"Alternating current." This type of electrical power
system, attributed to George Westinghouse, had the power to transmit voltages
of up to 1000V. The key to this power was the transformer, which
reduced high voltages to safe levels. AC power became a serious
competitor with Edison's DC power because it could transmit over
greater distances at lower costs, although detractors claimed it
"Direct current." This was Edison's preferred form
of electrical power system. Though it could only transmit voltages
up to 240V, it had many advantages in the battle for electrical dominance.
Edison's generators were more advanced and his systems could transmit
power as well as electricity.
This New York City telegraph company provided the young Edison
with his first jobs and invention contracts. Their primary customer
was the Stock Exchange. In 1870 they commissioned Edison to create
a printer and a telegraph, facsimiles of the most advanced types,
Edison invented this technology for viewing projection
films in 1891. Though he could have used it as a projection device,
he decided that he could make more money using it as a peepshow device.
Hence, the Nickelodeon, built for one person to view a film at
Edison's first research laboratory was established
in Menlo Park, New Jersey in 1876. Edison's most creative and successful
period as an inventor was spent here. The laboratory itself, with
its emphasis on a loose hierarchy, cooperation, innovation and teamwork,
became the model for many science and technology research laboratories
These individual viewing devices, powered by Edison's Kinetoscopes,
were incredibly popular with urban audiences in the 1890s. For
twenty-five cents admission, customers entered parlors of the machines
and passed along them, viewing short films.
This is widely considered as Edison's most disastrous
foray into industrial production. Throughout the 1880s and 1890s
he sunk the majority of his personal fortune into an elaborate
ore-milling production designed to transform the production of
iron and steel for furnaces. The process involved concentrating
magnetic iron ore, magnetite, into small briquettes.
Patents were an integral part of an inventor's life,
and Edison owned over 1,000 of them by the end of his life. They
were licenses given to an inventor by the federal government to
forbid others from copying or stealing the invention.
One of Edison's most famous inventions, although it
was not until another inventor threatened to bring it to market
that he paid attention to it seriously as a consumer product. Edison
and a team of researchers invented it at Menlo Park in November 1877,
partially using telephone technology.
One of Edison's later (pre-World War One) preoccupations
was the creation of a storage battery that would serve as a source
of power for consumers and businesses. Many inventors had unsuccessfully
attempted to create a safe, effective, commercially successful
storage battery for some fifty years before Edison took up the
challenge in the early 1900s. He joined their ranks, despite making
headway in the field.
The telegraph, first completed in 1837 by two Englishmen, transformed
communication in the United States during the first half of the
nineteenth century. (In fact, transcontinental telegraphy preceded
transcontinental railroads by seven years.) As a young man, Edison
was fascinated with both the telegraph and the life of a telegrapher,
and many of his first inventions revolve around the device.
Although the work for the telephone belongs to several inventors,
the modern, practical telephone is generally credited to Alexander
Graham Bell, who patented his device in March 1876. Edison quickly
moved to improve upon Bell's invention.
Thomas Edison, Inc.
On March two, 1911, all of Edison's many companies
were incorporated into the greater body of Thomas Edison, Inc.
The move represents a greater move towards the philosophy of big business.
The second of Edison's great research facilities, established
in 1886 in West Orange, New Jersey. This laboratory was much larger
than the one at Menlo Park and less romantic, though Edison accomplished
much here, including work on the electric lighting system and the
phonograph and invention of the motion picture camera and the dictating
The major telegraphing company in America by the 1870s,
it bought Gold and Stock and multiple small telegraphing companies
in the late 1860s. Edison worked in many of their offices during