Thomas Edison is proof that you don’t have to be a New Jersey native to be an honored New Jersey son. And, whether you think he’s a creative genius for everything he invented, a scoundrel for (possibly) stealing Nicola Tesla’s ideas or a combination of both, it’s still worth talking about him and seeing how he worked by visiting the Thomas Edison National Historical Park in West Orange.
The park is not a “park” in the sense of grass and trees. It’s actually the workshop and factory where he worked and invented from 1887 to 1931. There are numerous out buildings and things to see outside the main building but the multi-story brick building is where you want to make sure you go. Especially interesting outside the main building is the reproduction of the “Black Mariah” (below). It was a movie studio on wheels that could be positioned to let the sun in at all times of the day so movies could be filmed indoors.
Inside the main building are so many things that it’s hard for the National Park Service to even display them all. Sections of the building are simply stacked high with archived materials, furniture and machines. Walking along these areas you can get a quick sense of just how productive this man and his staff were. It seems like he had his hand in everything! And, that’s what I took away from my visit. He might not have had the initial idea about a technology of the day (and could be interpreted as stealing the idea) but he had a fantastic mind for what would work for consumers and how to make money.
One of the most interesting areas for me was the musical instruments and players. Not only was it beautiful but you could see how a product went from idea stage all the way until it was perfect for consumers.
Another interesting aspect of the workshops area were the signs and daily use items that were scattered around the floor. Worker safety signs were all over, probably because of the flurry of activity and large variety of workers coming in and out.
Keeping track of all those workers throughout the day was also obviously important due to the various tracking systems around.
There is so much to see and hear at the park that it would be impossible to show you everything here. Suffice it to say that if technology or history interest you, a visit to West Orange and the Thomas Edison National Historical Park should be on your to-do list this spring or summer. Through the end of June they are open Wednesday through Sunday, 10:00am – 4:00pm. From July 1 through September 6th they expand their hours on Wednesday through Sunday from 9:30am – 5:00pm.
Check out more pictures from my visit to the park:
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