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The Papers of Thomas A. Edison

Menlo Park: The Early Years, April 1876-December 1877

edited by Robert A. Rosenberg, Paul B. Israel, Keith A. Nier, and Melodie Andrews

Publication Year: 1995

The third volume of this widely acclaimed series reveals the breath-taking intensity, intellectual acumen, and vast self-confidence of twenty-nine-year-old Thomas Edison. In the depths of the 1870s depression, he moved his independent research and development laboratory from industrial Newark to pastoral Menlo Park, some fifteen miles to the south on the main line of the railroad from New York to Philadelphia. There, equipped with resources for experimental development that were extraordinary for their time, Edison and a few close associates began twenty months of research that expanded their well-established accomplishments in telegraphy into pioneering work on the telephone. Edison's ideas and techniques from telegraph message recording and the telephone next led to his invention of the phonograph, the first patent for which was filed in December 1877. This invention ultimately gave Edison a world-wide reputation—and the nickname "the wizard of Menlo Park."

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Series: The Papers of Thomas A. Edison


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p. C-C

Title Page, Frontispiece, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-x


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pp. xi-xii

Calendar of Documents

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pp. xiii-xxiv

List of Editorial Headnotes

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pp. xxv-xxvi

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pp. xxvii-xxx

When Thomas Edison moved his family, a few co-workers, and his laboratory equipment from Newark to Menlo Park at the end of March 1876, he traded a city bustling with manufacturing activity and skilled workers for a railroad stop in pastoral New Jersey. Yet for all his apparent isolation at Menlo...

Chronology of Thomas A. Edison, April 1876–December 1877

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pp. xxxi-xxxvii

Editorial Policy

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pp. xxxviii-xxxix

Editorial Symbols

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p. xl-xl

List of Abbreviations

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pp. xli-2

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1 April–June 1876: (Docs. 738–757)

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pp. 3-58

As a result of a lawsuit brought by a former Newark landlord, Edison had decided in late 1875 to purchase land and build his own laboratory.1 He bought land and a house in Menlo Park, a whistlestop on the New York-Philadelphia line, and built a laboratory during the winter of 1876.2 Edison and a...

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2 July–September 1876: (Docs. 758–797)

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pp. 59-146

Edison spent the summer of 1876 working hard in his new laboratory. His principal concerns were his acoustic transfer telegraph system and experiments with his electromotograph. Spurred by Alexander Graham Bell's epochal demonstration at the Centennial Exhibition, Edison also undertook new...

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3 October–December 1876: (Docs. 798–833)

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pp. 147-200

During the early fall of 1876 Edison and his staff concentrated their efforts on practical tests of acoustic transfer technology. They demonstrated the system to Western Union and at the end of December Edison began negotiating a new financial arrangement with Western Union on the strength of his...

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4 January–March 1877: (Docs. 834–879)

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pp. 201-286

Edison began the new year with three extensive series of chemical experiments. The first grew out of new etheric force experiments involving an electrochemical cell. As Edison substituted various solutions in the cell he investigated in turn the effect on the etheric spark, the polarization of the electrodes,...

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5 April–June 1877: (Docs. 880–951)

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pp. 287-410

Edison and the laboratory staff—minus machinist Charles Wurth, who left in April1—worked intensively on two projects under his new contract with Western Union—telephone technology and his sextuplex system of multiple telegraphy. By the end of June, Edison had a musical telephone...

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6 July–September 1877: (Docs. 952–1075)

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pp. 411-581

The largest part of Edison's summer was devoted to the telephone. With Bell's telephone showing increasing commercial promise in Boston, Western Union became more concerned about establishing a foothold in the market. Although the company was also supporting Edison's work on his embossing...

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7 October–December 1877: (Docs. 1076–1163)

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pp. 582-690

Edison and his staff worked intensely to improve his commercial telephone in the last quarter of 1877. They spent hundreds of hours in the laboratory, redesigning the instruments they had and creating new ones, and they frequently traveled to lower Manhattan to test their telephones on working...

Appendix 1. Edison's Autobiographical Notes

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pp. 691-697

Appendix 2. Charles Batchelor's Recollections of Edison

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pp. 698-701

Appendix 3. Edison's U.S. Patents, April 1876–December 1877

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pp. 702-704


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pp. 705-710


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pp. 711-712


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pp. 713-727

E-ISBN-13: 9781421412887
E-ISBN-10: 1421412888
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801831027
Print-ISBN-10: 0801831024

Page Count: 776
Publication Year: 1995

Series Title: The Papers of Thomas A. Edison
Published in cooperation with Rutgers University's Thomas A. Edison Papers project, the fifteen volumes of The Papers of Thomas A. Edison are intended to allow readers from all walks of life to rediscover Edison, his career, his work habits, his creative strategies, and even the processes of invention and innovation he experienced. The transcriptions, explanatory annotations, chapter headnotes, and detailed indexes are designed as much to satisfy the most demanding scholarly inquiries as to offer new opportunities for lifelong learning. Six of the anticipated fifteen volumes have been published. Volume 7 is scheduled for publication in Fall 2015.