Metuchen Edison History

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Thomas Alva Edison
in Menlo Park, New Jersey

Thomas Edison in 1878

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Thomas Edison, the "Wizard of Menlo Park", lived and worked at Menlo Park from early 1876 until early 1881. Those five years had a profound impact on the world. Other web sites describe the creative genius of Edison and his team of inventors. This site will try to focus on Menlo Park -- what it looked like back then, when Edison's father Samuel selected it as the place to build one of the most famous laboratories in history.

Virtual Tour: Menlo Park Now and Then

PhotosTAE AdsMaps


Paul Israel's book, Edison - A Life of Invention (Copyright 1998, published by John Wiley & Sons), discusses the move to Menlo Park (page 118):

...Edison put his experimental work into hiatus as he prepared to move his family and his laboratory to Menlo Park, New Jersey.

Edison later claimed that he decided to abandon Newark because of a lawsuit brought by Thomas Slaight, the padlock manufacturer who owned the building where he had established a small shop with Joseph Murray in February 1872. According to Edison, a Newark law "made a monthly renter liable for a year" and this "seemed so unjust that I determined to get out of the place that permitted such an injustice". Most likely, Edison simply wanted to build the kind of laboratory that he had begun working toward ever since his return from England and he found Newark too costly. In December 1875 he had sent his father to investigate possible sites, and at the end of the month he purchased two tracts of land and a house in Menlo Park. A mere whistlestop located twelve miles south of Newark on the railroad line to Philadelphia, Menlo Park had been part of a failed real estate development and Edison was able to purchase this property for $5,200. As the new year opened, he set his father to work erecting the new laboratory, which cost over $2,500 and was completed by March 25. A few days later, Edison moved into the new laboratory where he would not only produce some of his most famous inventions, but also create a new model for invention that became the cornerstone of modern industrial research.

Alvin D Caskey, Edison experimenter - Some hand written instructions from Edison

Menlo Park - then and now - Maps and photos

Local references:

Selected quotes from the following books give us some insight into life in Menlo Park during Edison's stay.

Paul Israel, Edison - A Life of Invention

Neil Baldwin, Edison - Inventing the Century

Francis Jehl, Menlo Park Reminiscences

More to come...

Book on line: Edison - His Life and Inventions

The Brunswick Maine - Menlo Park connection

Carman / Campbell families- early area residents work with Edison at the Menlo Park lab

Boyhood Days in Old Metuchen

David Trumbull Marshall wrote a book entitled "Recollections of Boyhood Days in Old Metuchen", published by The Case Publishing Co., Flushing, New York, Copyright 1930 (Second Edition). Mr. Marshall was born on November 27, 1865, and grew up in Metuchen when it was the central village in Raritan Township. Another part of the township, a few miles from the village, was Menlo Park.

Menlo Park was home to the Thomas Edison laboratory beginning in 1876, and it figures prominently in the recollections of David Marshall, who was a visitor to the lab as a child, and later an employee of Thomas Edison.

Here are the links to the Marshall book mentioning Thomas Edison, his lab, or his other enterprises:

Boyhood Days in Old Metuchen Title page and Index
The Clarkson House
The Edison Phonograph
Edison Electric Railroad
A Fete Champetre
Edison Incandescent Light
Edison Lamp Works
Bogen Wouldn't Give Edison A Fish Hook
Mr. Kramer Sees Edison
Edison Works Long Hours
An Excursion to Mine Gully
Menlo Park, New Jersey
The Metuchen Literary Society

Links to other Thomas Alva Edison web sites

Edison Muckers blog

Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village

Thomas A Edison National Historic Site

Rutgers University Thomas A Edison Papers Project


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Last updated 2/02/2010 by Jim Halpin

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