Thomas Edison in The Big Apple

Thomas Edison lived in New York City for 3 exciting years at the beginning of his career. He moved to the Big Apple in 1869; Broke, bright-eyed, and bushy-tailed. He had already worked in a number of U.S. cities as a telegrapher, but he came to the city with hopes of shifting his career path towards “inventor.”

Fresh from his first patent (an electric vote recorder) and first commercial failure (the Senate rejected the idea of speeding the voting process up), he was on a mission to “only invent things that he was certain the public would want.”

Thomas Edison’s first patent – The Electric Vote Recorder

His first order of business? To find a good breakfast. John T. Cunningham wrote about it in his book, “They Called Him Wizard,”

“Edison arrived in New York City in late spring, 1869, the very image of the poor lad in the ‘pluck and luck’ stories that Horatio Alger would make famous 20 years later. Breakfast presented the first New York challenge to the 22-year-old inventor. He begged a bit of tea in a wholesale tea emporium, then traded the tea for a breakfast of apple dumplings and coffee (which he later recalled was ‘the finest repast’ of his life.” 

John T. Cunningham

This humble meal was so satisfying to him it went on to become his lifelong favorite dish. 

When he wasn’t eating apples in the Big Apple, the inventor continued to work on telegraph-related inventions in New York City, however this time it would solutions to problems that he saw a need for in his practical daily life.

For example, while boarding in an office on Wall Street, he noticed the breakdown of his neighbor’s master ticker tape machine and offered to fix it. This led to his job at he was at the brokerage firm to make repairs to their equipment. During this time, Edison worked for Western Union Telegraph company and worked on a few early inventions including his first successful invention of the improved “Universal Stock Printer” and the carbon transmitter, which aid in the creation of Alexander Graham Bell’s new telephone.

Thomas Edison Stock Ticker for the Western Union Telegraph Co via

Edison’s stint in New York City was a short one. In 1871, Edison was paid about $40,000 for these smaller inventions and was able to open his first small lab in Newark, New Jersey.

However, he would return soon with his most famous invention – the light bulb and the first electrical grid. He set up Edison Electric Light Company’s headquarters in Manhattan in 1881 and the first Central Power Station in Pearl Station in 1882giving the Big Apple it’s next nickname…The city of lights!

Edison Electric Company in New York City via @nyhistory

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