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Thomas Alva Edison

Thomas Alva Edison [1847-1931] tinted studio portrait          short profile

direct current
incandescent lightbulb
motion pictures
the phonograph

works about Thomas Edison
books by Thomas Edison
plays, movies, other media

family & friends


"Edison is the new Gutenberg. He has invented the new printing."
Vachel Lindsay [1879-1931], in 1915

"Genius is one percent inspiration, and ninety-nine percent perspiration."

"To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk."

"I always invented to obtain money to go on inventing."

signature of Thomas A. Edison

          B I O
          t e x t
          h e r e

the Wizard of Menlo Park

Thomas Edison was a rather unscrupulous businessman. He refused to keep his word with Nikola Tesla, who quit his job at Edison's labs in 1885; their grudges made the AC/DC rivalry of the 1890s bitter on both sides. Edison also pirated movies from Europe, including "A Trip To The Moon" [1902] by Georges Méliès, for distribution in the Unites States.

Thomas Edison entry at Wikipedia
Thomas Edison credits [1895-1922] at Internet Movie Database

A  Brief  Timeline  of  Edison's  Life  &  Work

  • 1847 Feb 11: Thomas Alva Edison was born in Milan, Ohio, USA

  • Edison lived and worked at Menlo Park, New Jersey from early 1876 until early 1881
    • 1876 Aug 8: Edison received a patent for his mimeograph duplicator.
    • 1877 Nov 21: Edison announced that he had invented the phonograph.
    • 1878 Feb 19: Edison received a patent for his phonograph.
    • 1879 Oct 21: Edison perfected a workable electric light at his laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey.
    • 1879 Dec 20: Edison privately demonstrated the incandescent electric light at Menlo Park, New Jersey.
    • 1879 Dec 31: First public demonstration of Edison's incandescent light at Menlo Park, New Jersey.
    • 1880 Jan 27: Edison received a patent for his electric incandescent lamp.
    • 1882 Sept 4: Edison's Pearl Street Power Station in Manhattan, New York City went online as the first electrical power plant in the world (the station burned down in 1890).

  • 1884: Edison hired immigrant electrical genius Nikola Tesla [1856-1943] to work on improvement of dynamos at Edison's lab/factory
    in New Jersey; Tesla resigned in 1885 because Edison reneged on promises of payment.
  • 1888: George Westinghouse purchased the patents for alternating current {AC} from Nikola Tesla; Edison fought against AC ruthlessly,
    the very public battle is known as 'The War of The Currents'.
  • 1891 Aug 24: Edison filed patents for the Kinetograph 35mm camera & the Kinetoscope viewer.    
  • 1893 Feb 1: Edison completed work on the world's first motion picture studio in West Orange, New Jersey.
  • 1893 May 9: First public demonstration of Edison's Kinetoscope in Brooklyn, New York.
  • 1896 April 23: First public demonstration of Edison's Vitascope movie projection system at Koster and Bial's Music Hall in New York City.    
  • 1902: Edison made pirated prints of the silent short film "A Trip To The Moon" and distributed them across the U.S before French cinema
    pioneer Georges Méliès
    could do so, effectively stealing the U.S. box office revenue for what is considered Méliès's sci-fi masterpiece.
  • 1910 Aug 26: First demonstration of Edison's improved Kinetophone device for showing a movie with synchronous sound.

  • 1931 Oct 18: Thomas Alva Edison died in West Orange, New Jersey, USA

     Incandescent  Lightbulb     

Incandescent Light Bulb entry at Wikipedia
Museum of Electric Lamp Technology [est. 2002]

Evolution of The Electric Incandescent Lamp 1889 book by Frank L. Pope  
"Evolution of The Electric Incandescent Lamp" [H. Cook 1889]
by Frank L. Pope

Read Books 8½x5¾ pb [4/2009] for $26.99
Kessinger Publng 9x6 pb [2/2008] for $15.56
Brilliant, Evolution of Artificial Light book by Jane Brox  "Brilliant: The Evolution of Artificial Light" [2010]
by Jane Brox

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 8½x5½ hardcover [7/2010] for $15.00

Motion  Pictures
Edison Manufacturing Co. [1889-1911] entry at Wikipedia
successor company Thomas A. Edison, Inc. [1911-57] entry at Wikipedia
credits at IMDb for Edison Manufacturing Company {2600+ films from 1890 to 1922}

Before The Nickelodeon / Edwin S. Porter  "Before The Nickelodeon: Edwin S. Porter & The Edison Manufacturing Company" [1991] by Charles Musser
Univ CA Press 9¼x6 pb [6/91] out of print/used
Univ CA Press 9¾x6¾ hardcover [6/91] out of print/used
Landmarks of Early Film vol 2  "Landmarks of Early Film" Volume 1 [1994]
Image Ent b&w DVD [7/98] for $26.99
includes Edison Kinetoscope films (1894-96), films by the brothers Lumière (1895-97), films by French special effects pioneer Georges Méliès, documentary 'actualities' (1897-1910), and selected short films from 1903 to 1913
Thomas A. Edison & His Kinetographic Motion Pictures  "Thomas A. Edison and His Kinetographic Motion Pictures" [1995]
by Charles Musser

Rutgers Univ Press 9½x9 pb [9/95] out of print
Edison / Movies  "Edison: The Invention of The Movies, 1891-1918" [2005]
by Kino Video & M.O.M.A.

Kino Video color/b&w DVD [2/2005] 4 disks for $89.99
full credits at IMDb
Early Films by Thomas Alva Edison on DVD, Volume 1  
Early Films by Thomas Alva Edison on DVD, Volume 2  
"History of Motion Pictures: Early Films by Thomas Alva Edison" [2006]
A2ZCDs b&w DVD set [11/2006] 11 disks for $159.65
bundle contains individual sets or disks as below:
"Early Films by Thomas Alva Edison, Volume 1: 1891-98" [2-disk set]
130+ stunning news snippets, war footage and vintage silent comedies
A2ZCDs b&w DVD [10/2005] 2 disks for $19.95
"Early Films by Thomas Alva Edison, Volume 2: 1899" [39 short films]
A2ZCDs b&w DVD [10/2005] for $14.95
"Early Films by Thomas Alva Edison, Volume 3: 1900" [2-disk set, 70 short films]
A2ZCDs b&w DVD [10/2005] 2 disks for $19.95
"Early Films by Thomas Alva Edison, Volume 4: 1901-02" [2-disk set, 60 films]
A2ZCDs b&w DVD [10/2005] 2 disks for $19.95
"Early Films by Thomas Alva Edison, Volume 5: 1903-04 [2-disk set, 50 short films]
A2ZCDs b&w DVD [10/2005] 2 disks for $19.95
"Early Films by Thomas Alva Edison, Volume 6: 1905-17" [19 short films]
A2ZCDs b&w DVD [10/2005] for $14.95
"Early Films by Thomas Alva Edison, Volume 7: 1918-26"
A2ZCDs b&w DVD [10/2005] for $14.95
Hollywood's Copyright Wars book by Peter Decherney  
"Hollywood's Copyright Wars: From Edison To The Internet" [2012]
by Peter Decherney

Kindle Edition from Columbia Univ Press [4/2012] for $16.99
Columbia Univ Press 9x6¼ hardcover [4/2012] for $34.50
·            ·

Edison's "Monkeyshines" experimental clips [1889]
The first experiments making true motion pictures on film took place in 1889 at Edison's lab in New Jersey, under the supervision of inventor William K. Dickson. Edison told the actors to dance around and gesture wildly, and he called the results 'monkeyshines'. Two of these clips still exist; three are listed on IMDb • watch "Monkeyshines" clips [1:10] at YouTube
bare info at IMDB: clip #1clip #2clip #3

watch short film "The Very First Motion Picture" (1889)" by Kerry Decker [3:30] online at YouTube

Edison's "Dickson Greeting" experimental clip [1891]
Two years later, Edison's first public display of a motion picture showed employee Dickson moving his straw hat from his right to his left hand;
the 3-second clip is repeated for a full minute on the YouTube video • watch repetitive clip [11/2011 upload; 1:04] on YouTube

"A Trip Around The Pan-American Exposition" silent short [Edison Mfg. June 1901]
Filmed at the Expo in Buffalo, New York; chartered electric launch speeds along the Grand Canal circling the buildings and bridges representing Venice, Italy.
bare credits at IMDb • watch movie online at YouTube: part 1 [4:00] + part 2 [3:56 + part 3 [3:38]

Edison's "Jack and The Beanstalk" [1902 silent]
watch [10:00] free online at Internet Archive

"The  Great  Train  Robbery"
[Edison Mfg. Dec 1903]
tradepapers ad for 1903 "The Great Train Robbery" silent short directed by Edwin S. Porter, starring Gilbert M. 'Broncho Billy' Anderson  The first movie with a plotted storyline was a Western!
11-minute silent short co-written & directed by Edwin S. Porter; starring Gilbert M. 'Broncho Billy' Anderson; listed in National Film Registry 1990 • credits from IMDb
V.C.I. 100th Anniversary b&w DVD [12/2003] for $17.99
includes "Tumbleweeds" [1925 silent] with William S. Hart [1864-1946]; "The Battle of Elderbush Gulch" [1913 silent] by D.W. Griffith [1875-1948]; "The Heart of Texas Ryan" [1917 silent] with Tom Mix [1880-1940], plus extras

watch "The Great Train Robbery" [11:45] free online at Internet Archive

Edison's "A Trip To Mars" silent short film [Feb 1910]
Edison's 1910 'A Trip To Mars'  A chemist discovers anti-gravity and sends himself flying to Mars,
where he meets giants, then sends himself back to Earth

5-minute silent short directed by Ashley Miller • full credits at IMDb
watch complete short [3/2011 upload; 5:06] online at YouTube

Edison's "Frankenstein" silent one-reeler [March 1910]
main title card for Edison's silent 1910 'Frankenstein'  cover of 'The Edison Kinetogram' film release catalog for May 1910  Longtime much-wanted 'lost film', until an original nitrate print was discovered in Wisconsin in the 1970s. This very first cinema version of "Frankenstein" had the monster 'created' - in a vat, by burning a dummy and reversing the footage - instead of the later method of cobbling together body parts; the story also has a different ending {no spoilers here!}. Adapted & directed by J. Searle Dowley; starring Augustus Phillips, Mary Fuller, Charles Ogle
full credits at IMDbmovie entry at Wikipedia
watch [12:41] free online at Internet Archive

"Treasure Island" 1-reel silent short [Edison Company May 1912]
Directed by J. Searle Dawley; starring Addison Rothermel, Ben F. Wilson, Charles Ogle, Mary Fuller, Laura Sawyer,
Richard Neill, James Gordon, Charles Sutton, William R. Randall • DVD/Blu-ray not available • credits at IMDb

"Children Who Labor"  [Edison/General Feb 1912]
13-minute short directed by Ashley Miller; written by Ethel Browning; starring Herbert Yost, Mary Fuller,
Edna May Weick; film is preserved at MoMA-NY • full credits at IMDb
available on the "More Treasures From American Film Archives" DVD box set [2004]
watch movie [13:10] online at Internet Archive

"The Patchwork Girl of Oz" [1914] /title/tt0004457/


Direct  Current  Electricity
'War of The Currents' entry at Wikipedia
Nikola Tesla [1856-1943] Pages at Maison d'Être Philosophy Bookstore
Spirit of America Bookstore's George Westinghouse, Jr. [1846-1914] Page

Spirit of America Bookstore's 'AC-DC War of The Currents' Page  9/2016

The  Phonograph

Phonograph {Gramophone, Record Player} entry at Wikipedia
Edison's National Phonograph Company was incorporated in January 1896 and merged into Thomas A. Edison, Inc. in 1911.
successor company Thomas A. Edison, Inc. [1911-57] entry at Wikipedia

History of Sound Recording audio CD of 38 historical recordings  "About A Hundred Years: A History of Sound Recording"
audio CD [1997]

Symposium audio CD [12/97] 38 tracks for $19.98
The 38 historical sound recordings on this CD include Thomas Edison's recital of 'Mary Had A Little Lamb' [1877], plus recordings of Sarah Bernhardt, Enrico Caruso, Winston Churchill, Arthur Conan Doyle, Mohandas K. Gandhi, W.C. Handy, ragtime composer Scott Joplin, Vladimir Ilich Lenin, Paul Robeson, John Philip Sousa, and Leo Tolstoy

Stageplays,  Movies & TV,  Other Media

"A Day With Thomas A. Edison" silent short [1922] /tt0335032/

"Servant of Mankind" 9-minute biopic [1940] /tt0168161/

"Young Tom Edison" [1940] /tt0033289/ starring Mickey Rooney

"Edison, The Man" [M.G.M. May 1940]
Edison, The Man 1940 movie starring Spencer Tracy  The 82-year-old inventor recalls in flashback his life, from his invention at 22 of a stock market ticker • Directed by Clarence Brown; starring Spencer Tracy, Rita Johnson, Lynne Overman, Charles Coburn, Gene Lockhart & Henry Travers; Oscar nomination for Best Original Story
Warner Bros. b&w DVD [6/2009] for $26.99
M.G.M./Warner Bros. b&w VHS [9/98] out of prodn/used
11"x17" poster from Amazon for $14.99
full credits at IMDbmovie entry at Wikipedia
Dead At The Box Office mystery novel by John Dandola  "Dead At The Box Office" [1990] by John Dandola
M.G.M. decides to reap free publicity by premiering the 1940 Spencer Tracy movie "Edison, The Man" in Thomas Edison's hometown of West Orange, New Jersey. Studio publicity girl Edie Koslow is already juggling the press, the personalities of the stars, and interference by the locals when several murders the week before the premiere threaten the festivities and her job – and her life.
Quincannon Publng Group pb [5/2001] out of print/used
Quincannon Publng Group 7¾x5¼ pb [5/93] out of print/used
book available at author's website
previously published as "West of Orange" [1990]
Tory Corner Editions mass pb [1990] out of print/used

"Edison's Miracle of Light" [10/1954] /tt0812971/ live episode of "You Are There" TV series

"The Man Called Edison" docu [1970]
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3vQtpcQtRbs [26:12]

"Edison's Miracle of Light" [10/1995] /tt0760518/ episode of The American Experience
P.B.S. Thomas Alva Edison bio

"Biography: Thomas Edison - Father of Invention" [History Channel 8/1996] /tt0401146/

"Edison Tech" DVD [History Channel 2005] /tt1061519/

Voices of History from the British Library  "Voices of History, Volume 2: Arts, Science & Exploration" [2006]
British Library Sound Archive audio CD [1/2006] 2 disks for $41.49
38 tracks mostly from very early in the XXth Century on 2 disks, including the voices of P.T. Barnum, Sarah Bernhardt, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Thomas Alva Edison (speech "Electricity and Progress"), Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Charles Lindbergh, Guglielmo Marconi, Robert Edwin Peary, Alice Ellen Terry & Leo Tolstoy

Works  About  Thomas  Alva  Edison

Life & Inventions of Thomas Alva Edision book by William Kennedy-Laurie Dickson  "The Life and Inventions of Thomas Alva Edision" [1894]
by William Kennedy-Laurie Dickson, Edison's chief assistant

Nabu Press 9¾x7½ facsimile pb [3/2010] for $25.65

"Thomas Alva Edison: King of The Inventors" by David C. King 1-878668-55-2

"Inventing The Future: A Photobiography of Thomas Alva Edison" [] by Marfé Ferguson Delano

http://www.amazon.com/Edison-His-Life-Inventions-ebook/dp/B002BDUBRQ/ [2009]
http://www.amazon.com/Life-Inventions-Thomas-Alva-Edison/dp/110431343X/ orig 1894
http://www.amazon.com/Story-Thomas-Alva-Edison-Inventor/dp/1439526923/ [2008]
http://www.amazon.com/Story-Thomas-Edison-Landmark-Books/dp/1442006501/ [2009]
http://www.amazon.com/Who-Was-Thomas-Alva-Edison/dp/1424221455/ [2008]
http://www.amazon.com/Wizard-Menlo-Park-Thomas-Invented/dp/1400047633/ [2008]
http://www.amazon.com/Young-Thomas-Edison-Sterling-North/dp/0142412104/ [2009]
http://www.amazon.com/Thomas-Alva-Edison-Francis-Rolt-Wheeler/dp/1103696769/ [2009]
http://www.amazon.com/Thomas-Alva-Edison-Wizard-Menlo/dp/B001NMSH3G/ [2009]
http://www.amazon.com/Thomas-Edison-Biography-Jan-Adkins/dp/0756652073/ [2009]
http://www.amazon.com/Thomas-Edison-Francis-Arthur-Jones/dp/0217902839/ [2009]
http://www.amazon.com/Thomas-Edison-Groundbreakers-Brian-Williams/dp/1439546673/ [2008]
http://www.amazon.com/Thomas-Edison-Inventor-Inventors-Scientists/dp/0531222098/ [2009]
http://www.amazon.com/Thomas-Edison-Orange-Images-America/dp/0738557218/ [2008]
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0738505498 = Fort Myers

How Thomas Edison Changed Our Lives YA book by Gene Barretta  "Timeless Thomas: How Thomas Edison Changed Our Lives"
[age 6 & up; 2012] Written & illustrated by Gene Barretta

Kindle Edition from Henry Holt/Macmillan [1/2012] for $9.99
Henry Holt & Co. BYR 10¼x9½ hardcover [7/2012] for $11.55

Books  by  Thomas  Edison

"The 1930 American Scrapbook" [hardcover 1930]
by Thomas Alva Edison, illustrated with photos

"The Diary and Observations of Thomas Alva Edison" [1948, pb 1976]
edited by Dagobert D. Runes, illustrated with photos

"Phonographs and Gramophones" [pb 1977] by Thomas Alva Edison

"The Edison & Ford Quote Book" [hardcover 2003] by Thomas Alva Edison

Family  &  Friends

L i n k s
Thomas Edison entry at Wikipedia
Thomas Edison credits [1895-1922] at Internet Movie Database
Library of Congress Thomas Edison webpages
Inventing Entertainment: The Edison Companies
list of Edison's 1,093 patents

listed #9 on The Atlantic Monthly's Top 100 Most Influential Figures in American History [Dec 2006]
Edison National Historic Site in West Orange, New Jersey
Thomas Alva Edison in Menlo Park website
Edison Festival of Light [Feb 2009 = #71] in Fort Myers, Florida
Edison Memorial Tower [built 1938] & Menlo Park Museum in Edison, New Jersey
Edison Museum in Beaumont, Texas
'Edison Muckers' fansite of the Edison Innovation Foundation

browse DVDs

here on the Thomas Alva Edison [1847-1931] Page at Spirit of America Bookstore

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works about Thomas Edisonbooks by Thomas Edisonplays, movies, other mediafamily & friendslinks

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