I first heard about Thomas Edison’s Laboratory being in the U.S. park service after seeing a picture of it on Mike’s Photo Blog. My eight-year-old son is fascinated by all things chemistry and has dreamed of being an inventor since he learned the term, so I knew one day we’d make it over in that direction.
We spent most of the time relaxing, sharing girl talk, and cooking together. After I dropped her off at Newark Airport, I thought I’d check and see how far the Edison Lab would be before returning home. It turns out that that the museum and park are only twenty minutes from EWR!
Please excuse the quality of the following photos; I had only my phone with me and the weather was absolutely miserable on this particular day.
Thomas Edison’s Laboratory
It was nice that the weather wasn’t that great, because the park wasn’t busy. Not at all. Anti-intellectualism could be the reason that there were only a handful of people at any given time during the hours we were there, but I’d like to think it was the weather.
After paying my $10 entry free (Tobias, and all children under 16 are free), we first made our way over to the lab for a demonstration about chemistry.
Did you know that Thomas Edison not only made advancements to the light bulb, but he also created a rubber alternative from genetically modified Goldrenrod? How about that he was once known as the Wizard of Menlo Park, because when he invented the phonograph, people were so astonished by hearing recorded voices played back that they deemed it magic?
With all that it takes to impress someone these days, isn’t that just the quaintest thing?! A magician for playing back sounds!
His laboratory is virtually untouched, all of the containers you see and everything within view is just as he left it. All that’s removed is the dust, even the stains from the chemical experiments are left upon the floors.
The Laboratory wasn’t just one big warehouse. There were many different buildings on the property. After we caught the demonstration, we hurried over to hear another on the third floor about Thomas Edison’s advancements in motion pictures. I had no idea he had a hand in the development of motion pictures or the popularization of kinetoscopes in penny arcades that led to what was the first movie theater. There was even a reproduction of the revolving on-site movie studio that was on the property.
The amount of advancements he made in items that we use for entertainment everyday really surprised me: the alkaline battery, movies, recorded music, oh my! One would think that he must have rarely slept with all of the work he got done.
In fact, if you share that line of thinking, you wouldn’t be surprised to learn that with his work ethic, he was known to fall asleep in the strangest of places. Lab tables, just about anywhere. They eventually decided to just put a bed within his lab’s library!
As a book lover, the image above is just dreamy.
How about this: the iPod of his time! As Edison made more and more advancements to his phonograph machine, the following is one that was considered “portable.”If you’re into having nightmares, I suggest you take a listen to the digital recordings of some of Edison’s talking dolls. Talking toys have been a favorite for generations, and this was also something I wasn’t aware he had a hand in. As the display below mentions, he abandoned the project, stating that “the voices of the little monsters were exceedingly unpleasant to hear.”
For more information about the rooms of the lab, go to the Thomas Edison Laboratory picture tour.
Thomas Edison’s Home: Glenmont
Thomas Edison’s home is in Llewellyn Park, which was the first planned residential community in the United States. Because it is still a gated community, you must first visit the laboratory and receive the right credentials to show the guard upon entering the neighborhood.
Pictures were disallowed within the home, but the guided tour did not disappoint. During the tour we learned about his personal life: how, after his first wife died, the three children he shared with her went on to live with relatives while he started a new life with his second wife, the ways in which she entertained, his imbalance of work/personal life, and the like.
On the property was also his garage, which is larger and fancier than my house (the second story was where his driver lived)
And also a very large greenhouse, where I learned that we were at a site that was considered a part of The New Jersey Women’s Heritage Trail. The trail highlights a collection of historic sites around the state that represent significant contributions women have made to New Jersey History. Mina Miller Edison’s philanthropy has earned her a place on the trail.
If you take anything away from this post, just remember: “To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.” -Thomas Edison