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West Orange, NJ can barely make one curious — at least, it didn’t make me curious when I headed there one tranquilizing Sunday afternoon, an hour away from New York City. The township has population of 50,000, its zipcode is 07052, and oh, it’s also the place, where one of the greatest inventors Thomas Edison lived and worked to patent 1,093 things, including the light bulb, camera, and phonograph.
Edison began his career as an inventor in Newark, New Jersey, with the automatic repeater and his other improved telegraphic devices, but the invention that first gained him notice was the phonograph in 1877. His first phonograph recorded on tinfoil around a grooved cylinder. Despite its limited sound quality and that the recordings could be played only a few times, the phonograph made Edison a celebrity.

Thomas Edison reciting “Mary Had a Little Lamb” on his first phonograph

In 1884, he purchased a home in West Orange as a wedding gift for his second wife, Mina. Conveniently, the home was next to his new lab and office, where the new inventions were tested, branded and put out in the market.

Electric switch

Fire extinguisher

Three less-known inventions by Thomas Edison

248565-webermeter battery doll
Electric power meter
Battery for electric cars 
Talking doll 


A cheat chart of inch-decimal equivalents for the workers


Edison’s office, library, and (sometimes) bedroom

The Edison Brand

Thomas Edison did great not only with the amount of ideas he could come up but with how those ideas were presented. He was an experienced ad man with a strong focus on his brand and visual style.

The famous logo of the company

Minimal and clear light switches

Chemical lab

A sign addressed to the workers

Electric fan

The top floor served as a showcase of latest inventionsLearn more about Edison

Edison-style Bulbs for the Modern Home




More about Edison

Edison, the Man (1940)

Film by Clarence Brown

82 year old inventor and entrepreneur Thomas Alva Edison is honored in 1929 and he reflects back on his sixty year career of scientific achievement.


Who Was Thomas Alva Edison?

Book by Margaret Frith

An accessible, appealing biography with 100 black-and-white illustrations.

Thomas Edison at In Our Time

Podcast by BBC 4

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the innovations and influence of Thomas Edison, one of the architects of the modern age.

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Designer & photographer based in New York City