Visiting Edison’s Laboratory of Genius

When I was a small boy, one of the highlights of growing up was a club my dad started with some of my friends. The club met on  Saturdays, and each week a different dad took us out and showed us something…manly. Once we shot rifles at cans; another time we took a steam train in Pennsylvania…but one of the times I remember best was visiting Thomas Edison’s National Historical Park in West Orange.

Edison has always fascinated me…the way he burned through 900 different materials before he discovered the perfect filiment that would allow an electric light bulb to shine. That he never, ever gave up, and was famous for his quote about 99% perspiration and 1% innovation. The author added some details about Edison that gave him a bit more humanity.  The inventor placed phonographs around the factory buildings to let his workers enjoy musical breaks and lunch time dancing.

Though partially deaf, Edison regularly auditioned new artists, listening through a velvet-padded ear trumpet. His musical decisions were law, even if the artists didn’t always go on to great fame.

“Edison’s world ran on tooled gears, tanned leather, rubber, tar paper and shelves of chemicals in hand-labeled bottles with ground glass stoppers. Machinery in motion really moved-flywheels spinning, pistons snorting, belts running from driveshafts–while smoke, tallow and machine oil lent their pungent smells to the air.”