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Beehives of Invention
Edison and His Laboratories
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Postscript: The Edison Sites

Thomas Edison's research laboratory in West Orange, N.J., was closed shortly after the inventor's death on October 18, 1931. The laboratory and Edison's home, Glenmont, were maintained for many years by Thomas A. Edison, Inc. From 1948 until 1955, the Thomas Alva Edison Foundation administered the laboratory.

On December 6, 1955, Glenmont became a national, non-federally owned historic site. The laboratory was established as a national monument by President Eisenhower in 1956 after the property was donated to the Federal Government by Thomas A. Edison, Inc. Glenmont was given to the Government on July 22, 1959, by the McGraw-Edison Company and both areas were combined by an act of Congress on September 5, 1962, as Edison National Historic Site.

The National Park Service, which administers the site, conducts tours of the laboratory buildings and Glenmont. The site has many Edison inventions on display, a massive collection of Edison notebooks and papers, a replica of the Black Maria motion picture studio, and numerous other memorabilia.

Several other sites connected with Edison's early days and growth as an inventor are open to the public.

The Milan, Ohio, house in which he was born on February 11, 1847, is preserved by the Edison Birthplace Association, Inc. Edison's father, Samuel, had the three-story, red-brick structure built on the side of a hill in the canal town in 1841. The house is furnished with many family pieces and contains some models of Edison's inventions.

The Edison Winter Home and Botanical Gardens in Fort Myers, Fla., are maintained by the City of Fort Myers. In 1885 Edison purchased this 14-acre site mainly because of its natural source of bamboo, which he used as filaments in some of his early incandescent light bulbs. Here Edison constructed two houses, which he had prefabricated out of spruce in Maine, and a chemical laboratory. One house was used by the family and the other one by the guests, who usually had to stay for a month because they were dependent on the monthly boat to the then distant location. From 1885 until his death, Edison spent part of each winter at Fort Myers. Many years he stayed for five or six months. He carried out many of his natural rubber experiments here and at one time had 6,000 species of plants in the gardens. Today, the gardens contain more than 400 species. Tours are given of the houses, laboratory, office, museum, and gardens.

By far the most complete collection of Edison material from his early creative life is at Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Mich. In 1927 Henry Ford recreated board-by-board the entire Menlo Park laboratory as a tribute to the man he idolized. Much of the material was moved from the original Menlo Park site, and a substantial collection of Edison's inventions, papers, and equipment is preserved at Dearborn. Besides the main laboratory buildings and shops, Greenfield Village has several other buildings associated with Edison's life. Among these structures, some of which are reproductions, are: Sarah Jordon's boardinghouse, a phonograph experiment building from West Orange, the first Edison Illuminating Co. plant in Detroit, the original Fort Myers laboratory, the Ontario, Canada, farmhouse in which Edison's grandfather lived. Greenfield Village also contains houses, stores, laboratories, and shops of many leading American figures in the fields of manufacturing, transportation, and agriculture.

At the original site of the Menlo Park laboratory, the State of New Jersey operates a small museum and a 131-foot tower commemorating Edison. The tower, which was built of steel and Edison Portland Cement, is capped by a 14-foot-high replica of the first incandescent lamp. It is illuminated nightly.

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