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From Invention Factory to The Light Bulb with the Wizard of Menlo Park

Edison’s industrial research lab for constant technological innovation.

Inspiration from the Thomas Edison Center:

Menlo Park was a very sparsely populated rural area and the site of a failed residential development in the early 1870s. Edison purchased two parcels of land measuring approximately 34 acres in late 1875. Edison’s father built the main laboratory building. Edison also built other ancillary buildings including the glass house, a carpenters’ shop, a carbon shed, and a blacksmith shop. By the Spring of 1876, Edison moved his operations to Menlo Park.

Edison’s Menlo Park laboratory was the world’s first such research and development facility. While Edison was working on perfecting the telephone, he started experimenting with the idea of being able to record the sound of the human voice.

In November 1877, one of Edison’s first major inventions at Menlo Park was the phonograph, which was a basic machine that allowed a person to speak into a diaphragm that was attached to a pin that made indentations on a paper wrapped around wood. The first words Edison successfully recorded on the phonograph were “Mary had a Little Lamb”.

By 1878, this invention was known all around the world and Edison soon earned the title of “The Wizard of Menlo Park.”

Menlo Park was suddenly known worldwide and started attracting visitors to see demonstrations of the phonograph. In 1878 Edison coined the name “Invention Factory” for the Menlo Park site.

He quickly moved on to other inventions. His next big breakthrough came when he invented a bamboo filament to create a successful incandescent lightbulb. Other people had been working on the making of light bulbs in the past, but none of the earlier bulbs was ever able to work for more than a few minutes. On October 21, 1879, Edison’s light bulb burned for a continuous thirteen and a half hours. The following bulbs lasted for 40 hours and Edison and his team worked hard to light the laboratory and his home with several of the new light bulbs for Christmas. On New Year’s Eve of the same year, Christie Street became the world’s first street to be lit by incandescent light bulbs with the help of a power system designed by Edison.

Thomas Edison Center at Menlo Park

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