New York City today is a glittering paradise at night. The lights turn on reliably like clockwork each evening. The Big Apple takes on a magical appearance in the glow of the millions of lights which come alive every night. Not too long ago that was not the case. The electrified version of our well-lit city has only existed for slightly more than 100 years. Before that, there was virtually pitch darkness after sunset in the New York of old.
We owe the brilliance of our nights to Thomas Edison. Between 1878 and 1880 Mr. Edison worked to perfect the incandescent light bulb. It was 1883 when Thomas Edison’s Illuminating Company began generating electricity on Pearl Street in Lower Manhattan. Thus, providing light to homes at a price comparable to the gas, which our predecessors had used to light the city previously. The rest is history. Thomas Edison and New York City lit the way, and the world has since followed.
I have decided to pursue my curiosity and find out more about Mr. Edison. Today’s day trip will be to the Thomas Edison National Historical Park in West Orange, New Jersey. It is the location of Mr. Edison’s laboratory as well as, Glenmont, his home. West Orange is a town of 47,000 residents in Essex County. It is just 20 miles from the Empire State Building or a 45-minute drive from Manhattan.
Mr. Edison conducted his experiments at two locations throughout his career. He created his earliest inventions in Menlo Park, New Jersey, which is where he perfected the light bulb. Then after the death of his first wife in 1884, Edison closed that facility and moved to West Orange. The complex which he built in West Orange is a multi-building campus where Edison employed as many as 4,000 workers to work in 20 distinct factory buildings and laboratories. At the time of his death, Mr. Edison had 1,093 patents. 600 of which were the result of work carried out in West Orange.
Anyone who has lived or worked in the New York City metropolitan area knows of Consolidated Edison (ConEd), the electric company which powers much of the region. Mr. Edison’s Illuminating company eventually merged with ConEd's predecessor. Thus Mr. Edison was a shareholder and prospered as the new company grew. At the time of his death in 1931, he was worth the equivalent of $200 million today. Not too shabby for an inquisitive boy from Ohio who started out selling candy and newspapers on the railroad.
The Thomas Edison National Historical Park is a monument to a man whose contribution to modern life has proven to be enormously world changing. At the well-maintained museum which is administered by the National Parks Service, you’ll be treated to an enjoyable movie about the inventor before being taken on a thorough tour of the Edison laboratory buildings and his 29 ½ room mansion.
During your visit to West Orange, you will learn that Mr.Edison was a prolific inventor. We owe so much to his imagination and ingenuity. The world literally would be a different place had Thomas Edison never existed. I encourage you to take a day trip to charming West Orange, New Jersey to honor Mr. Edison and experience his many inventions firsthand. You won't regret it.
For directions to West Orange via public transit, please click on this moovit link.
Admission is $15.00