Edison in Newark
EARLIER this week I chanced across the Edison National Historic Site, which site includes "the Edison Mental Fitness Test", which I have not (yet) taken) in looking for an oriental market in West Orange that a friend had told me about. I was looking for a place to turn around after I drove a bit too far, and saw a sign for the Site pointing straight ahead. A few blocks later, literally on Main Street, I found the complex that Edison worked at for 44 years! It's only about 4 miles from my house. Here's a historic foto reproduced on a poster at the parking lot:
And here's what it looks like from across the street, in person, today:
Shouldn't they cut those trees down?
Right at the roadside is a 1954 replica of "Black Maria" (pronounced Mariah), the world's first movie studio. As you can see from the man walking by, below, it's really small, nothing like the studios my sisters in L.A. County have worked in as extras.
I knew Edison worked in Menlo Park, which is now part of Edison Township (Middlesex County), but either did not know he had a major complex in West Orange (my county, Essex) or had forgotten that. In researching this on the Internet, to find out where he worked first, I discovered that Edison first set up shop in Newark!
Paul Israel's book, Edison - A Life of Invention (Copyright 1998, published by John Wiley & Sons), discusses the move to Menlo Park (page 118):And:...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.
at about the age of twenty-two, Edison's inventions had brought him a relatively large sum of money, and he became a very busy manufacturer, and lessee of a large shop in Newark, New Jersey.So his first NJ laboratory/workshop was in Newark. Then he moved to Menlo Park, where he could escape the bustle of Newark(!), then to West Orange, where this street sign appears:
Now, for the first time since leaving that boyish laboratory in the old home at Port Huron [Michigan], Edison had a place of his own to work in, to think in; but no one in any way acquainted with Newark as a swarming centre of miscellaneous and multitudinous industries would recommend it as a cloistered retreat for brooding reverie and introspection, favorable to creative effort. Some people revel in surroundings of hustle and bustle, and find therein no hindrance to great accomplishment. The electrical genius of Newark is Edward Weston, who has thriven amid its turmoil and there has developed his beautiful instruments of precision; just as Brush worked out his arc-lighting system in Cleveland; or even as Faraday, surrounded by the din and roar of London, laid the intellectual foundations of the whole modern science of dynamic electricity. But Edison, though deaf, could not make too hurried a retreat from Newark to Menlo Park, where, as if to justify his change of base, vital inventions soon came thick and fast, year after year.