We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

The Papers of Thomas A. Edison

The Making of an Inventor, February 1847-June 1874

Thomas A. Edison edited by Reese V. Jenkins et al.

Publication Year: 1989

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." Praise for previous volumes of The Papers of Thomas A. Edison: "Those interested in America's technological culture can eagerly look forward to the appearance of each volume of the Edison Papers."—Technology and Culture "The essence of the volume is Edison's technical notebooks, a window onto the inventor's workshop. His lucidity comes through everywhere . . . His writing and drawing come together as a single, vigorous thought process."—Russell McCormmach, New York Times. "A mine of material . . . Scrupulously edited . . . No one could ask for more . . . A choplicking feast for Edison biographers—well into the next century, and perhaps beyond."—Fred Howard, Washington Post. "A triumph of the bookmaker's art, with splendidly arranged illustrations, essential background information, and cautionary reminders of the common sources on which Edison's imagination drew."—David Joravsky, New York Review of Books. "In the pages of this volume Edison the man, his work, and his times come alive . . . A delight to browse through or to read carefully."—Thomas J. Misa, Science.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press


pdf iconDownload PDF (61.8 KB)
p. C-C

Title Page, Frontispiece, Copyright

pdf iconDownload PDF (254.2 KB)
pp. i-viii


pdf iconDownload PDF (157.4 KB)
pp. ix-x

Calendar of Documents

pdf iconDownload PDF (633.3 KB)
pp. xi-xx

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (457.1 KB)
pp. xxi-xxvii

Publication of The Papers of Thomas A. Edison represents the effort of a team of historical editors to bring to the public and the scholarly community an intimate view of the personal, entrepreneurial, and creative activities of America's greatest inventor. Out of a documentary record comprising over three...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (624.9 KB)
pp. xxviii-xxxvi

Why should humanists, scientists, engineers, policymakers, students, and lay people want to examine or study Edison's personal and business correspondence, legal agreements, laboratory notebook entries, and patent materials? Since he has been the subject of dozens of biographies, what more need be...

Chronology of Thomas A. Edison, 1847–1873

pdf iconDownload PDF (292.7 KB)
pp. xxxvin-xlii

read more

Thomas A. Edison and His Papers

pdf iconDownload PDF (505.6 KB)
pp. xliii-l

The extensive collection of papers preserved in the archive at the Edison National Historic Site—close to three and a half million pages in all—is the product of Thomas Alva Edison's sixty-year career as inventor, manufacturer, and businessman. For years the sheer size and organizational complexity of the...

Editorial Policy

pdf iconDownload PDF (552.2 KB)
pp. li-lix

Editorial Symbols

pdf iconDownload PDF (84.8 KB)
p. lx-lx

List of Abbreviations

pdf iconDownload PDF (383.3 KB)
pp. lxi-2

read more

1 Edison's Boyhood and Itinerant Years: February 1847–March 1868 (Docs. 1–26)

pdf iconDownload PDF (3.5 MB)
pp. 3-50

On the fourth of July 1839 the citizens of Milan, Ohio, jubilantly celebrated the opening of a three-mile canal connecting their small village to the navigable portion of the Huron River. As fireworks crackled and a flurry of cannon bursts reverberated across the waterfront, the people of Milan toasted the...

read more

2 The Nascent Inventor: March–December 1868 (Docs. 27–50)

pdf iconDownload PDF (3.0 MB)
pp. 51-101

In early 1868 Edison moved from Port Huron to Boston, a city of some 200,000 inhabitants and a bustling center of telegraphy. 1 During the next year the city provided ample resources for Edison's transition from operator to inventor, manufacturer, and entrepreneur, and special opportunities for his participation...

read more

3 From Operator to Inventor-Entrepreneur: January–June 1869 (Docs. 51–69)

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.2 MB)
pp. 102-124

The first half of 1869 marked a turning point in Edison's career. After working for five years as an itinerant telegraph operator, he left Western Union to "devote his time to bringing out his inventions."1 During this period he engaged in three new business-technology ventures. One employed his first...

read more

4 Establishing Connections in New York: July–December 1869 (Docs. 70–88)

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.4 MB)
pp. 125-145

While the first months of 1869 saw Edison drawing upon local Boston associates to aid him in his developing inventorentrepreneurial activities, the second half of the year witnessed him successfully connecting with senior telegraph men of national reputation in his new business home in New York....

read more

5 New Alliances: January–June 1870 (Docs. 89–101)

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.9 MB)
pp. 146-175

The first half of 1870 saw an important shift in Edison's business and personal relations as his work in printing telegraphy became closely tied to the Gold and Stock Telegraph Company and its officers. At the beginning of the year, he was working with Franklin Pope and James Ashley in connection...

read more

6 Expansion and Diversification: July–December 1870 (Docs. 102–135)

pdf iconDownload PDF (2.5 MB)
pp. 176-223

During the second half of 1870, Edison strengthened his relationship with Marshall LefFerts and the Gold and Stock Telegraph Company, an association that he maintained for some years, and intensified his efforts to design, develop, and manufacture...

read more

7 New Resources: January–June 1871 (Docs. 135A–274)

pdf iconDownload PDF (3.7 MB)
pp. 224-300

Edison's work in printing telegraphy was crowned with success during the first half of 1871. He was manufacturing cotton instruments at the American Telegraph Works for the Gold and Stock Telegraph Company, and at the end of May he signed a lucrative five-year contract with Gold and Stock...

read more

8 Innumerable Machines in the Mind: July–December 1871 (Docs. 175–214)

pdf iconDownload PDF (3.8 MB)
pp. 301-377

During the second half of 1871, increased stability and security marked Edison's life. He met and married Mary Stilwell of Newark; his association with Gold and Stock grew closer; and Edison and Unger became prime contractors for that company. New-found financial security allowed Edison to buy...

read more

9 An Inventive Flurry: January–June 1872 (Docs. 215–263)

pdf iconDownload PDF (4.4 MB)
pp. 378-491

The year 1872 was a remarkably creative one for Edison. He executed thirty-nine successful patent applications, nearly twice as many as in all of his previous career. In only two other periods would he exceed his 1872 patent productivity level: the years 1880-83, when he developed his incandescent...

read more

10 The Ascendancy of Manufacturing: July–December 1872 (Docs. 264–279)

pdf iconDownload PDF (992.3 KB)
pp. 492-512

Compared to the first half of 1872, the remainder of the year witnessed an increase in Edison's devotion to manufacturing and an accompanying diminution in the number of his notebook entries and patent applications. He continued to develop new ideas for printing and automatic telegraphs, turned his..

read more

11 Multiple Efforts: January–April 1873 (Docs. 280–317)

pdf iconDownload PDF (3.2 MB)
pp. 513-590

The first four months of 1873 witnessed another eruption of inventive activity by Edison. In terms of successful patent applications and technical notes, his productivity rate equaled that of the first half of 1872, but whereas printing telegraphy spearheaded his 1872 outburst, duplex telegraphy led the early...

read more

12 The English Venture: May–June 1873 (Docs. 318–340)

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.5 MB)
pp. 591-626

Edison departed for England on '23 April and returned to the United States on 25 June. This two-month trip was his first overseas and it provided him with an international perspective at an early point in his career. The purpose of the trip was to demonstrate the automatic telegraph system of the Automatic...

Appendix 1. Edison's Autobiographical Notes

pdf iconDownload PDF (2.2 MB)
pp. 627-666

Appendix 2. Bibliographic Essay: Edison's Boyhood and Itinerant Years

pdf iconDownload PDF (499.3 KB)
pp. 667-673

Appendix 3. The American Patent System

pdf iconDownload PDF (286.9 KB)
pp. 674-677

Appendix 4. Edison's U.S. Patents, 1868–1873

pdf iconDownload PDF (276.5 KB)
pp. 678-680


pdf iconDownload PDF (551.8 KB)
pp. 681-689


pdf iconDownload PDF (156.4 KB)
p. 690-690


pdf iconDownload PDF (2.7 MB)
pp. 691-708

E-ISBN-13: 9781421412900
E-ISBN-10: 142141290X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801831003
Print-ISBN-10: 0801831008

Page Count: 776
Publication Year: 1989

Volume Title: The Making of an Inventor, February 1847-June 1873
Series Title: The Papers of Thomas A. Edison
Series Editor Byline: Edited by Reese V. Jenkins, et al. Robert A. Rosenberg, Managing Editor, Book Edition

Research Areas


UPCC logo

Subject Headings

  • Edison, Thomas A. -- (Thomas Alva), -- 1847-1931.
  • Edison, Thomas A. (Thomas Alva), 1847-1931 -- Archives.
  • Inventors -- United States -- Biography.
  • You have access to this content
  • Free sample
  • Open Access
  • Restricted Access