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The Papers of Thomas A. Edison

The Wizard of Menlo Park, 1878

Thomas A. Edison edited by Paul B. Israel, Keith A. Nier, and Louis Carlat

Publication Year: 1998

This newest volume in the acclaimed Papers of Thomas A. Edison covers one year in the life of America's greatest inventor—1878. That year Edison, whom a New York newspaper in the spring first called "the Wizard of Menlo Park," developed the phonograph, one of his most famous inventions; made a breakthrough in the development of telephone transmitters, which made the instrument commercially viable; and announced the advent of domestic electric lighting, with only a few weeks' worth of tinkering necessary to complete its design (the announcement sent gas-company stocks plummeting; the research and development went on for four years). These inventions brought Edison financial support for his work and attention from the public. In January investors in the Edison Speaking Phonograph Company agreed to fund development work on the phonograph. The invention made Edison internationally famous and in May he traveled to Washington, D.C., to show the phonograph at the National Academy of Sciences, to Congress, and to President Rutherford B. Hayes at the White House. That same month Western Union agreed to pay Edison an annual salary of $6,000 for his telephone inventions, although other support from the company declined following the death of its president, William Orton. The stress of unceasing public attention, including a trans-Atlantic dispute over the question of who invented the microphone, led an exhausted Edison to travel west during the summer to witness a solar eclipse but also to seek rest. His six-week trip took him to San Francisco and the Yosemite region of California. Edison began working on electric lighting after his return and in October the Edison Electric Light Company was formed to support his research.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Series: The Papers of Thomas A. Edison


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p. C-C

Title Page, Frontispiece, Copytight, Dedication

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pp. i-x


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pp. xi-xii

Calendar of Documents

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pp. xiii-xxv

List of Editorial Headnotes

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p. xxvi-xxvi

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pp. xxvii-xxx

This volume chronicles one year, Thomas Edison's annus magus. In January 1878, Edison was an inventor famed in the powerful but limited financial and technical world surrounding the telegraph and telephone, supported largely by Western Union. As the winter wore on, the repercussions

Chronology of Thomas A. Edison, 1878

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pp. xxxi-xxxvi

Editorial Policy

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pp. xxxvii-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 January-February 1878: (Docs. 1164-1227)

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pp. 3-131

As the new year began, Edison was busy exhibiting and experimenting with the two inventions that had emerged from the Menlo Park laboratory at the end of 1877—the phonograph and the carbon telephone transmitter. The effort to develop these inventions into commercial products would remain the...

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2 March-April 1878: (Docs. 1228-1310)

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pp. 132-257

March began with Edison's attention focused on testing and modifying his carbon telephone transmitter. By mid-March, the tests he was making with Henry Bentley between Menlo Park and Philadelphia produced such a markedly improved design that Edison decided to send James Adams to introduce...

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3 May-June 1878: (Docs. 1311-1369)

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pp. 258-372

The phonograph continued to occupy much of Edison's time during May and June. Fascination with the invention continued to bring visitors to Menlo Park, including reporters from out of state, and Edison took up the challenge to develop an improved machine for the new exhibition business. Edward...

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4 July-August 1878: (Docs. 1370-1417)

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pp. 373-455

Edison spent most of the summer in the western United States after leaving on 13 July with George Barker to join Henry Draper's solar eclipse expedition at Rawlins, Wyoming. 1 Edison had another reason for this trip. As he told a reporter who saw him off at the Pennsylvania Railroad,...

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5 September 1878: (Docs. 1418-1463)

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pp. 456-535

After Edison returned from the West, George Barker arranged a visit to William Wallace's shop in Ansonia, Connecticut, to see his electric light and power experiments. On Sunday, 8 September, they traveled by train to Ansonia, accompanied...

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6 October 1878: (Docs.1464-1538 )

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pp. 536-658

At the beginning of October, negotiations intensified between Grosvenor Lowrey and potential investors in Edison's lighting experiments. They soon reached an agreement and on 16 October the Edison Electric Light Company was incorporated with a capital stock of $300,000. Most of the investors in the...

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7 November 1878: (Docs. 1539-1594)

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pp. 659-746

During November, Edison began to pay increasing attention to the system requirements for electric lighting. To aid in his research, he purchased a large number of books and journals related to the subject, including several on gaslighting.1 These last were useful for the comparisons he was beginning to make...

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8 December 1878: (Docs. 1595-1651)

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pp. 747-854

During December work in the laboratory focused on dynamo design. Edison borrowed a Gramme dynamo from Princeton and a Siemens from William Wallace to study along with the Wallace and Weston dynamos he already had at Menlo Park. Francis Upton, who joined the laboratory staff in...

Appendix 1. Edison's Autobiographical Notes

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pp. 855-865

Appendix 2. Charles Batchelor's Recollections of Edison

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pp. 866-868

Appendix 3. "Thomas A. Edison" (Chicago Tribune), by George Bliss

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pp. 869-883

Appendix 4. Edison's U.S. Patents, 1878

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pp. 884-886


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pp. 887-896


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pp. 897-898


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pp. 899-919

E-ISBN-13: 9781421412894
E-ISBN-10: 1421412896
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801858192
Print-ISBN-10: 0801858194

Page Count: 966
Illustrations: 772 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 1998

Volume Title: The Wizard of Menlo Park, 1878
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.