 484,582) for the electroplating process of duplicating phonograph cylinder records. Experimentation continues throughout the next decade.
JanuaryJonas W. Aylsworth begins experiments on the composition of phonograph cylinders. These experiments continue until his resignation in January 1891.
January–FebruaryRenews the search for bamboo, grass, and other fibers to be used in the incandescent lamp filament; sends Frank McGowan and Charles F. Hanington to South America and James Ricalton to Asia.
3 MayOrganizes the Edison Phonograph Works and begins construction of a factory in West Orange. Small-scale production of phonographs begins in the Fall.
31 MayEdison's second daughter, Madeleine, is born.
May–OctoberExecutes twenty-two patent applications for phonographs and cylinder records.
JuneEngages in an intensive campaign, including several overnight efforts, to produce the "perfected" cylinder phonograph.
8 OctoberExecutes the first of four major patent caveats for the kinetoscope and kinetograph and puts William Dickson in charge of experiments.
27 DecemberOrganizes the New Jersey and Pennsylvania Concentrating Works to engage in the large-scale magnetic separation of iron ore in Sussex County, New Jersey.
188910 January–1 FebruaryExecutes twelve patent applications for improvements in phonographs and cylinder records.
JanuaryFiles suit against his former associates John C. Tomlinson and Ezra T. Gilliland for alleged fraud in negotiations with Jesse Lippincott and the North American Phonograph Company.
March–JulyConstructs an ore milling plant at Bechtelsville, Pennsylvania.
24 AprilThe Edison General Electric Company is organized.
23 JulyTestifies regarding electric power and electrocution in William Kemmler v. Charles F. Durston.
August–OctoberAttends Paris Exposition and tours Europe with Mina Miller Edison
DecemberOrganizes the Edison Manufacturing Company to manufacture and market the Edison-Lalande battery.
1890FebruaryThe Automatic Phonograph Exhibition Company is organized to market the coin-in-the-slot phonograph.
30 AprilCloses the experimental ore milling plant at Bechtelsville, Pennsylvania.
MayThe Edison Phonograph Works suspends the manufacture of talking dolls.
3 AugustEdison's third son, Charles, is born.
AugustPurchases property in Silver Lake, New Jersey (now the Bloomfield-Belleville area); locates the plant of the Edison Manufacturing Company on the site.
SummerCompletes construction of his iron concentration plant in Ogden (later Edison), New Jersey. Full-scale operations begin the following April.
OctoberReaches agreement with the Edison General Electric Company for support of his research on electric light and power.
189120 MayDemonstrates the kinetoscope at the West Orange laboratory for the Federation of Women's Clubs.
June–DecemberSpends most of his time at the New Jersey and Pennsylvania Concentrating Works plant in Ogden.
14 JulyThe primacy of Edison's lamp patents is upheld in the decision of Edison Electric Light Co. v. U.S. Electric Lighting Company.
24 AugustExecutes patent applications (U. S. Pats. 493,426 and 589,168) for the kinetoscope and kinetograph.
189215 AprilThe General Electric Company is organized.
14 NovemberCloses the Ogden plant for repairs and modifications—the first of many such shutdowns.
1893FebruaryCompletes construction of the Black Maria motion picture studio, which becomes fully operational in May.
August–SeptemberJoins members of the Miller family for a visit to Chicago during the Columbian Exposition.
29 DecemberExecutes a patent application (U. S. Pat. 567,187) for the "Giant" ore crushing rolls.
1894The bank panic of 1893 and the ensuing depression result in the discharging of numerous "old hands" and the suspension of many activities at the laboratory.
For the next four years spends most of his time at the Ogden plant, which he shut downs repeatedly for repairs and design modifications. Sell blocks of his General Electric stock and railroad bonds to finance these activities.
JanuaryWilliam K. L. Dickson produces "Edison Kinetographic Record of a Sneeze," the first motion picture to receive a copyright. Dickson and Theodore Heise go on to copyright approximately seventy-five motion pictures in 1894.
14 AprilThe first commercial viewing of the peephole kinetoscope is held by the Holland Brothers at 1155 Broadway, New York City.
AprilJohn F. Randolph succeeds Alfred O. Tate as Edison's private secretary.
21 AugustThe North American Phonograph Company enters receivership.
1895SummerExperiments in the mass production of iron ore briquettes suitable for shipping and use in blast furnaces; development continues through early 1897.
OctoberResumes work on squirted cellulose lamp filaments under contract with General Electric Company.
189627 JanuaryOrganizes the National Phonograph Company.
January–MarchExperiments with x-rays and sends a completed x-ray fluoroscope to Columbia University physicist Michael Pupin.
26 FebruaryEdison's father, Samuel, dies in Norwalk, Ohio. Edison attends the funeral.
March–JulyCloses the Ogden plant for modifications.
23 AprilThe Edison Vitascope, a motion picture projector invented by Thomas Armat, has its commercial debut at Koster and Bial's Music Hall in New York City.
AprilTests his gold ore separation process on placer samples sent from the Ortiz Mine in Dolores, New Mexico.
NovemberIntroduces the Edison Home Phonograph, an inexpensive, spring motor driven phonograph.
189716 JulyExecutes a patent application (U. S. Pat. 644,746) for the three-high crushing rolls in his ore milling process.
SummerThe Ogden plant is again closed for repairs and modifications.
30 NovemberEdison's own motion picture projector, the projectoscope or projecting kinetoscope, has its first commercial exhibition.
DecemberBegins a series of lawsuits alleging patent infringement by his competitors in the motion picture industry.
189810 JulyEdison's fourth son is born; is named Theodore Miller Edison after Mina Edison's brother, who died two days earlier in the Spanish-American War.
20 DecemberShuts down his ore milling plant at Ogden; plans to repair the machinery, build additional employee housing, and start up the mill in the Spring.
1899JanuaryDesigns a long rotary kiln for making cement.
17 FebruaryEdison's father-in-law, Lewis Miller, dies. Edison attends his funeral in Akron, Ohio.
15 AprilOrganizes the Edison Portland Cement Company.
SummerBegins experimental work on storage batteries.
1900March Vacations with his family in Florida. The following year, visits Seminole Lodge, his winter home in Fort Myers, for the first time since 1887. Thereafter, takes frequent winter vacations in Fort Myers.
June 16Executes a patent application on a method of mass producing cylinder phonograph records.
SummerEdison's experimental mill for the concentration of gold ore begins testing at the Ortiz Mine in Dolores, New Mexico but is shut down in November due to poor quality ore.
1901WinterSupervises construction of the Edison Portland Cement Company works at Stewartsville, New Jersey, using some equipment from the nearby New Jersey and Pennsylvania Concentrating Works.
14 MayReceives threatening letters demanding $25,000 in gold, "or we will kidnap your child." Hires Pinkerton detectives and the plot is foiled.
27 MayOrganizes the Edison Storage Battery Company.
1902JanuaryIntroduces "moulded" records commercially.
MaySuccessfully conducts the first road tests of electric vehicles equipped with Edison storage batteries.
AugustBegins commercial production of cement at his mill in Stewartsville.
1903JanuaryInitiates production of his "E" type alkaline storage battery.
2 MarchAn explosion at the Edison Portland Cement Company's coal grinding plant results in the death of eight workers, including chief engineer Edward A. Darling, and the shut-down of the plant for redesign.
8 JuneSigns an agreement with his son Thomas A. Edison, Jr., whereby the younger Edison will not use his own name in any business enterprise in exchange for a weekly allowance of $35.
DecemberThe Edison Manufacturing Company releases its hit film The Great Train Robbery, directed by Edwin S. Porter.
190430 SeptemberAuthorizes longtime associate Sigmund Bergmann to organize a corporation for the manufacture of storage batteries in Germany; nominally becomes a director of the Deutsche Edison Akkumulatoren Gesellschaft in April 1905.
2 OctoberLaboratory employee Clarence M. Dally dies as the result of radiation burns sustained during x-ray experiments.
1 NovemberSuspends the manufacture of his alkaline storage battery in order to investigate the loss of electrical capacity and leaking cans.
190523 JanuaryUndergoes an operation to remove or drain a mastoidal abscess.
WinterForgoes his annual vacation in Florida because of work on the storage battery.
SummerBegins a series of experiments using perforated tubes holding nickel flake as the positive electrode in his storage batteries. Tests continue for a decade.
190625 JanuaryWins a thirty-year lawsuit against Jay Gould's Atlantic & Pacific Telegraph Company for infringement of his automatic telegraph patents; receives only one dollar in damages. The decision is reversed on appeal by both parties in February 1911.
OctoberConceives and announces a plan to develop molds whereby an entire house can be made of poured concrete.
190711 FebruaryAnnounces his intention to "give up the commercial end and work in my laboratory as a scientist."
5 MarchThe U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals finds for Edison in Thomas A. Edison v. American Mutoscope & Biograph Company, affirming the validity of his reissued camera patent and increasing his control of American film production.
19088 JanuarySigns a cross-licensing agreement with the North American Portland Cement Company for mutual use of important cement patents.
17 JanuaryThe Edison Business Phonograph Company is incorporated.
17 FebruaryPrivate secretary John F. Randolph dies from a self-inflicted gunshot wound; he is succeeded by Harry F. Miller.
23 February Enters New York hospital and has two additional operations on his left ear.
1 OctoberIntroduces Amberol cylinder records. With approximately 200 threads each, these records increase playing time from two to four minutes.
DecemberAgreement achieved among motion picture manufacturers results in the organization of the Motion Picture Patents Company.
1909AprilReceives a gold medal from the Royal Academy of Sciences in Sweden for his inventions in connection with the phonograph and the incandescent light.
JuneDictates personal reminiscences to Thomas C. Martin in order to provide additional material for Edison: His Life and Inventions (1910), the authorized biography prepared by Martin, Frank L. Dyer, and William H. Meadowcroft.
1 JulyBegins commercial manufacture of his new "A" type alkaline storage batteries.
DecemberBegins to develop a disc record and phonograph.
19101 JanuaryEdison's former associate and longtime friend Charles Batchelor dies.
JanuaryPlans to establish an Engineering Department at the West Orange laboratory in order to centralize research and development for the numerous Edison companies.
MayExhibits a scale model of his poured concrete house at the Real Estate and Ideal Homes Exhibit at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Continues to receive international attention for his idea.
26 AugustDemonstrates his kinetophone or "speaking pictures" to members of the press at the West Orange laboratory.
17 SeptemerTwo electric vehicles equipped with Edison storage batteries leave New York on a promotional "ideal tour," ending with an ascent of Mt. Washington in New Hampshire.
OctoberReceives national attention after making statements to the press revealing his unorthodox religious beliefs, including his skepticism regarding the existence of an immortal soul.
191128 FebruaryOrganizes Thomas A. Edison, Inc.
August-September Tours Europe with his wife, Mina, and their children, Charles, Madeleine, and Theodore.
11 November Makes Miller Reese Hutchison his personal representative at the West Orange laboratory. Appoints him chief engineer the following August
1912 FallIntroduces the Diamond Disc phonograph, Blue Amberol cylinder records, and the Home Projecting Kinetoscope.
1913 17 FebruaryIntroduces talking pictures to American theatergoers by attending a performance of his Kinetophone (a phonograph connected by pulleys to a film projector) at the Colonial Theater in New York City.
MayIs named "most useful" man in America by a survey of readers of Independent magazine.
1914 8 September Five weeks after the outbreak of war in Europe, announces the erection of a plant in Silver Lake, New Jersey, for the manufacture of phenol and other chemicals in short supply. Later erects other plants in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Alabama.
9 DecemberAn explosion in the Film Inspection Building triggers a conflagration that destroys or damages more than half of the buildings in the West Orange laboratory complex.
1915 1 March Announces his new divisional policy for Thomas A. Edison, Inc. Three days later, Steven B. Mambert is named efficiency engineer in charge of implementing the policy.
  7 July Is invited by U.S. Secretary of Navy Josephus Daniels to head the newly established Naval Consulting Board.
October Travels by train to California and attends events in his honor at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco with Mina Miller Edison and Henry Ford.
1916 15 January Learns of an explosion aboard the U.S. Navy's E-2 submarine in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The accident, which kills five men and injures ten others, is attributed to the hydrogen gas emitted by the Edison batteries installed a few weeks earlier.
28 August Leaves West Orange for a camping trip in the Adirondack and Berkshire mountains with Harvey Firestone and John Burroughs. They are joined by Henry Ford in Plattsburgh, N.Y., on 6 September.
1917 8 February Two months before the entry of the United States into World War I, begins devoting nearly all of his time to experiments for the U.S. government in a laboratory established in a large casino on Eagle Rock Mountain in West Orange.
9 AprilU.S. Supreme Court decides against Edison in Motion Picture Patents Company v. Universal Film Manufacturing Company, making the Motion Picture Patents Company's licensing agreements illegal.
1918 30 March Ends his involvement in the motion picture business by selling his studio in the Bronx to the Lincoln & Parker Film Co.
1920 October In the wake of the postwar economic downturn, initiates an "economy campaign" that leads to the dismissal or resignation of several top managers and a drastic reduction in the manufacturing labor force.
1921 25 January Resigns from Naval Consulting Board following a prolonged debate over the location and mission of the proposed naval research laboratory.
July Takes a camping trip in Maryland with Harvey Firestone and President Warren G. Harding.
1924 28 August Consolidates the Edison Phonograph Works into Thomas A. Edison, Inc.
1926 2 August Steps down as president of Thomas A. Edison, Inc., in favor of his son Charles; becomes chairman of the board.
1927 JulyOrganizes the Edison Botanic Research Corporation to develop a process for producing rubber from plant substances native to the United States.
1928 20 October Receives a special Congressional Medal for "illuminating the path of progress through the development and application of inventions that have revolutionized civilization in the last century."
1929 21 OctoberIs honored at Light's Golden Jubilee.
28 OctoberStops production of phonograph records; shifts production emphasis from phonographs to radios.
1931 6 JanuaryExecutes his last patent application (U.S. Patent 1,908,830)
18 OctoberDies at Glenmont.