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What was Menlo Park?

Thomas Edison's Invention Factory

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Edison's home, Menlo Park, New Jersey

Edison's complex at Menlo Park, showing house, laboratory, office and machine shop.

sketch by Theo. R. Davis
Thomas Edison was a prolific inventor. He was also behind the formation of the first industrial research laboratory, Menlo Park, a place where a team of inventors would work together to create new inventions.

Menlo Park, New Jersey

Edison opened a research laboratory in Menlo Park, NJ, in 1876. This site later become known as an "invention factory," since Edison and his employees worked on several different inventions at any given time there. It was there that Thomas Edison invented the phonograph, his first commercially successful invention. The New Jersey Menlo Park laboratory was closed in 1882, when Edison moved into his new larger laboratory in West Orange, New Jersey.

Images of Menlo Park

The Wizard of Menlo Park

Thomas Edison was nicknamed "The Wizard of Menlo Park" by a newspaper reporter after his invention of the phonograph while at Menlo Park. Other important achievements and inventions that Edison created at Menlo Park included:
  • a carbon button transmitter (aka microphone) and the induction coil that greatly improved the telephone
  • an improved bulb filament and successful incandescent lightbulb
  • the first underground electrical system
  • a prototype electric railway was constructed at Menlo Park
  • the founding of the Edison Electric Light Company
  • Christie Street in Menlo Park became the world's first street to be lit by incandescent lightbulbs
  • In fact, Menlo Park became a tourist attraction because of the novelty of lighting
  • Edison applied for over 400 patents for inventions made at Menlo Park

Menlo Park - The Land

Menlo Park was part of rural Raritan Township in New Jersey. Edison bought 34 acres of land there in late 1875. The office of a former real estate company, at the corner of Lincoln Highway and Christie Street, became Edison's home. Edison's father built the main laboratory building on the block south of Christie Street between Middlesex and Woodbridge Avenues. Also built was the glass house, a carpenters' shop, a carbon shed, and a blacksmith shop. By the Spring of 1876, Edison moved his full operations to Menlo Park.
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