6 Thomas Edison Inventions You’ve Never Heard Of

The total number of Thomas Edison patents during his lifetime was 2,332; 1093 domestic patents and 1239 foreign patents. Among those patents were the incandescent light bulb and phonograph…but did you know Edison also invented some interesting items in the areas of food, furniture, and toys? Read on to see how his creative ideas touched all areas of our daily life…

1) Edison’s Method of Preserving Fruit

Thomas Edison’s patent for vacuum-sealed fruit preservation

In 1881, Edison filed for a patent for a method to preserve fruits, vegetables or other organic substances in a glass vessel. The vessel was filled with the items to be preserved, and then all the air was sucked from it with an air pump. The vessel tube was sealed with another piece of glass. This invention came about from his work with vacuum pumps while developing long-life incandescent light bulbs.

2) Edison’s Concrete Furniture

Thomas Edison’s budget-friendly concrete phonograph cabinets

Made with air-impregnated foam to keep the weight at only one-and-a-half times that of wooden furniture, Edison’s line of concrete furnishings would be sanded and smoothed into a mirror-like finish or stained to look like wood grain. He claimed he could furnish an entire house for less than $200. In 1911, Edison’s company molded a piano, bathtub and cabinets that could house Edison’s phonographs.

3) Thomas Edison’s Talking Dolls

Thomas Edison’s phonograph-powered talking dolls

Patented in 1890, Edison developed miniature phonographs and inserted them into dolls. The phonograph was enclosed in a tin casing that comprised the doll’s chest, then pre-made arms and legs were attached, along with a bisque head made in Germany. The talking dollies sold for about $10. 

4) Edison’s Telephone Greeting – “Hello”

Thomas Edison speaking on the phone at this desk

In 1877, Thomas Edison first suggested using the word “hello.” Before this, telephone users would often pick up the phone with phrases like, “Do I get you?” and, “Are you there?” But Edison found “hello” to be much more efficient, and the word caught on quickly — much to the dismay of Alexander Graham Bell. The inventor of the telephone preferred using the seafarer’s phrase “ahoy” to begin a conversation instead.

5) Edison’s Edicraft Speed Toaster

Thomas Edison’s speed toaster

In the 1920’s, Edison’s company released a line luxury kitchen appliances, one of which was the automatic toaster. Many cheaper toasters were being invented and sold around this time, but what made these unique was that it used two compartments for the toast that opened automatically when it was done, instead of the springs popping the bread up. It was marketed for its speed – Toasting 2 slices of bread at once to the degree of toasted you set it at (and never burning)!

6) The “Edison” Effect AKA Thermionic Emission

Thomas Edison’s discovery of thermionic emission

In the early 1880’s, Edison discovered what is known today as thermionic emission, as a by-product of his work with improving early incandescent light bulbs. He patented the “Edison Effect” and actually used it as part of his first electric utility system in NYC. However, later this discovery became the basis for the diode and triode vacuum tubes that lead to modern technology we know today like radio, televisions and even phones!


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