From Menlo Park to West Orange

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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. Thanks to Rutgers Public History intern Ammi Gonzales for her help editing links and PDF files for this essay.

  • The Return to New York

    Thomas A. Edison's name will always be associated with Menlo Park, N.J., where he first achieved worldwide fame as the inventor of the phonograph and the incandescent electric light. In his own time, he was called "the Wizard of Menlo Park," and he is still universally known by that moniker...
  • The Death of Mary Edison

    Moving his principal laboratory from Menlo Park was in itself a major transition for Edison, but it was just the first step in a series of changes that would ultimately bring him to West Orange, N.J. The years from 1884 to 1887 proved to be one of the most important transitional periods in his...
  • Grieving and recovery

    Edison's daughter Marion later recalled that Mary's death left him "shaking with grief, weeping and sobbing so he could hardly tell me that mother had died in the night." Afterward, for several months, Edison kept Marion by his side. She traveled with him wherever he went and even joined him from...
  • Fort Myers Winter Estate and Laboratory

    Edison had made a practice of spending at least part of the winter each year in Florida. He had made two such trips with Mary and one, in 1885, with Marion and the Gillilands. So perhaps it was only a matter of course that his honeymoon trip—from late February to April 1886—would have the Sunshine...
  • The lab at Bergmann's

    Edison moved his personal laboratory to the top floor of the electrical equipment manufacturer Bergmann & Co.'s building at the corner of Seventeenth St. and Avenue B. At this time, he was a partner in the Bergmann firm. The research facility at Bergmann's would be Edison's principal laboratory for the...
  • A New Home: Glenmont

    Even before he and Mina were married, Edison had purchased a new home to which he could bring his new bride. He had given Mina the choice of a townhouse on Riverside Drive in Manhattan or a house in the countryside. Mina chose the latter because neither she nor Edison greatly relished living in...
  • The Lamp Factory Laboratory

    In conjunction with his marriage and taking up permanent residence at Glenmont, Edison, in the summer of 1886, moved his primary laboratory from Bergmann's in New York City to the Edison Lamp Factory in Harrison. In June, he had been splitting his time between Bergmann's and the Lamp Factory, but...
  • A World-Class Laboratory

    When he had married Mary Stilwell at the end of 1871, Thomas Edison was already a successful inventor and businessman. By the time he married Mina Miller and purchased Glenmont, he was a world-renowned inventor whose extensive business interests had made him one of the late-nineteenth century's titans...
  • Staffing

    As his new laboratory began to rise on its foundations, Edison turned his attention to staffing it. His initial plan was to shift four of his primary researchers from the Lamp Factory lab to West Orange, including William K. L. Dickson, who would later become famous in conjunction with the...
  • A New Beginning

    By the end of 1887, Thomas A. Edison seems to have successfully made a fresh beginning in many of the most important areas of his life. He had a new wife, a new home, and a new laboratory, the last of which would allow him to confront the research challenges of the emerging modern industrial...