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Thomas Edison: Topics in Chronicling America

Thomas Edison was an American inventor with hundreds of patents, inventions, and controversies published in newspapers. This guide provides access to material related to "Thomas Edison" in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.


Thomas A. Edison and his wife standing in front of a model of the first Edison factory at the New York electrical show at Grand Central palace. November 16, 1922. The Herald (New Orleans, LA), Image 9. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

Dubbed “The Wizard of Menlo Park,” Thomas Edison was a prolific inventor, with over a hundred patents under his name. He developed world-changing innovations including the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and the electric light bulb. Read more about it!

The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.

The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.


June 1, 1868 Thomas Edison is issued his first patent application for an electrical vote recorder. Patent number 90,646.
February 19, 1878 Thomas Edison issued a patent for the phonograph. Patent number 200,521
October 1879-January 1880 Thomas Edison presents the first practical incandescent lamp or "light bulb." Months later, receives patent number 223,898.
1891 Thomas Edison invents the Kinetograph to record and reproduce motion.
1914 Due to World War I, the embargo of carbolic acid forces Thomas Edison to create his own synthetic carbolic acid.
December 9, 1914 Thomas Edison Factory fire destroys 11 of 18 buildings and puts 6,000 workers temporarily out of work with estimated damages at 7 million dollars.
1915 Installation of Edison batteries in submarines.
July 1915 Thomas Edison is appointed head of the Naval Bureau of Inventions and Development.
January 1916 Explosion of the E-2 submarine at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. It was equipped with Edison batteries. Edison engineers defend the battery as not the cause for the explosion
October 18, 1931 Thomas Edison passes away at his home in New Jersey.