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Showing posts from July, 2008

Edison's Fort Meyer, Florida Laboratory

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According to the original 1933 'Edison Institute Museum & Village' guidebook, "This laboratory was a take-down type of building, made in Maine and shipped to Fort Meyers, Florida, where it was set up in 1884-85. Here, Mr. Edison worked during his winter sojourns in the warmer climate, and here he perfected his wax record phonograph - an improvement over the tin foil machine." Edison also undertook numerous experiments in botanical science - during WWI he developed a formula for producing synthetic rubber from the goldenrod plant. The building is preserved with its original equipment and furnishings, including Mr. Edison's mahogany desk, pine chair, drafting table mounted on wooden horses, and stool. Both Edison and Ford had cottages in Fort Meyers and often took vacations together with their wives. For more information on Edison at Greenfield Village, please click the links below: Edison Fort Meyers Laboratory Edison Homestead Edison Illuminating Compa

Thomas Edison's Menlo Park Office and Library

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The original brick building, erected the same year as the machine shop - 1878 - was one of the unfortunate structures to disappear nearly completely, sans one lone shutter, from the compound in New Jersey. When reconstructing this 'nerve center of Menlo Park,' Just like the other reconstructed buildings, Mr. Ford relied heavily on old photographs, newspaper etches, and memories of those who were there in the 1870's and 1880's, including Thomas Edison himself. To keep this as authentic as he could, Ford arranged to have bricks supplied by the same firm that furnished the originals, and, after the structure had been completed, placed a single slat from the original 'lone shutter' in each of the rebuilt shutters to shade the windows. All involved were quite satisfied at the end result. (By the way, notice, in the top picture of the office/library, the Sarah Jordan Boarding House in the background). The first floor was a combined accounting office and reception

Edison's Menlo Park Machine Shop

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It is truly unfortunate that, except for the Sarah Jordan Boarding House and the glass house, the Menlo Park buildings were dismantled for use elsewhere or were simply torn down. Fortunately, Henry Ford was able to locate much of the material used to construct the original buildings. This machine shop, an authentic replication of the original - which was built in 1878, after he received financing from Wall Street - was run by around a dozen journeymen machinists and numerous apprentices along with general laborers. The lathes, drills, milling machines, and planers were powerful enough to cut and shape iron and steel with great precision. The power to run such equipment was generated by a 75 horsepwer, sixteen foot long boiler that provided the steam for the steam engine, originally made in Massachusetts. It is located behind the paned glass seen in the above photo. The foreman, a Swiss-trained master machinist named John Kruesi, ran the shop with an iron hand, directing the wor

Edison Menlo Park Woodworking Shop

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Another reproduction from the Menlo Park compound run by Thomas Edison, this woodworking shop, originally built ca 1876, housed skilled woodworkers to make models, parts, and patterns for the different experiments that Mr. Edison and his crew were working on. Using traditional hand tools with hand or foot powered machines, this wood shop shows Edison's continued reliance on traditional crafts to move the world into the future as the master craftsmen made wooden objects needed by Edison's laboratory operations. It is quite astounding to think that it took traditional means, such as wood working, to create a new future, one that would differentiate the 19th century from the 20th century. For more information on Edison at Greenfield Village, please click the links below: Edison Fort Meyers Laboratory Edison Homestead Edison Illuminating Company Edison Menlo Park Laboratory Edison Menlo Park Glass House Edison Menlo Park Machine Shop Edison Menlo Park Woodworking Shop Ed

Edison Menlo Park Glass House

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I believe this is only one of two authentic buildings that remained intact following the departure of Thomas Edison and his crew in 1886. That makes this building is a true historic structure, since most of the original structures of the Menlo Park complex were, as stated previously, taken apart with the wood used for other purposes. Mr. Ford searched far and wide and located most of the original boards and purchased them for the replicated buildings now found in the Village. Built in 1876, this glass house was where Edison's men performed the traditional craft of glassmaking, needed for glass bulbs, tubing, and hundreds of other glass implements for Mr. Edison's experiments. It was during this time that four men - two journeymen glassblowers and two assistants - worked under the watchful eye of a master craftsman named Ludwig Boehm, who was considered quite the temperamental German immigrant. Ludwig was replaced in 1880 by an American glassworker named William Holzer. Aga

Sarah Jordan Boarding House

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This house, built in 1870, originally stood near the laboratory where Thomas Edison and his men toiled in Menlo Park, New Jersey. Widowed in 1877, "Aunt Sally," as Sarah was known, lived in Newark, and was sent for in 1878 by her distant relative, Thomas Edison, to run a place for his workers to eat and sleep. With little employment opportunities for women, Mrs. Jordan accepted the offer and opened the home as a boarding house that same year. Several of Edison's single employees lived here and would sleep two to three to a bed in the six rooms on the second floor. In fact, at the height of the laboratory's activities in 1880, sixteen boarders called this structure 'home.' Edison's house, a good-sized residence, was down the road a short ways. Daily, the 'Wizard of Menlo Park' passed the Jordan Boarding House to and from his laboratory, walking atop the wood-plank walk, wearing a skull cap or a farmer's wide-brimmed straw hat, both hands

The Menlo Park Laboratory

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Thomas Edison was Henry Ford's life-long hero and, as adults, were very close friends. And when Mr. Ford formed the idea for his magnificent museum he knew he wanted to pay tribute to this greatest of all inventors. What better way to do this than to restore the "factory" where so many of his greatest inventions took place? In March of 1928, Ford began the restoration process. He wanted to reconstruct the Menlo Park complex where Edison and his skilled helpers worked at inventing "the future" from the years 1876 to 1886, and he wanted to do it in every minute detail. To give a quick bit of history of the lay out of this laboratory, the first floor was used for mainly testing the products as well as measuring and processing. A small cubby was also used for Edison's original office. It was on the 2nd floor that the real excitement took place, for it was here that Edison's workers had separate work stations for specific projects, oftentimes working thr

Phoenixville Post Office (and Apothecary)

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From Phoenixville, Connecticut came the building, originally built in 1825, of the local apothecary. An apothecary was one that prepared and sold remedies and other medicinal treatments, not unlike our modern pharmacist. They would offer medical advice as well if no doctor was readily available. In early settlements whenever a settler fell ill and needed an immediate cure they headed for the apothecary shop where rows of drawers containing drugs made from roots, plants, berries and bark - often grown by the apothecary himself or collected from the countryside - lined the walls. And on shelves were bottles of nerve 'vitalizers,' heart remedies, rheumatic syrups, jars for leeches, and lung balm (among other things). The chemist would mix his cures right there inside this building. Apothecaries were not as knowledgeable as doctors and therefore would not charge as much as a doctor's pay. This being the case, there was no formal training to become an apothecary; they would

Lincoln Courthouse aka Logan County Courthouse

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This is no ordinary historical structure... Wanting a building that was associated with our 16th President Abraham Lincoln, Ford found a forgotten and dilapidated structure that was, in 1929, being used as a private residence. Research showed that Abraham Lincoln once practiced law in this walnut clapboard building, which was built in 1840, when he was a young attorney. Mr. Lincoln was a circuit-riding lawyer and would travel upon his horse to the tiny country towns within a certain perimeter - Lincoln and the other handful of circuit riding lawyer companions with him covered the Eighth Judicial Circuit which covered around 11,000 square miles - and they would follow Judge David Davis to the courthouses of the towns. Life on the road was not easy for Lincoln and the other circuit-riding lawyers. The roads, which could hardly be called roads by today's standards, were deep with snow in the winter, nothing but mud in the spring, and filled with mouth-eating dust in the summer. A