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Thursday, February 11, 1982


Pix #1 - Thomas A. Edison

Thomas A. Edison, one of the world's great inventors, was born to Samuel and Nancy Edison, 135 years ago, February 11, 1847, at the small town of Milan, Ohio, Erie County, just about 40 miles from Fostoria.

His birthplace has been maintained as a memorial museum for many years. It is open at specified periods during the year, but in the winter months only, by appointment. Yet, on this anniverdary of his birth it was not open, and the town where he was born and lived his early years did not have any special event to commemorate it.

His diverse inventions and their multiple uses have affected the lives of young and old around the world.

The records divulge that at age 10, after his family had moved to Port Huron, Michigan, young Alva set up his first laboratory in the basement of the house.


Poor health kept him from starting to school at the normal age, but when he did enroll his teacher thought he was stupid because he asked so many questions. After a short period of schooling, his mother, who had been a school teacher, withdrew him from school and taught him. It was probably his reading of an encyclopedia which developed his interest in chemistry and experimental work.

At about age 12, Edison began his career as a newsboy on the Grand Trunk Railroad which ran between Port Huron and Detroit. He was allowed a corner of the baggage car to stock his newspapers, magazines and candy. He also used his space to intall a small hand-operated press, for which he handset the type, printing a small newspaper containing local news items and happen- ings on the train. The trainmen and passengers were glad to buy the miniature paper from the enterprising young publisher.

It was on one of the train's trips that a bottle of phosphorous jarred off a shelf and exploded. Edison kept the bottle there for conducting experiments in his spare time. As a result of that event, he not only lost his job but got a cuffing on his ears which produced deafness.


One day standing on the station platform at Mt. Clemens, watching a train approach, the state telegrapher's small son wandered on the tracks. Without hesitation, Edison grabbed the child from the train's path just in time, saving his life. In appreciation for his bravery and for saving his son's life, the father taught Edison telegraphy. The next six years of his life he went from place to place working as a telegrapher.

Edison's first patent, a vote recording machine came in 1868; followed by the improvement of the electric stock ticker in 1869. Some years later he sold his invention related to those devices for $40,000 which enabled him to establish his plant to manufacture electrical devices in Newark, N.J.


In 1869, at age 22, Edison arrived in New York, still hiring out as a telegrapher for his livelihood. He applied to the Gold and Stock Telegraph Co. for a job. Awaiting their decision to hire him, their telegraph equip- ment broke down and no one knew how to fix it. Edison volunteered to fix it and did so in a couple of hours. As a consequence they offered him a job at the fabulous sum of $300 per month and he accepted.

In 1871, he aided another inventor, Chistopher L. Sholes in maing a working model of the first practicable typewriter.

Edison married Mary G. Stilwell in 1873, and to that union was born three children. She died in 1884.


There followed many other inventions and improvements on others, including duplex and quadruplex telegraph equipment, which permitted more than one message to be sent across the wires at one time.

He also invented the uatomatic duplicating machine, the phonograph, incandescent light, motion picture camera, new types of dynamos, and he also made improvement in the telephone for commercial use.

In 1886, he remarried Mina M. MIller, to whom three more children were born.

In 1915, Edison became president of the U.S. Naval Consulting Board. During the period of 1917-18, he turned most of his time and eforts to the perfection of naval inventions to assist his country in winning World War I.

The first electric railway line was built by Edison in 1880-82, and at that time he opened the nation's first commercial electric lighting central station in New York City. He also invented the process for making synthetic phenol (carbolic acid). One of the processes he was working on in his later years was the production of synthetic rubber from the common goldenrod plant.


Edison died on Sunday morning October 18, 1931 in his home in West Orange, N.J. The body was placedin the library of his workshop, surrounded by the tools, records and memories of his labor. The public was permitted to pass the bier to view the remains. The funeral on Wednesday, was private for family, relatives and intimate friends, including President Hoover, Henry Ford and the Harvey Firestone family. His burial was on the 52nd anniversary of his invention of the incandescent lamp.

At the time of Edison's death, it was estimated that his invention of the hand-crank phonograph had contributed to the industry a value of at least $105,000,000. His invention of the electric lamp formed the nucleus of that industries worth at least $5,000,000,000. The motion picture camera gave that industry assets totalling more than $1,250,000,000. His inventions and improvements to dynamos, motors, telephones, eletric railways, and other inventions, helped build industries worth $8,000,000,000.

It doesn't take much exercise of the imagination for readers to realize that in the homes, commerce and industry, worldwide, we all owe Edison much for his contribution to the improvement of our daily existence.


Every year, the populace in the Ft. Myers, Fla. area, Edison's winter home, celebrate his birthday with a week-long program of arts and crafts shows, parades, musical events, band concerts, crowing a queen, luncheons, and all the rest. The event draws as many as 100,000 or more. The parade lasts two hours or more. The Ft. Myers News Press prints a special edition of over 100,000 copies.

Gordon, son of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Gair, former Fostorians, now living in Cape Coral, has directed the TV broadcast for the event over WINK TV, Ft. Myers, for the last several years. This year his marriage is taking place during the ceremonies, thus cancelling his participation in it.

A communication from Mrs. Harry (Georgianna) Gair, when this article was being prepared, revealed the data about the annual celebration and Edison's winter home. His home and laboratory are open daily to visitors. The gardens are full of trees and plants he brought from all over the world. The swimming pool was one of the first in that area.

Henry Ford, one of Edison's close friends, enjoyed his visits to Edison's home so much that he had one built across the street from it.


Few readers may realize that the St. Paul's Methodist Episcopal Church in Tiffin has an ornate chandelier in their sanctuary, donated by Edison in 1885, on the church's completion, because it was the first public edifice in Ohio lighted electrically. In the fixture are 60 eletric bulbs, one of Edison's inventions.

Many of Edison's important inventions were made in a very simple laboratory in Menlo Park, N.J. before Edison's death. Henry Ford, one of his close friends and fishing buddies, arranged to have the laboratory become a part of the Ford Museum in Detroit.

Edison assisted in the arranging of the equipment in the new location, to exactly duplicate the original setting in Menlo Park.

It was not until 1923, three years before his death, that Thomas Alva Edison was awarded the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal for his many contributions to science and mankind.

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