In 1885, one year after his first wife died, Edison met a 20 year old woman named Mina Miller. Her father was an inventor in Edisons home state of Ohio. Edison taught her Morse Code. Even when others were around, the couple could talk to each other secretly. One day he tapped a question into her hand would she marry him? She tapped back the word yes.Mina Edison wanted a home in the country, so Edison bought Glenmont, a 29 room home with 13 1 2 acres of land in West Orange, New Jersey. They married on February 24, 1886 and had three children Madeleine, Charles and Theodore.A year later, Edison built a laboratory in West Orange that was ten times larger than the one in Menlo Park. In fact, it was one of the largest laboratories in the world, almost as famous as Edison himself. Well into the night, laboratory buildings glowed with electric light while the Wizard and his muckers turned Edisons dreams into inventions. Once, the chief mucker worked for three days straight, taking only short naps. Edison earned half of his 1,093 patents in West Orange.
But Edison did more than invent. Here Edison could think of ways to make a better phonograph, for example, build it with his muckers, have them test it and make it work, then manufacture it in the factories that surrounded his laboratory. This improved phonograph could then be sold throughout the world.Not only did Edison improve the phonograph several times, but he also worked on X rays, storage batteries, and the first talking doll. At West Orange he also worked on one of his greatest ideas motion pictures, or movies. The inventions made here changed the way we live even today. He worked here until his death on October 18, 1931, at the age of 84.By that time, everyone had heard of the Wizard and looked up to him. The whole world called him a genius. But he knew that having a good idea was not enough. It takes hard work to make dreams into reality. That is why Edison liked to say, Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.
Edison was a poor student. When a schoolmaster called Edison addled, his furious mother took him out of the school and proceeded to teach him at home. Edison said many years later, My mother was the making of me. She was so true, so sure of me, and I felt I had some one to live for, some one I must not disappoint.At an early age, he showed a fascination for mechanical things and for chemical experiments.In 1859, Edison took a job selling newspapers and candy on the Grand Trunk Railroad to Detroit. In the baggage car, he set up a laboratory for his chemistry experiments and a printing press, where he started the Grand Trunk Herald, the first newspaper published on a train. An accidental fire forced him to stop his experiments on board.
Around the age of twelve, Edison lost almost all his hearing. There are several theories as to what caused his hearing loss. Some attribute it to the aftereffects of scarlet fever which he had as a child. Others blame it on a conductor boxing his ears after Edison caused a fire in the baggage car, an incident which Edison claimed never happened. Edison himself blamed it on an incident in which he was grabbed by his ears and lifted to a train. He did not let his disability discourage him, however, and often treated it as an asset, since it made it easier for him to concentrate on his experiments and research. Undoubtedly, though, his deafness made him more solitary and shy in dealings with others.
During the next period of his life, Edison became involved in multiple projects and partnerships dealing with the telegraph. In October 1869, Edison formed with Franklin L. Pope and James Ashley the organization Pope, Edison and Co. They advertised themselves as electrical engineers and constructors of electrical devices. Edison received several patents for improvements to the telegraph. The partnership merged with the Gold and Stock Telegraph Co. in 1870. Edison also established the Newark Telegraph Works in Newark, NJ, with William Unger to manufacture stock printers. He formed the American Telegraph Works to work on developing an automatic telegraph later in the year. In 1874 he began to work on a multiplex telegraphic system for Western Union, ultimately developing a quadruplex telegraph, which could send two messages simultaneously in both directions. When Edison sold his patent rights to the quadruplex to the rival Atlantic & Pacific Telegraph Co., a series of court battles followed in which Western Union won. Besides other telegraph inventions, he also developed an electric pen in 1875.His personal life during this period also brought much change. Edisons mother died in 1871, and later that year, he married a former employee, Mary Stilwell, on Christmas Day. While Edison clearly loved his wife, their relationship was fraught with difficulties, primarily his preoccupation with work and her constant illnesses. Edison would often sleep in the lab and spent much of his time with his male colleagues. Nevertheless, their first child, Marion, was born in February 1873, followed by a son, Thomas, Jr., born on January 1876. Edison nicknamed the two Dot and Dash, referring to telegraphic terms. A third child, William Leslie was born in October 1878.
Edison opened a new laboratory in Menlo Park, NJ, in 1876. This site later become known as an invention factory, since they worked on several different inventions at any given time there. Edison would conduct numerous experiments to find answers to problems. He said, I never quit until I get what Im after. Negative results are just what Im after. They are just as valuable to me as positive results. Edison liked to work long hours and expected much from his employees.In 1877, Edison worked on a telephone transmitter that greatly improved on Alexander Graham Bells work with the telephone. His transmitter made it possible for voices to be transmitted at higer volume and with greater clarity over standard telephone lines.Edisons experiments with the telephone and the telegraph led to his invention of the phonograph in 1877. It occurred to him that sound could be recorded as indentations on a rapidly moving piece of paper. He eventually formulated a machine with a tinfoil coated cylinder and a diaphragm and needle. When Edison spoke the words Mary had a little lamb into the mouthpiece, to his amazement the machine played the phrase back to him. The Edison Speaking Phonograph Company was established early in 1878 to market the machine, but the initial novelty value of the phonograph wore off, and Edison turned his attention elsewhere.Edison focused on the electric light system in 1878, setting aside the phonograph for almost a decade. With the backing of financiers, The Edison Electric Light Co. was formed on November 15 to carry out experiments with electric lights and to control any patents resulting from them. In return for handing over his patents to the company, Edison received a large share of stock. Work continued into 1879, as the lab attempted not only to devise an incandescent bulb, but an entire electrical lighting system that could be supported in a city. A filament of carbonized thread proved to be the key to a long lasting light bulb. Lamps were put in the laboratory, and many journeyed out to Menlo Park to see the new discovery. A special public exhibition at the lab was given for a multitude of amazed visitors on New Years Eve.Edison set up an electric light factory in East Newark in 1881, and then the following year moved his family and himself to New York and set up a laboratory there.
In order to prove its viability, the first commercial electric light system was installed on Pearl Street in the financial district of Lower Manhattan in 1882, bordering City Hall and two newspapers. Initially, only four hundred lamps were lit, a year later, there were 513 customers using 10,300 lamps. Edison formed several companies to manufacture and operate the apparatus needed for the electrical lighting system the Edison Electric Illuminating Company of New York, the Edison Machine Works, the Edison Electric Tube Company, and the Edison Lamp Works. This lighting system was also taken abroad to the Paris Lighting Exposition in 1881, the Crystal Palace in London in 1882, the coronation of the czar in Moscow, and led to the establishment of companies in several European countries.The success of Edisons lighting system could not deter his competitors from developing their own, different methods. One result was a battle between the proponents of DC current, led by Edison, and AC current, led by George Westinghouse. Both sides attacked the limitations of each system. Edison, in particular, pointed to the use of AC current for electrocution as proof of its danger. DC current could not travel over as long a system as AC, but the AC generators were not as efficient as the ones for DC. By 1889, the invention of a device that combined an AC induction motor with a DC dynamo offered the best performance of all, and AC current became dominant. The Edison General Electric Co. merged with Thomson Houston in 1892 to become General Electric Co., effectively removing Edison further from the electrical field of business.
The phonograph was initially marketed as a business dictation machine. Entrepreneur Jesse H. Lippincott acquired control of most of the phonograph companies, including Edisons, and set up the North American Phonograph Co. in 1888. The business did not prove profitable, and when Lippincott fell ill, Edison took over the management. In 1894, the North American Phonograph Co. went into bankruptcy, a move which allowed Edison to buy back the rights to his invention. In 1896, Edison started the National Phonograph Co. with the intent of making phonographs for home amusement. Over the years, Edison made improvements to the phonograph and to the cylinders which were played on them, the early ones being made of wax. Edison introduced an unbreakable cylinder record, named the Blue Amberol, at roughly the same time he entered the disc phonograph market in 1912. The introduction of an Edison disc was in reaction to the overwhelming popularity of discs on the market in contrast to cylinders. Touted as being superior to the competitions records, the Edison discs were designed to be played only on Edison phonographs, and were cut laterally as opposed to vertically. The success of the Edison phonograph business, though, was always hampered by the companys reputation of choosing lower quality recording acts. In the 1920s, competition from radio caused business to sour, and the Edison disc business ceased production in 1929.
Edison also became involved in promoting the use of cement and formed the Edison Portland Cement Co. in 1899. He tried to promote widespread use of cement for the construction of low cost homes and envisioned alternative uses for concrete in the manufacture of phonographs, furniture, refrigerators, and pianos. Unfortunately, Edison was ahead of his time with these ideas, as widespread use of concrete proved economically unfeasible at that time.