Thomas Edison Makes Lemonade from Lemons

It’s just a heavy piece of concrete, a part of the old Yankee Stadium actually, but visitors to the Thomas Edison National Historical Park marvel at its form and weight, especially at the thick aggregate mix of stones and gravel within.

Edison Cement in a chunk of Yankee Stadium.

Edison Cement in a chunk of Yankee Stadium.

Yankee Stadium, around 1923.

Yankee Stadium, around 1923.

This is what Edison’s Portland cement makes when properly mixed, a durable concrete that he used to build his factory buildings, garage and potting shed, as well as his concrete homes– and of course Yankee Stadium. About 68,000 barrels of Edison cement went into the construction of Yankee Stadium in 1923.

An Edison concrete house today.

An Edison concrete house today.

All this fine cement … resulted from a failed economic attempt to recoup the iron ore within the rock in mountainous western New Jersey, out by Sparta and Ogdensburg. All he was able to literally glean from this $1 million plus investment (which almost bankrupted him) was a “bag of lemons”. But being Edison, and not wont to give up easily, he was determined to make lemonade from it all.

Realizing the know-how (technology) of rock crushing was a valuable and potentially profitable new business, he switched gears from iron ore to Portland cement and did what he always did when he entered a new industry … he disrupted it. When he was done, the traditional 50-foot kilns used to roast the pre-cement constituents were increased to 200 feet-effectively quadrupling the productivity of a single kiln.

One of Edison’s great rules was never let failure get you down, always learn from it. Can you taste the sweet lemonade he made from rock crushing technology? Look at all the places in our world where cement is used! What an incredible material. All you entrepreneurs, inventors, and world-changers … banish discouragement, and go for it! Make Edison proud.

Thomas Edison said, “Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do doesn’t mean it’s useless.”

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

Left: Intel-Edison module now available world-wide for developers. Right: The “Tommy” award given by the Edison Innovation Foundation.

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