Sickly and hard of hearing, young Thomas Alva Edison was not much of a student and left school when he was just a teen. Despite this rocky beginning, Edison went on to become a highly successful inventor with hundreds of patents to his name. He is still the all-time record holder of U.S. patents with 1,093. The Edison National Historic Site is located in West Orange, New Jersey.

Edison National Historic Site
© National Park Service
Thomas Edison built the world's first private research and development lab
when he was 29. The lab was eventually moved to West Orange, New Jersey.

As a boy, Edison spent a lot of time in his "laboratory" in the basement of his home doing scientific experiments. At age 29, he built the world's first private research and development lab, which was later moved to West Orange, New Jersey. According to Edison, he stocked it with everything "from an elephant's hide to the eyeballs of a United States senator."

At this "invention factory," Edison and his workers cranked out the movie camera, an improved storage battery, the fluoroscope, and rubber from the goldenrod plant. Despite being deaf, Edison's favorite invention was the phonograph. In 1877, while working on a device for recording messages over the telephone, Edison was inspired to invent a talking machine. The world's first recorded words were "Mary had a little lamb."

Bringing an Old Idea to Light

Many people mistakenly think that Edison invented the light bulb. Actually, what he did was bring an old idea "to light."

For 50 years, scientists had been trying and failing to produce a reliable source of light by sending an electric current through a material inside a vacuum, causing it to glow. Scientists had been using a high current and low-resistance material. Edison discovered that highly resistant material would glow with a lower current and last longer. In 1879, he produced an incandescent lamp that burned for more than 13 hours, ushering in the age of electric light.

Edison National Historic Site Information

Address: Main Street and Lakeside Avenue
West Orange, NJ 07052
Telephone: 973/736-0550 or 973/324-9973
Hours of Operation: Friday through Sunday 12 noon - 5 p.m. year round
Admission: Adults $3; Under age 16 are Free

Learn more about these other national historic sites:

Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic SiteClara Barton National Historic Site
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Grant Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site
Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site
Pennsylvania Avenue National Historic Site
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Adams National Historic Site
Edgar Allen Poe National Historic SiteFort Raleigh National Historic SiteHampton National Historic SiteLincoln Home National Historic SitePuukohola Heiau National Historic SiteTheodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site
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Andrew Johnson National Historic Site Eisenhower National Historic Site Fort Smith National Historic Site Herbert Hoover National Historic Site Maggie L. Walker National Historic SiteSaint Paul's Church National Historic SiteThomas Stone National Historic Site
Boston African -American National Historic Site Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic SiteFort Vancouver National Historic SiteHome of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic SiteManzanar National Historic Site

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Gaudens National Historic Site

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Chicago Portage National Historic Site
Fort Davis National Historic SiteGloria Dei Church National Historic SiteJimmy Carter National Historic SiteNinety Six National Historic Site Springfield Armory National Historic SiteWilliam Howard Taft National Historic Site
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Eric Peterson is a Denver-based author who has contributed to numerous guidebooks about the Western United States.