Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS

Montage of images and link description. Edison's Miracle of Light Imagemap: linked to kids and home
The Film and More
Imagemap(text links below) of menu items
The American Experience
Timeline of Edison's  Life index.html index_2.html
1847 photo of Edison's birthplaceEdison is born in Milan, Ohio, on February 11.
1854 The Edison family moves to Port Huron, Michigan.
1859 photo of Edison as a boyEdison 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.
1863-1867 Edison works as a telegraph operator in various cities of the Midwest, becoming a first-class press-wire operator and experimenting with telegraph instruments.
1868 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.
1869 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.
1870 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.
1871 photo of M StillwellEdison devises several important improvements in stock ticker technology.

On Christmas Day, he marries Mary Stillwell, one of his employees.
1874 Edison invents the quadruplex telegraph for Western Union, which transmits four messages simultaneously (two in each direction).
1875 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.
1876 photo of Menlo ParkEdison 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.
1877 photo of Edison with phonographEdison 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.
1879 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.
1880 photo of an early light bulbEdison 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.

1847 - 1880 | 1881 - 1931

The Film & More | Special Features | Timeline | Gallery | Teacher's Guide
The American Experience | Kids | Feedback | Search | Shop | Subscribe

©  New content 1999-2000 PBS Online / WGBH

Exclusive Corporate Funding is provided by: