Thomas Edison and Benjamin Franklin Changed the World

They were cut from similar cloth, inventive minds, open to new ideas. Edison’s big four inventions were recorded sound, the light bulb/electric utilities, motion pictures and R&D labs. Franklin’s work included bi-focals, the Franklin stove, lightning rod, and being major supporter of lending libraries, community hospitals, and volunteer fire departments. Edison and Franklin are indelible memories on the American landscape, common men with enormous capacity for self-discipline, planning and organization.

 Thomas Edison and Benjamin Franklin Changed the World    Thomas Edison and Benjamin Franklin Changed the World

 Here are some very fascinating similarities between Thomas and Ben:

  • Had little formal education and were self-made
  • Were engaged at an early age in publishing and printing newspapers
  • Cultivated a fascination with electricity
  • Invented and made scientific discoveries
  • Knew the value of human communications and leadership
  • Loved humor and realized its creative value
  • Enjoyed solving problems
  • Were inveterate journal and notebook keepers
  • Researched new areas and were constantly learning
  • Fundamentally changed the world and improved our standard of living.

Here is the one that is most interesting. Both great men had sons who were governors of New Jersey.

“The value of an idea lies in the using of it.”

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The House that Babe Ruth….and Edison Built

Everyone knows the saying that Yankee Stadium is the house that Ruth built, a tribute to the iconic baseball player whose charisma and slugging power were legendary. His rise to prominence coincided with the rise in status of the great ballpark. Most folks however, don’t know that Thomas Edison’s Portland Cement was used to actually build the world’s most famous ballpark…about 68,000 bags in fact…..but, it wasn’t all he did with concrete.

 

Yankee Stadium-early 1923

Yankee Stadium-early 1923

 

Iconic photo of the playing field

Iconic photo of the playing field

Edison can be considered the father of pre-fabricated housing. He built a variety of concrete houses using complex molds and arrangements that allowed his workers to continuously pour a complete home in about six hours. A number of these homes exist today. His technology was licensed to builders, with several New Jersey housing clusters built. Edison also thought about a wide variety of other uses for concrete, including furniture and phonograph cabinets.

 

Model of Edison concrete house

Model of Edison concrete house

 

Steel molds used to construct concrete homes-completed house at right

Steel molds used to construct concrete homes-completed house at right

The garage and potting shed at Edison’s historic home, Glenmont in LlewellynPark in West Orange NJ are classic examples of his concrete building technology. Both structures were built about 1908-1909, and are in fine structural condition today, toured by many visitors to the site each year. The garage houses a variety of historic automobiles owned by the Edison family.

 

Edison garage at the site of his historic home

Edison garage at the site of his historic home

 

Potting shed and attached greenhouse

Potting shed and attached greenhouse

Edison’s work in concrete changed the cement industry as well. He redesigned the kilns used to make the concrete and increased their size radically, in most cases doubling their length. A great deal of the technology he used for concrete-making derived from his failed efforts to crush large scale rock formations to extract iron ore.

Thomas Edison on Time Magazine

Editor’s note:Very soon, there will begin a serious fund raising campaign to rehabilitate the garage and restore the Edison era automobiles there; including three electric vehicles, and the personal chauffer-driven car of Edison’s son, Charles, who used the car when he was governor of New Jersey [1940-44].

“Everything comes to him who hustles while he waits.”

Time ® is a registered trademark of Time Inc.

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Edison’s Favorite Invention

Every time you pop on your tunes and listen to your favorite artists, you are channeling Tom Edison. The phonograph, precursor to your iPod was his favorite invention. It just seemed to work so well the first time he tried it, and of course there is a quote about the phonograph:

“…I’ve made some machines; but this is my baby, and I expect it to grow up to be a big feller and support me in my old age.”

Now we store, read, and playback our songs digitally on our computers, iPods, and other electronic devices. It all has come a long way since Edison first showed us how back in 1877.

[A young Edison demonstrates his phonograph]

[A young Edison demonstrates his phonograph]

Think of the relevance of Edison today in the millions of people employed in this global business. In the U.S. alone, 2011 revenue from music sales is expected to exceed $17 billion; including revenues form physical performances, on-line and mobile downloads, and digital sales. Worldwide, that number is about $68 billion. Radio revenue [music sales, as inferred through advertising] is likely to add another $18 billion to the U.S. total.

Like his motion picture industry, Edison not only pioneered the medium, he created both the movie studio and the recording studio at his legendary West Orange Labs. He invented the phonograph equipment, found the artists, recorded their music and marketed their work…a vertically integrated model still in use today.

[An early Edison phonograph and typical recorded cylinders]

[An early Edison phonograph and typical recorded cylinders]

Today on the third floor of the newly renovated Edison Labs in West Orange, visitors can see the old recording studio, gaze at photos of the great artists who sang there and see the primitive, but effective hardware that started the world on its constantly evolving musical journey. Every generation has a unique sound to their music and probably always will.

[Edison listens to recording artist Helen Davis accompanied by pianist Victor Young in the laboratory music room in 1912.]

[Edison listens to recording artist Helen Davis accompanied by pianist Victor Young in the laboratory music room in 1912.]

In a way, we can see Old Tom as a communication genius, giving us a variety of ways to express ourselves…first with great improvements to the telegraph, then an improved telephone, recorded sound and the movie industry. These innovations all involved something else…electricity….and of course, Edison invented the modern electric utility industry. Not bad for a guy from Milan, Ohio who never finished grammar school.

Oh yes, almost forgot…Tom’s favorite song was “I’ll Take You Home Again Kathleen”.

Editor’s Deep Dive:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgE7i8k8YRw
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wpv3LSJB-Qc
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OopnK0DDpow&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tXvWj1HGzm4&feature=related

Thomas Edison on Time Magazine“I believe that the science of chemistry alone almost proves the existence of an intelligent creator.”

Time ® is a registered trademark of Time Inc.

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