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Edisons laboratory starting renovation

Issue 11 and Volume 100.

Edison`s laboratory starting renovation

The Thomas A. Edison National Historic Site in West Orange, N.J., where Edison created more than half of his 1,093 patented inventions, is undergoing renovation. The facility, on the list of the nation`s most endangered landmarks, is in need of urgent repair, according to the National Park Service, which operates it. Many of the 5 million documents and 390,000 objects stored throughout the facility`s 10 buildings remain uncatalogued and are in danger of being lost due to deteriorating conditions.

Supporters hope to embark on a multimillion-dollar modernization project. The first steps are being taken with the installation of electrical equipment donated by Square D Co., the first corporate sponsor of the Edison site. “He invented our industry and did so much to improve the quality of American life. This facility needs to be protected and preserved so people can continue to see the spirit and mind of the world`s greatest inventor,” said Charles W. Denny, Square D president.

It was at the West Orange site that Edison perfected the phonograph, motion picture camera and alkaline storage battery. The modern industrial research lab is among Edison`s greatest inventions. Beginning with his Menlo Park, N.J., lab in 1876, Edison was a pioneer in developing team-based research and development. When the West Orange “invention factory” opened in 1887, it was the largest such facility in the United States, and it served as the model for labs later developed by General Electric, Westinghouse and Bell.

The three-story main laboratory at West Orange contained machine shops, an engine room, stock room, glass blowing and pumping rooms, a photographic department, experimental rooms and a 10,000-volume library. Four smaller labs were stocked with the latest machinery and finest instruments for electrical, chemical and metallurgical experiments. Edison directed the West Orange lab for 44 years until his death in 1931. Donations can be made to the National Park Foundation/Edison Site, National Park Foundation, 1101 17th St., N.W., Suite 1102, Washington, D.C. 20036.

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The Inventor`s Library and other attractions at the Thomas A. Edison National Historic Site in West Orange, N.J., are undergoing electrical system improvements with equipment donated by electrical manufacturer Square D, the first corporate sponsor of the Edison Site. Open to the public and operated by the National Park Service, it was constructed in 1987.