"A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth." -- John Singer Sargent

Friday, September 24, 2021

Thomas A. Edison

The Wizard of Menlo Park

This 1878 bust of Edison was made by J. Beer, Jr. for the Phrenological Society of America. It stands in the Smithsonian Museum of American History in Washington D.C.

The Library of Congress says this about Edison:
One of the most famous and prolific inventors of all time, Thomas Alva Edison exerted a tremendous influence on modern life, contributing inventions such as the incandescent light bulb, the phonograph, and the motion picture camera, as well as improving the telegraph and telephone. In his 84 years, he acquired an astounding 1,093 patents. Aside from being an inventor, Edison also managed to become a successful manufacturer and businessman, marketing his inventions to the public. A myriad of business liaisons, partnerships, and corporations filled Edison's life, and legal battles over various patents and corporations were continuous. The following is only a brief sketch of an enormously active and complex life full of projects often occurring simultaneously. Several excellent biographies are readily available in local libraries to those who wish to learn more about the particulars of his life and many business ventures. -- LOC

 The Wizard of Menlo Park
Thomas Alva Edison

The Smithsonian also displays this image of Edison as the Wizard of Menlo Park. 

The Wizard

It's from the cover The New York Daily Graphic, July 9, 1877. (Rutgers)

The Wizard's Search
At Edison's feet we find the “Platinum Circular” from May 1, 1879.


From the Laboratory of
T. A. Edison,     
Menlo Park, N.J.,

Would you be so kind as to inform me if the metal platinum occurs in your neighbourbood? This metal, as a rule, is found in scales associated with free gold, generally in placers.  

If there is any in your vicinity, or if you can gain information from experienced miners as to the localities where it can be found, and will forward such information to my address, I will consider it a special favour, as I shall require large quantities in my new system of electric lighting.
An early reply to this circular will be greatly appreciated. 
Very truly,                                                                                       Thomas A. Edison.
Menlo Park, N.J.
Rutgers tells the story of the circular enquiring about platinum.
In the spring of 1879 Edison sent out a circular to the various mining regions, particularly in the West, requesting information about mines and asking for ore samples. Most of the replies were of a very routine nature, with correspondents providing information about mines, prospectors, and mine operators or sending samples of ores to be assayed by Edison's laboratory.  (See: Document File Series -- 1879)
Their copy of the circular is in Edison's “fine telegraphic hand.”

The Platinum Circular

Rutgers describes their copy of the circular.

… This circular letter marks the beginning of his intensive and highly public search for the mineral… The New York Sun subsequently reported that he sent approximately 2,000 copies to “Postmasters and other public men in mining regions” around 1 May, enclosing with them specimen cards sprinkled with platinum and iridosmine. Edison wrote the circular in his fine telegraphic hand and had it reproduced with the electric pen; the first extant reply to it, dated 7 May from the Dakota Territory, was addressed to Edison on the copy from which the text of this document is taken.


This image of Edison “The Worlds Greatest Inventor” appeared in Edison, The Wizard: The Story of The World's Greatest Inventor.

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