9 Great Christmas Traditions from Thomas Edison and his Family

While Thomas Edison’s favorite holiday was 4th of July, his wife’s favorite holiday was definitely Christmas. From decorations to parties to private family time, Mina Edison would pull out all the stops to make the holiday really feel special. Keep reading to see how she did just that:

1) An Elaborate, Multi-Course Christmas Dinner

Thomas Edison’s Christmas Dinner Menu from 1891

In 1891, the Edison’s Christmas meal included: Oysters, cosomme, hard-shell crab, good applesauce, potato croquettes, mushroom patties, cucumber salad, ice cream, plum pudding, mince pie, cheese, nuts, raisins, candy and fruit.

2) A Wholesome and Dry Family Celebration

As a staunch Methodist, Mina did not favor the consumption of alcohol. While they did serve some drinks at more formal events, the Edison family didn’t partake.

3) Sharing the Christmas Spirit with Everyone

Edison’s daughter, Madeleine said that “The dining room table used to sit about thirty. There was quite a lot of family…plus a lot of strays that Mother used to pull in, people who didn’t have a place to go.”

4) Changing up the Christmas Decorations Every Year

Holiday decor was Mina Edison’s fortay…from a heavily decorated tree with ornaments and lights to intricate floral designs. In 1915 alone, she ordered 40 wreaths to place around the house.

5) The Christmas Tree in the Den was Always the Main Event

The den Christmas Tree at Thomas Edison’s Glenmont Estate, decorated just as Mina would have done in her lifetime.

Although the decorations changed every year, one thing did remain the same – The grand Christmas Tree in the den. Edison’s son, Theodore, said, “The tree used to be right in the middle, and then all the people would come. Christmas was quite a day here. After dinner, they would all come out here and sit around the tree and distribute presents, you know.”

6) Decorating with Poinsettias from Mina Edison’s Greenhouse

Mina Edison’s passions came together for Christmas pretty seamlessly – Her love for hosting parties and her love for gardening. She’d grow dozens of poinsettias in her greenhouse at Glenmont and then use them all around the house as decorations and favors for guests.

7) Toys for the Edison Children from FAO Shwartz

An original receipt from FAO Shwartz, listing what the Edison children would get for Christmas

What is Christmas without toys for the kids? Balls, racquets, rag dolls and suitcases were just some of the gifts on the Edisons’ wish list.

8) The Edisons Started Christmas Day with Music

The Edison kids would start every Christmas by playing Christmas music on the phonograph in the Second Floor Hall…and then singing carols outside of their parents’ bedroom!

9) Opening Stockings all in Edison’s Bed

Thomas Edison’s mantel and pastel stockings…often filled with Florida oranges!

The most heart-warming Edison tradition of them happened on Christmas morning, before sharing the day with any guests. All of the children would climb into Mina and Thomas Edison’s bed with their pastel-colored stockings to open them together. Often, they would find fresh Florida oranges along with small toys, but it didn’t really matter what was inside. Theodore recalled, “I think by father got very little out of it, because he couldn’t hear our carols and having all those kids climbing all over the place and looking at those presents didn’t mean much to him. But it was wonderful for us.” Sounds pretty wonderful to us!


Thomas Edison Reconnects with France at State Dinner

Last week, President Biden honored the French President Emmanuel Macron with lobster and a Thomas Edison patent, at his White House State dinner.

As part of the festivities, President Biden gave the President Macron a facsimile print of Thomas Edison’s 1877 patent of the American phonograph. Biden also gifted Macron a custom vinyl record collection of great American musicians, some of whom had been recorded by Thomas Edison as well.

Thomas Edison’s 1878 patent of the American Phonograph or Speaking Machine

During the dinner, Biden toasted to the “to the history that binds and the values that still unite us.” There is a long standing connection between the US and France, one that often includes Edison.

It all started with the Paris Exposition of 1889, when Thomas Edison exhibited his technological wonders there. The Eiffel Tower is the remaining landmark of that famous world’s fair that attracted 32 million visitors.

It was here that Gustav Eiffel and Edison forged their friendship. Gustave Eiffel had an apartment at the top of the Eiffel Tower where Eiffel hosted Thomas Alva Edison on September 10, 1889, at which time Edison presented Eiffel with an Edison Class M Phonograph.

Mannequins of Gustave Eiffel and Thomas Edison inside Eiffel’s apartment in the Eiffel Tower

Today, wax figures of Eiffel and Edison sit in that suite in an exhibit atop the Eiffel tower. The Statue of Liberty, engineered by Edison’s friend, still burns brightly in the Upper of Bay of New York as a gift from France for the 1876 for the American Centennial. Adding to this historical relationship now is a smaller piece of art, but just as beautiful and important – The technical drawings of Edison’s machine that began the entire American Music Industry.


6 Innovative Student Inventions that Came Out of The Thomas Edison Pitch Contest

Over the last 13 years, students have awed the Edison Innovation Foundation with their creativity and hard work at the STEM-based Thomas Edison Pitch Contest. Each year, elementary, middle and high school students submit prototypes that they have designed to “make the world a brighter place.” From health to alternative energy to animal welfare to space exploration, it is amazing to see what young minds can come up with the right tools and outlet. Here are 6 examples of just that:

1) AVOLT, the “Mechanical Heart Valve”: This Lacey Township High School team created an electrically motorized valve replacement with an ultrasonic sensor to regulate the aortic valve’s leaflets to coincide with the blood flow of the systole and diastole phases. This invention is meant to significantly help a patient’s postoperative and cardiovascular health, along with the aorta, which is the most important artery in the heart.

2) The Buzz Gloves for Astronauts: The Hockaday School created an updated tools for astronauts called The Buzz Gloves. Although a version of this device is being used by NASA, this team took it a step farther creating a more cost-effective and broader interpretation for their own invention. When the astronaut touches something hard enough, the gloves will make a buzz sound and light up to prevent injury and, of course, their nails from breaking!

3) Solar Aqua Tech Reusable Water Bottle: This Ridgewood High School team created a water bottle that converts undrinkable to drinkable using only sunlight and oxygen. This cheaper and easily accessible way to sanitize water can help make clean water more accessible to people in need all over the world.

4) Hot Paws Leash: This duo from Hewitt-Trussville High School created an infrared dog leash meant to solve a problem that not many people think about with their dogs, but is a huge problem especially in hot parts of the country – Burns from pavement that is too hot! With this invention, pet owners can prevent pain and trip to the vet with just pointing the temperature gun at the ground to decide where it is safe for their pet to walk.

5) Hanu Screening Application: This student from Cupertino High School created the “first ever” end-to-end machine-learning driven solution for remote screening of respiratory illnesses. Influenced by her grandfather’s own COPD, she has created this low cost, accurate invention makes it an accessible tool for patients to monitor this respiratory illnesses.

6) High Efficiency Vertical Farming: This team’s invention reduces the need for artificial lighting in vertical farming, a more sustainable and affordable solution for worldwide food shortages. This Cabrillo Middle School team created a working, smart prototype powered by alternative energy that can be used by home gardeners and small farms alike – Earning them not only a top spot in the finals but the Nexans-Edison award for the most innovative use of alternative energy.

If you were impressed by these projects, we’re here to tell you that you and your students can do the same! The Thomas Edison Pitch Contest was created in 2010 as a competition to showcase and encourage invention, innovation and entrepreneurship among students before they get to college. Every year, students submit their great ideas to win prizes and gain the hands-on experience exclusive to our contest!

Early registration for this year’s contest is now open…Learn how to sign up on the website here: https://www.thomasedisonpitch.org/


The Importance of Giving, According to Thomas Edison and His Son

Thomas Alva Edison’s son, Charles Edison was the Secretary of the Navy, Governor of New Jersey and a nationally recognized corporate executive. He died July 31, 1969, three days days shy of his 79th birthday. He was also the founder of The Brook Foundation (the “Brook”), a philanthropic institution created to support worthwhile endeavors in medical research, science education and historic preservation.

Charles named his foundation after a Sunday School song that he recalled from the days of his childhood. As we approach the holidays and Giving Tuesday 2022, we remember its words:

Give, said the little brook,
Give, oh give – give, oh give
Give, said the little brook,
Oh give, oh give away
I am little I know, but wherever I go
I give, I give, I give.
I am little I know, but wherever I go
I give, I give away.
Giving, giving all the day;
Give, oh give, oh give away.
Giving, giving all the day,
I give, I give away.

Although the fund doesn’t go by “The Brook Foundation” anymore, it is still active and serving its original purpose today under his own namesake, the Charles Edison Fund. His long-range goal for the fund was that of creating an institution capable of carrying on after his passing. 53 years later, the foundation still works hard to support the legacy of his father, Thomas Edison, and promote education, specifically careers in science and technology. We use our large collection of artifacts, Edison’s Intellectual Property and the Thomas Edison National Historical Park as the foundation for lighting the way to a brighter future. If you are confused how those missions go together, we will leave you with this important quote about history:

“History is important because it teaches us about the past. By learning about the past, you come to understand the present so you can make educated decisions about the future.”

Richelle Mead

In fact, the Charles Edison Fund now also has a sister fund, the Edison Innovation Foundation that is specifically devoted to educational goals. One of the foundation’s main programs is the annual Thomas Edison Pitch Contest. The contest was created in 2010 as a competition to honor Thomas Edison and encourage invention, innovation and entrepreneurship among students before they get to college. Every year, students in grades 4-12 submit their own invention to win prizes and gain the hands-on experience exclusive to our contest! We provide supplies, curriculum and stipends so they have all the support they need to solve a problem they see in the world today. Early registration for the Thomas Edison Pitch Contest contest actually begins next month on December 1st! You can go to the website to learn more: www.thomasedisonpitch.org.

The Charles Edison Fund’s motto is “Doing well by doing good.” The world is a better place with forward thinkers like Thomas Edison, and we are proud to be carrying on his memory and cultivating the next generation of pioneers (which we are ensuring will be made up of all genders and races) to solve the problems of today and tomorrow. Thomas Edison, himself, was also a humantarian.

Thomas Edison did not invent to make money…he made money to invent! He had a unique way of linking technological progress to society’s well being. He once said:

​“My desire is to do everything within my power to free people from drudgery and create the largest measure of happiness and prosperity.”

Thomas Edison

​Edison propelled his philanthropy through his business whether it was bio-manufacturing a new rubber plant when there were fears that the US would run out of the natural resource, developing low cost concrete houses to address housing shortages, or allowing the free use of his fluoroscope patent(s) for medical use.

Following the Edisons’ footsteps, we invite you to join us this holiday season in supporting students, entrepreneurs, scientists, historical preservation, medical advances, environmental causes, and more. If you are interested in donating to our cause, you can visit our website here: https://www.thomasedison.org/donate.