Category Archives: All About Tom

Thomas Edison Brought Frankenstein to Life First

Thomas Edison Brought Frankenstein to Life First

Mary Shelley painted the picture, but Edison made it move!

Virtually everyone knows the story about Frankenstein and most have viewed some movie adaptation of it, whether scary, animated, or a parody. Many associate the very funny version of Frankenstein with the late Gene Wilder’s madcap antics as Dr. Frankenstein. However, very few people realize the first adaptation to film of Mary Shelley’s 1818 Gothic classic was done in 1910 at the Edison Movie Studio in the Bronx, New York, but Thomas Edison’s movie production company.

For about 40 years the film was considered lost, with only some pictures and paraphernalia still existing; until a Wisconsin movie collector disclosed his treasure. The real value of the film was realized in the 1970s, whereupon the film was preserved onto a 35 MM format. In 2014, the Library of Congress preserved the movie.

Filmed over a 3 day period, the now historically significant 14 minute film was directed by L. Searle Dawley and originally released on March 18, 1910. The unbilled cast included Augustus Phillips as Dr. Frankenstein, Charles Ogle as the Monster, and Mary Fuller as the doctor’s fiancée.

You should take note that in the very early days of motion pictures, audiences were very important to the industry’s formative growth. This film was considered a liberal adaptation of Shelley’s novel, with the potentially repulsive aspects of the story toned down and the psychological aspects of it emphasized instead. 

The Frankenstein Beast Confronts Himself in a Mirror

Okay, so you twisted our arms….here are some clips of the subsequent “Young Frankenstein” movie from Gene Wilder that you might recognize more. Enjoy, and remember who started the horror movie trend — old Tom Edison himself!

Thomas Edison said, “Anything that won’t sell, I don’t want to invent. Its sale is proof of utility, and utility is success.”

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.
These Thomas Edison Movie Studios were The First In the World

These Thomas Edison Movie Studios were the First in the World

Where Budding Directors and Producers Got Their Start In Movies

Edison’s movie production activities ran from 1893 to 1918, during which Edison Studios made approximately 1200 movies, 54 feature length and the rest shorts. From New Jersey to New York, Edison Studios was home to some of the first movies filmed at a few historical locations:

  • The Black Maria, a studio Edison invented to film all day long in West Orange, NJ, 1893-1901. 
  • Edison’s Manhattan Studio in NYC a rooftop glass-enclosed studio that operated from 1901 to 1906.
  • Edison’s Bronx Studio in Bedford Park, NYC opened in 1907 and operated until 1918.

Here in these studios, America’s first directors began the development of the artistic craft and profession we know so well today. Each studio further refined and improved the movie-making process, which included introducing special effects and new techniques as well.

Edison’s Bronx Movie Studio, where the early film industry got its start.

The Black Maria is possibly the most notable of the Edison Studios, being the world’s first film production studio. The 1954 reproduction of the Black Maria below is housed at the Thomas Edison National Historical Park in West Orange today.

A Reproduction of the Black Maria at the Thomas Edison National Historical Park

Using natural sunlight to film, the roof of the Black Maria was cranked open to admit the light; and the entire studio rotated on wheels 15 degrees every hour to track the sun. Edison once remarked about the often cramped conditions in which they made movies in this studio saying, “It was a ghastly affair, but it worked.”

Edison and his assistants would experiment with film and sound for hours in this building, pictured in the drawing below. Notice there is a phonograph used to record the sound. Edison was able to synchronize motion and sound as early as 1895, only a few years after opening the Black Maria. This would not be witnessed by mass Hollywood audiences until the late 1920s!

A drawing of a movie being made in the Black Maria, the first movie studio in the world.

Curious to see how they came out? Check out some of Edison’s Studios most notable films here.

We all know about Hollywood and what movies are selling out in the theaters today. However, did you know where it all began? To learn more about Thomas Edison and the film industry, check the blog again soon! 

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.

Thomas N. McCarter, founder and President of PSE&G explains a tour of the new Kearny Generating Station in 1925 to Gov. of NJ, A. Harry Moore (left) and Thomas Edison (right)

Thomas Edison and PSE&G—a Perfect Team

The Light Bulb Icon and a Utility Giant Celebrate Invention

The winners will be celebrated on May 15, 2019!

It’s May and the level of excitement at the Edison Innovation Foundation is nearing its annual peak; because this is the month for the grand awards in our annual Thomas Edison Pitch Contest. In this our 9th straight year, we have reviewed numerous entries from all over the United States, and winnowed it down to 9 finalists, three each in the elementary, middle and high school divisions. Finalists will compete in a 2-3 minute team pitch to determine the final order of awards.

What makes this year doubly blessed is our new partnership with Public Service Electric & Gas [PSE&G] Foundation. PSE&G is New Jersey’s largest electric and gas utility, with an impeccable national reputation for customer service reliability; clean power generation and a pioneer in applying photovoltaic installations on utility poles, commercial properties and rehabilitated brownfield sites.

PSE&G has the creative spirit that ties right in with the theme of the pitch contest. They have long been a booster of STEM educational programs throughout their service territories, and we are proud to have them associated with this Thomas Edison program. Students will even get the chance to be judged by one of their principal Technical Engineers, Dawn Shilkoski!

Thomas N. McCarter, founder and President of PSE&G explains a tour of the new Kearny Generating Station in 1925 to Gov. of NJ, A. Harry Moore (left) and Thomas Edison (right)

This year’s awards ceremony will take place “under the big top” at the Thomas Edison National Historical Park, the site of the legendary inventor’s West Orange works where Edison combined invention and entrepreneurship to create the modern world of R&D labs, team-based problem solving, and tied it to our ever expanding concept of technology driven economic progress.

Edison is the great grandfather of modern STEM / STEAM thinking, the educational paradigm taught in schools all over the world. Our finalists will have mimicked the Edison style of thinking throughout their journey from raw idea to final design.

Edison on solar energy – “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that. I wish I had more years left.”

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.
9 Things you Didn’t Know About Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison named the New Jersey State Inventor

New Jersey Governor Makes It Official

On May 2, 2019, Thomas Alva Edison was officially designated State Inventor! Just goes to show, you should never underestimate the persuasive power of young ladies and their teacher. 4 years ago, Sarah Marion and her 4th grade students Rory, Zoe, Dylan and Emma at Stony Brook Elementary School in Hopewell, researched the great inventor and wrote a letter to the NJ legislature about recognizing the world’s greatest inventor. They fought to make it a law every since and even got Senator Shirley K. Turner to sponsor the legislation which has now become law. The Edison Innovation Foundation is so proud to have had a hand in this impressive example of perseverance and passion that this group has set!

The New Jersey State Inventor law is all thanks to this team of 4th grade students and their fearless teacher! Photo via

How did the kids present the idea of the bill to make Thomas Edison the “State Inventor” to you? What about that presentation convinced you to take action?

During our Social Studies unit on New Jersey Government, my students had learned all about the state symbols of New Jersey and were assigned a project to research and come up with a new state symbol. They had to have solid reasoning as to why this should be a symbol and present it to the class with the goal of persuading them that it should become a symbol. The girls put together a great presentation with facts to support why Thomas Edison should become our State Inventor. I saw tremendous possibility within this idea and after speaking with the girls, we did a bit more research and wrote a letter to Senator Turner expressing our thoughts. She quickly wrote back and told us that she was sponsoring our bill had requested that a bill be drafted to name Thomas Edison as New Jersey’s State Inventor! We were over the moon excited.

Now that the Committee & Senate have voted for the bill, what do you think the effects of making Edison the “NJ State Inventor” will be?

I think that a lot more attention will be on all of Thomas Edison’s accomplishments; not only for New Jersey, but also for the world. He was such an incredible inventor who drastically changed the lives of every single person living today. I also hope that when the public hears that a group of 4th graders (now 8th graders) was behind this becoming law, that everyone will realize the importance of their voice. Stand up for what you believe in and don’t let anybody prevent you from achieving something great!

Thomas Edison’s legendary West Orange Labs employing 10,000 people and shipping products all over the world—the place were R&D labs showed their true value to corporations.

What was your favorite part about the process of creating this bill?

My favorite part about creating this bill has been working side by side with the girls. They have never given up hope that we can make this happen, even after years went by. This process has truly proven that anything is possible and that every single person’s voice matters, no matter their age. My hope is that other students in Hopewell Valley, and hopefully the entire state will soon realize what can be accomplished when you don’t give up! We have met so many interesting people and government officials along the way that have motivated us and helped us to persevere. Aside from Senator Turner, John Keegan has been one of our biggest supporters since day one. When we were invited to Thomas Edison’s lab and awarded “The Tommy”, we felt like superstars! Who knew that it would take more than three years after that event to get this bill passed through both houses.

What were the major challenges you faced when pitching this bill?

The biggest challenge we faced was overcoming disappointment. After testifying at committee meetings we were always filled with so much hope that this would be the year that it would pass! We became filled with disappointment when sessions would end and we had to start all over again. Luckily, we didn’t let it keep us down for long! We got right back to writing letters and sending emails to those who could help us get this on voting agendas again.

Edison’s invention factory where prototypes were rapidly made for testing and evaluation-which is what we call makers labs today! Edison is the great grand-daddy of STEM

What can other students & teachers learn from this achievement?

Throughout this entire process, my hope has always been that students will realize how important their opinions are and also realize how essential it is to fulfill their civic duty by standing up for what they believe in. As educators, instilling the belief in students that they can accomplish anything at a young age will boost their confidence and help set them on a path for success. I believe in teaching my students the value of being a good person and this achievement can help them see the good that others are doing and make them want to work toward their goals as well.

Where are the students that worked with you to create this bill now?

Rory, Emma, Zoe, and Dylan are now in 8th grade! It is hard to believe that they will be entering high school next year. They are still excellent students and involved in many different activities. Aside from being great students, each one has a heart of gold and I feel so honored to have been a part of their educational journey and lives.

What is your favorite Thomas Edison invention and why?

My favorite Thomas Edison invention would have to be the incandescent light bulb. Every year we take our 4th graders on a field trip to the State House and they learn that Edison’s Electric Light Company installed the brass chandelier with 66 light bulbs that is hanging in the Assembly Chamber. All of my students have background knowledge of our current bill, so seeing their faces “light” up when they see something that his company actually installed is really awesome.

Do you have anything else to add, that you want people to know?

Never, ever, ever give up!  I repeat this phrase to all of my students endlessly throughout each school year. I want them to remember it as they move on from 4th grade and apply it to their everyday lives. Rory, Emma, Zoe, and Dylan demonstrated this day in and day out throughout this entire process. Throughout my teaching career, I have never seen a group of students work so hard and persevere for so long in something that they believe in. I encourage every single child and adult to stand up for what they believe in and chase their dreams. You are never too young or too old to achieve something great!