This timeline was originally created for the 1995 American Experience documentary Edison's Miracle of Light.
Thomas Edison is born in Milan, Ohio.
The Edison family moves to Port Huron, Michigan.
Edison gets a job as a trainboy on the Grand Trunk Railroad, selling newspapers and candy. He sets up a chemistry lab and a printing press on the train.
Edison works as a telegraph operator in various cities of the Midwest, becoming a first-class press-wire operator and experimenting with telegraph instruments.
Edison becomes a telegraph operator in the main Western Union office in Boston and files his first patent application for an automatic vote recorder for legislatures.
Edison retires as a telegraph operator to devote his time to invention. He patents several telegraph devices and moves to New York City, where he works for the Laws Gold Indicator Company.
Edison moves to Newark, New Jersey, and with money from a contract with the Gold and Stock Telegraph Company, he opens a telegraph manufacturing shop where he also conducts his inventive work.
Edison marries Mary Stillwell, one of his employees, before heading back to the lab to continue work on important improvements in stock ticker technology, several of which he has devised this year.
Edison invents the quadruplex telegraph for Western Union, which transmits four messages simultaneously (two in each direction).
Edison separates his laboratory from the manufacturing shop. He invents the electric pen, an early copying device, and works on various telegraph inventions. He also announces the discovery of "etheric force," not realizing that he has observed the behavior of radio waves; his controversial claim is not accepted by the scientific community.
Edison moves to Menlo Park, New Jersey, and establishes his first full-scale industrial research laboratory, combining electrical and chemical laboratories with an experimental machine shop.
Edison invents the carbon transmitter, a crucial improvement in telephone technology, and the phonograph, which he demonstrates at the offices of Scientific American on December 7.
Edison invents the carbon-filament lamp and a direct-current generator for incandescent electric lighting. A New Year's Eve demonstration of his system is held for the public at Menlo Park.
Edison hires a larger staff to help him develop the components of his electric lighting system for commercial use and sets up a factory for the manufacture of electric lamps at Menlo Park.
Edison leaves Menlo Park and opens new offices in New York City. He establishes factories to make various parts of the electric light and power system and begins construction of the first permanent central power station, on Pearl Street, which opens in September 1882.
Edison spends a year promoting the installation of central stations for small manufacturing cities and towns and establishes a company to build the stations.
Mary (Stillwell) Edison dies.
Edison marries Mina Miller. Charles Tainter, working in Alexander Graham Bell's Volta Laboratory, develops an improved wax-recording phonograph called the graphophone.
Edison moves into a new laboratory in West Orange, New Jersey.
Spurred by the graphophone, Edison develops his "perfected" phonograph.
Edison engages in a "war of the currents" with George Westinghouse as he challenges the safety of the new alternating-current electric systems with evidence from animal electrocutions conducted at his laboratory.
William Kemmler becomes the first man executed with an electric chair.
The Thomson-Houston Company and Edison General Electric merge to form General Electric. Edison leaves electric lighting and spends the rest of the decade attempting to develop a method for processing low-grade iron for use by eastern smelters, which fails after the discovery of rich new mines in the Midwest.
The Columbian Exposition in Chicago is powered by alternating-current and the Niagara Falls Commission approves AC as the system for the first large-scale electrical generator in the world.
Edison demonstrates his system for making and showing motion pictures.
Introduces the Home Phonograph, an inexpensive, spring-motor phonograph.
General Electric organizes the first modern research-and-development laboratory.
Edison begins work on a storage battery for use in electric cars.
Edison markets his alkaline storage battery, which is used extensively in a host of commercial applications after the market for electric automobiles declines.
Influenced by a New York Times interview with Edison, Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels convinces Edison to head a Naval Consulting Board to investigate new military technology.
Edison, Henry Ford, and Harvey Firestone begin a tradition of vacationing together and are followed by the press everywhere they go.
Edison begins an effort to find a natural substitute for rubber that can be grown and processed quickly in case of shortages caused by war, eventually settling on goldenrod as the best material.
Edison re-enacts the invention of the incandescent light at the Golden Jubilee celebration in Dearborn, Michigan, where Henry Ford has reconstructed the Menlo Park laboratory.
Edison dies in Llewellyn Park, New Jersey. The nation dims its light bulbs for one minute on the day of his funeral.
My American Experience
The late 1800s and early 1900s were exciting years for American innovation and technology. What is the most significant or impactful invention in American history during that time?