Thomas Edison: Inventor and Innovator

We just saw The Current War – a movie about Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse. It was interesting because we visited Thomas Edison National Historical Park in West Orange, New Jersey. There we learned a lot about Thomas Edison and his story.

We had always thought of Thomas Edison as the inventor of the incandescent light bulb, but he did much much more. In fact, he had over 1000 patents for things as varied as toasters and coffee makers, to the phonograph and movie cameras.

His first patent was 150 years ago, in 1869.

Thomas Edison’s Library

About Thomas Edison National Historical Park

Established in 1962, Thomas Edison National Historical Park preserves his estate and laboratory complex. The park service offers guided tours of his house (check for times) and you can do a self-guided tour of the laboratory and factory buildings.

They have a great display of his inventions. It is really amazing all of the things that he came up with. It is impossible to list all the different things he invented – there are so many unique items and such a diversity. Think cement, talking dolls, vote recorders… It is astounding to see all of the things that this man thought about and figured out how to make.

Think back to his time… there was no way to record and play back sound or pictures. Without his inventions, we might not be able to go to the theatre and see a movie about him!

One of his earliest inventions was the phonograph. A park ranger did a really interesting demonstration… showing an early model that you had to wind to play the sound and demonstrating the different styles and sizes of horns.

Horns of all sizes
Have you ever heard the term “put a sock in it”? The ranger told us this was how Edison had initially modulated the volume coming out of the horn.

There are park rangers stationed throughout the complex, doing demonstrations of some of his inventions and talking about his ideas. If you like movies, it is really interesting to go into the replica of his “Black Maria” – the first moving picture studio built in 1893 and designed so that it could rotate with the sun.

Black Maria

Plan to spend at least a couple hours or more visiting all the buildings. Thomas Edison National Historical Park is a great example of how diverse our National Park system is.


Need Help Planning Your Visits?

If you would like to explore this or other National Park Units, but need a bit help in the planning, please give us a call at (480) 609-3978. We are happy to offer customized trip planning.