100 Best Books for an Education

A Revision and Update of Will Durant's 100 Best Books for an Education

Note 82



Chronology of Thomas Alva Edison, Greatest of Inventors

This table can be found at http://edison.rutgers.edu/brfchron.htm.




11 February

Born at Milan, Ohio.



Lives in Milan.



Lives in Port Huron, Michigan.



Works as a newsboy and candy butcher on the trains of the Grand Trunk Railroad.



Works as an operator in telegraph offices in various Midwest cities and conducts experiments with telegraph apparatus.



Works as an operator at the Western Union Telegraph Company's main office in Boston and receives support from local entrepreneurs for his electrical inventions.


13 October

Executes the patent application for his electric vote recorder, for which he later is issued his first patent.



Devotes himself full time to inventing and to pursuing various telegraph enterprises.



Moves to New York City.



Establishes two telegraph manufacturing shops in Newark, New Jersey, and works on inventions for printing and automatic telegraphy.


9 April

Edison's mother, Nancy, dies in Port Huron.


25 December

Marries Mary Stilwell.



Begins intensive work on duplex telegraphy.


18 February

Edison's first daughter, Marion Estelle ("Dot"), is born in Newark.



Tests his automatic telegraph system in England.


10 April

Discovers the electromotograph principle.



Invents the quadruplex telegraph, ownership of which is disputed by Western Union and Jay Gould's Atlantic and Pacific Telegraph Company.


30 June

Conceives electric pen and autographic press copying system.



Ends his involvement in telegraph manufacturing to devote full time to inventing.



Experiments with acoustic telegraphy and conducts "etheric force" experiments.


10 January

Edison's first son, Thomas Alva, Jr. ("Dash"), is born in Newark.



Has the Menlo Park laboratory constructed under the supervision of his father, Samuel.



Begins experiments with carbon telephone transmitters, which he develops into a commercial device over the next year.


18 July

Conceives phonograph.


7 December

Demonstrates his cylinder phonograph at Scientific American office in New York.



Gains international renown for inventing the phonograph.



Accompanies a scientific expedition to Rawlins, Wyoming, in order to observe the eclipse of July 29 and measure the heat of the sun's corona with his recently invented tasimeter, and then takes a western vacation.


27 August

Begins electric lighting experiments.


26 October

Edison's second son, William Leslie, is born in Menlo Park.


15 November

The Edison Electric Light Company is incorporated.


2 January

Begins construction of his first generator.



Develops his standard bipolar dynamo design.



Begins a search for plentiful supplies of platinum in the mining regions of Canada and in the western and southern United States.


22 October

Conducts the first successful experiment with a high-resistance carbon filament.


1 November

Executes his first patent application for a high-resistance carbon filament (U.S. Pat. 223,898).


25 March

Experiments with a process of magnetic ore separation.


late April

Installs the first commercial marine incandescent electric lighting plant aboard Henry Villard's SS Columbia.



Builds experimental electric railway at Menlo Park.


1 October

Begins the commercial production of electric lamps at the Edison Lamp Works in Menlo Park.


c. 10 March

Moves his business operations to 65 5th Avenue in New York City, where he daily advises the managers of the various Edison light companies.



Organizes the Edison Electric Lamp Company, the Edison Machine Works, and other companies to manufacture lamps, generators, conductors, and other components for his electric lighting system.


17 May–25 June

Executes twenty-three patent applications on electric lighting.



Edison's ore separator is used by the Edison Ore Milling Company to separate iron ore from black sand at Quonocontaug, Rhode Island.


12 January

Edison's central station on Holborn Viaduct in London begins operation.



Executes fifty-three patent applications covering electric lighting, electric railways, and secondary batteries.


4 September

Opens the Pearl Street central station in the Wall Street district of New York.


4 October–28 November

Executes thirty-four patent applications covering electric lighting and electric railways.



Closes his Menlo Park laboratory and establishes a laboratory on the top floor of the Bergmann and Company factory in New York City.


c. 1 May

Forms the Thomas A. Edison Construction Department and spends the next year promoting and building central stations in the United States.


14 May

Is elected a vice president of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, an organization of which he is a founding member.


9 August

Mary Stilwell Edison dies at Menlo Park.



Reorganizes the Edison Electric Light Company.



Executes seventeen patent applications covering telegraph and telephone inventions.



Spends several weeks at Woodside, Ezra T. Gilliland's beach house near Boston, where he sees Mina Miller and keeps a personal diary.



Purchases Glenmont, his home in Llewellyn Park, New Jersey.


24 February

Marries Mina Miller at Akron, Ohio.


23 June

Announces that the Edison Machine Works will relocate to the former site of the McQueen Locomotive Shop in Schenectady, New York.



Begins experiments on an improved phonograph.



Moves his laboratory to the Edison Lamp Works in East Newark (Harrison), New Jersey.



Purchases fourteen acres of land in West Orange, New Jersey, near his home in Llewellyn Park; plans to construct a new laboratory.



Conducts experiments on squirted cellulose filaments for incandescent lamps at the Edison Lamp Works; continues this work at the West Orange laboratory.



Recuperates from pleurisy at his winter home in Fort Myers, Florida.


3 May

Hires H. Hudson Holly as the architect for the West Orange laboratory; Holly is dismissed at the end of July and replaced by Joseph Taft.



Rents a factory in Bloomfield, New Jersey, for phonograph manufacture.



Charles Batchelor oversees construction and outfitting of the West Orange laboratory, which opens in early December.



Organizes the Edison Phonograph Company, appoints Ezra T. Gilliland as general sales agent, and reaches agreement with George E. Gouraud for the international marketing of the phonograph.



Reaches agreement with Lowell Briggs and William W. Jacques for the rights to manufacture and market dolls with Edison phonographs.


15–20 November

Makes extensive notes on experiments to be conducted at his new laboratory in West Orange, mostly involving electric lighting research, which is the primary work of the laboratory in its first years.


17 January

Executes a patent application (U.S. Pat. 484,582) for the electroplating process of duplicating phonograph cylinder records. Experimentation continues throughout the next decade.



Jonas W. Aylsworth begins experiments on the composition of phonograph cylinders. These experiments continue until his resignation in January 1891.



Renews the search for bamboo, grass, and other fibers to be used in the incandescent lamp filament; sends Frank McGowan and Charles F. Hanington to South America and James Ricalton to Asia.


3 May

Organizes the Edison Phonograph Works and begins construction of a factory in West Orange. Small-scale production of phonographs begins in the Fall.


31 May

Edison's second daughter, Madeleine, is born.



Executes twenty-two patent applications for phonographs and cylinder records.



Engages in an intensive campaign, including several overnight efforts, to produce the "perfected" cylinder phonograph.


8 October

Executes the first of four major patent caveats for the kinetoscope and kinetograph and puts William Dickson in charge of experiments.


27 December

Organizes the New Jersey and Pennsylvania Concentrating Works to engage in the large-scale magnetic separation of iron ore in Sussex County, New Jersey.


10 January–1 February

Executes twelve patent applications for improvements in phonographs and cylinder records.



Files suit against his former associates John C. Tomlinson and Ezra T. Gilliland for alleged fraud in negotiations with Jesse Lippincott and the North American Phonograph Company.



Constructs an ore milling plant at Bechtelsville, Pennsylvania.


24 April

The Edison General Electric Company is organized.


23 July

Testifies regarding electric power and electrocution in William Kemmler v. Charles F. Durston.



Attends Paris Exposition and tours Europe with Mina Miller Edison



Organizes the Edison Manufacturing Company to manufacture and market the Edison-Lalande battery.



The Automatic Phonograph Exhibition Company is organized to market the coin-in-the-slot phonograph.


30 April

Closes the experimental ore milling plant at Bechtelsville, Pennsylvania.



The Edison Phonograph Works suspends the manufacture of talking dolls.


3 August

Edison's third son, Charles, is born.



Purchases property in Silver Lake, New Jersey (now the Bloomfield-Belleville area); locates the plant of the Edison Manufacturing Company on the site.



Completes construction of his iron concentration plant in Ogden (later Edison), New Jersey. Full-scale operations begin the following April.



Reaches agreement with the Edison General Electric Company for support of his research on electric light and power.


20 May

Demonstrates the kinetoscope at the West Orange laboratory for the Federation of Women's Clubs.



Spends most of his time at the New Jersey and Pennsylvania Concentrating Works plant in Ogden.


14 July

The primacy of Edison's lamp patents is upheld in the decision of Edison Electric Light Co. v. U.S. Electric Lighting Company.


24 August

Executes patent applications (U. S. Pats. 493,426 and 589,168) for the kinetoscope and kinetograph.


15 April

The General Electric Company is organized.


14 November

Closes the Ogden plant for repairs and modifications—the first of many such shutdowns.



Completes construction of the Black Maria motion picture studio, which becomes fully operational in May.



Joins members of the Miller family for a visit to Chicago during the Columbian Exposition.


29 December

Executes a patent application (U. S. Pat. 567,187) for the "Giant" ore crushing rolls.



The bank panic of 1893 and the ensuing depression result in the discharging of numerous "old hands" and the suspension of many activities at the laboratory.






For the next four years spends most of his time at the Ogden plant, which he shut downs repeatedly for repairs and design modifications. Sell blocks of his General Electric stock and railroad bonds to finance these activities.



William K. L. Dickson produces "Edison Kinetographic Record of a Sneeze," the first motion picture to receive a copyright. Dickson and Theodore Heise go on to copyright approximately seventy-five motion pictures in 1894.





14 April

The first commercial viewing of the peephole kinetoscope is held by the Holland Brothers at 1155 Broadway, New York City.



John F. Randolph succeeds Alfred O. Tate as Edison's private secretary.


21 August

The North American Phonograph Company enters receivership.



Experiments in the mass production of iron ore briquettes suitable for shipping and use in blast furnaces; development continues through early 1897.



Resumes work on squirted cellulose lamp filaments under contract with General Electric Company.


27 January

Organizes the National Phonograph Company.



Experiments with x-rays and sends a completed x-ray fluoroscope to Columbia University physicist Michael Pupin.


26 February

Edison's father, Samuel, dies in Norwalk, Ohio. Edison attends the funeral.



Closes the Ogden plant for modifications.


23 April

The Edison Vitascope, a motion picture projector invented by Thomas Armat, has its commercial debut at Koster and Bial's Music Hall in New York City.



Tests his gold ore separation process on placer samples sent from the Ortiz Mine in Dolores, New Mexico.



Introduces the Edison Home Phonograph, an inexpensive, spring motor driven phonograph.


16 July

Executes a patent application (U. S. Pat. 644,746) for the three-high crushing rolls in his ore milling process.



The Ogden plant is again closed for repairs and modifications.


30 November

Edison's own motion picture projector, the projectoscope or projecting kinetoscope, has its first commercial exhibition.



Begins a series of lawsuits alleging patent infringement by his competitors in the motion picture industry.


10 July

Edison's fourth son is born; is named Theodore Miller Edison after Mina Edison's brother, who died two days earlier in the Spanish-American War.


20 December

Shuts down his ore milling plant at Ogden; plans to repair the machinery, build additional employee housing, and start up the mill in the Spring.



Designs a long rotary kiln for making cement.


17 February

Edison's father-in-law, Lewis Miller, dies. Edison attends his funeral in Akron, Ohio.


15 April

Organizes the Edison Portland Cement Company.



Begins experimental work on storage batteries.






Vacations with his family in Florida. The following year, visits Seminole Lodge, his winter home in Fort Myers, for the first time since 1887. Thereafter, takes frequent winter vacations in Fort Myers.


June 16

Executes a patent application on a method of mass producing cylinder phonograph records.



Edison's experimental mill for the concentration of gold ore begins testing at the Ortiz Mine in Dolores, New Mexico but is shut down in November due to poor quality ore.



Supervises construction of the Edison Portland Cement Company works at Stewartsville, New Jersey, using some equipment from the nearby New Jersey and Pennsylvania Concentrating Works.


14 May

Receives threatening letters demanding $25,000 in gold, "or we will kidnap your child." Hires Pinkerton detectives and the plot is foiled.


27 May

Organizes the Edison Storage Battery Company.



Introduces "moulded" records commercially.



Successfully conducts the first road tests of electric vehicles equipped with Edison storage batteries.



Begins commercial production of cement at his mill in Stewartsville.



Initiates production of his "E" type alkaline storage battery.


2 March

An explosion at the Edison Portland Cement Company's coal grinding plant results in the death of eight workers, including chief engineer Edward A. Darling, and the shut-down of the plant for redesign.


8 June

Signs an agreement with his son Thomas A. Edison, Jr., whereby the younger Edison will not use his own name in any business enterprise in exchange for a weekly allowance of $35.



The Edison Manufacturing Company releases its hit film The Great Train Robbery, directed by Edwin S. Porter.


30 September

Authorizes longtime associate Sigmund Bergmann to organize a corporation for the manufacture of storage batteries in Germany; nominally becomes a director of the Deutsche Edison Akkumulatoren Gesellschaft in April 1905.


2 October

Laboratory employee Clarence M. Dally dies as the result of radiation burns sustained during x-ray experiments.


1 November

Suspends the manufacture of his alkaline storage battery in order to investigate the loss of electrical capacity and leaking cans.


23 January

Undergoes an operation to remove or drain a mastoidal abscess.



Forgoes his annual vacation in Florida because of work on the storage battery.



Begins a series of experiments using perforated tubes holding nickel flake as the positive electrode in his storage batteries. Tests continue for a decade.


25 January

Wins a thirty-year lawsuit against Jay Gould's Atlantic & Pacific Telegraph Company for infringement of his automatic telegraph patents; receives only one dollar in damages. The decision is reversed on appeal by both parties in February 1911.



Conceives and announces a plan to develop molds whereby an entire house can be made of poured concrete.


11 February

Announces his intention to "give up the commercial end and work in my laboratory as a scientist."


5 March

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals finds for Edison in Thomas A. Edison v. American Mutoscope & Biograph Company, affirming the validity of his reissued camera patent and increasing his control of American film production.


8 January

Signs a cross-licensing agreement with the North American Portland Cement Company for mutual use of important cement patents.


17 January

The Edison Business Phonograph Company is incorporated.


17 February

Private secretary John F. Randolph dies from a self-inflicted gunshot wound; he is succeeded by Harry F. Miller.


23 February

Enters New York hospital and has two additional operations on his left ear.


1 October

Introduces Amberol cylinder records. With approximately 200 threads each, these records increase playing time from two to four minutes.



Agreement achieved among motion picture manufacturers results in the organization of the Motion Picture Patents Company.



Receives a gold medal from the Royal Academy of Sciences in Sweden for his inventions in connection with the phonograph and the incandescent light.



Dictates personal reminiscences to Thomas C. Martin in order to provide additional material for Edison: His Life and Inventions (1910), the authorized biography prepared by Martin, Frank L. Dyer, and William H. Meadowcroft.


1 July

Begins commercial manufacture of his new "A" type alkaline storage batteries.



Begins to develop a disc record and phonograph.


1 January

Edison's former associate and longtime friend Charles Batchelor dies.



Plans to establish an Engineering Department at the West Orange laboratory in order to centralize research and development for the numerous Edison companies.



Exhibits a scale model of his poured concrete house at the Real Estate and Ideal Homes Exhibit at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Continues to receive international attention for his idea.


26 August

Demonstrates his kinetophone or "speaking pictures" to members of the press at the West Orange laboratory.


17 Septemer

Two electric vehicles equipped with Edison storage batteries leave New York on a promotional "ideal tour," ending with an ascent of Mt. Washington in New Hampshire.



Receives national attention after making statements to the press revealing his unorthodox religious beliefs, including his skepticism regarding the existence of an immortal soul.


28 February

Organizes Thomas A. Edison, Inc.



Tours Europe with his wife, Mina, and their children, Charles, Madeleine, and Theodore.


11 November

Makes Miller Reese Hutchison his personal representative at the West Orange laboratory. Appoints him chief engineer the following August



Introduces the Diamond Disc phonograph, Blue Amberol cylinder records, and the Home Projecting Kinetoscope.


17 February

Introduces talking pictures to American theatergoers by attending a performance of his Kinetophone (a phonograph connected by pulleys to a film projector) at the Colonial Theater in New York City.


Is named "most useful" man in America by a survey of readers of Independent magazine.


8 September

Five weeks after the outbreak of war in Europe, announces the erection of a plant in Silver Lake, New Jersey, for the manufacture of phenol and other chemicals in short supply. Later erects other plants in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Alabama.


9 December

An explosion in the Film Inspection Building triggers a conflagration that destroys or damages more than half of the buildings in the West Orange laboratory complex.


1 March

Announces his new divisional policy for Thomas A. Edison, Inc. Three days later, Steven B. Mambert is named efficiency engineer in charge of implementing the policy.


7 July

Is invited by U.S. Secretary of Navy Josephus Daniels to head the newly established Naval Consulting Board.



Travels by train to California and attends events in his honor at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco with Mina Miller Edison and Henry Ford.


15 January

Learns of an explosion aboard the U.S. Navy's E-2 submarine in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The accident, which kills five men and injures ten others, is attributed to the hydrogen gas emitted by the Edison batteries installed a few weeks earlier.


28 August

Leaves West Orange for a camping trip in the Adirondack and Berkshire mountains with Harvey Firestone and John Burroughs. They are joined by Henry Ford in Plattsburgh, N.Y., on 6 September.


8 February

Two months before the entry of the United States into World War I, begins devoting nearly all of his time to experiments for the U.S. government in a laboratory established in a large casino on Eagle Rock Mountain in West Orange.


9 April

U.S. Supreme Court decides against Edison in Motion Picture Patents Company v. Universal Film Manufacturing Company, making the Motion Picture Patents Company's licensing agreements illegal.


30 March

Ends his involvement in the motion picture business by selling his studio in the Bronx to the Lincoln & Parker Film Co.



In the wake of the postwar economic downturn, initiates an "economy campaign" that leads to the dismissal or resignation of several top managers and a drastic reduction in the manufacturing labor force.


25 January

Resigns from Naval Consulting Board following a prolonged debate over the location and mission of the proposed naval research laboratory.



Takes a camping trip in Maryland with Harvey Firestone and President Warren G. Harding.


28 August

Consolidates the Edison Phonograph Works into Thomas A. Edison, Inc.


2 August

Steps down as president of Thomas A. Edison, Inc., in favor of his son Charles; becomes chairman of the board.



Organizes the Edison Botanic Research Corporation to develop a process for producing rubber from plant substances native to the United States.


28 October

Receives a special Congressional Medal for "illuminating the path of progress through the development and application of inventions that have revolutionized civilization in the last century."


21 October

Is honored at Light's Golden Jubilee.


28 October

Stops production of phonograph records; shifts production emphasis from phonographs to radios.


6 January

Executes his last patent application (U.S. Patent 1,908,830)


18 October

Dies at Glenmont.