From Menlo Park to West Orange

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. Nevertheless, the time Edison spent at Menlo Park was relatively short. He opened his famous "invention factory" there in 1876, and within six years, he had all but deserted it.

Edison took a major step away from Menlo in 1881, when he oversaw the planning and construction of his first commercial power station, on Pearl St. in New York City. He was on hand nearly every day and, in the course, of the year, he moved his family to Manhattan to be closer to his work there. The Pearl St. station demonstrated the efficacy of his electrical system for lighting whole city districts, and one consequence of that success was the prospect of a greatly enlarged market for incandescent lamps. With an eye to future demand, Edison moved his lamp factory from its cramped quarters at Menlo Park to a much larger facility in Harrison, N.J., just across the river from New York, in the spring of 1882. With his four manufacturing shops for electric lighting now clustered in and around New York, it made sense for Edison to have a laboratory there, where he could easily consult with his lieutenants and quickly address problems. He made a formal break with Menlo Park in September 1882 when he gave up the pretense of working there and rented space for a laboratory in lower Manhattan. do."