Thomas Alva Edison
By Garth Hall
For the News-Item
Thomas Alva Edison, the seventh child of
Samuel Ogden Edison, Jr. and Nancy Mathews Elliott was born on
Thomas did not learn to speak until he was four years old and therefore had a late start in school. At age seven, after spending twelve weeks in a noisy one-room schoolhouse with thirty eight other students of all ages, Tom’s overworked and short tempered teacher finally lost his patience with the child’s persistent questioning and seemingly self-centered behavior. Noting that Tom’s forehead was unusually broad and his head was considerably larger than average, he made no secret of his belief that the youngster’s brains were “addled” or scrambled.
When his mother became aware of the
situation, she promptly withdrew Tom from school. His mother, an accomplished educator in her
own right, was convinced that her son’s slightly unusual demeanor and physical
appearance were merely outward signs of his remarkable intelligence and she accepted
the responsibility of schooling her son.
Later in life,
When Thomas was twelve years old, he became
almost completely deaf. According to
After the family moved to
On Christmas day 1871,
The Wizard of
However, as shocking as it may seem, the
perfection of the incandescent light bulb, was not his greatest invention.
Three-wire Prototype System
Shamokin’s Edison Electrical Illuminated Company
Shamokin Capitalists recognized
the significance of
In early fall of 1882, at the age
of 32, Thomas Edison arrived in Shamokin.
The meeting with the inventor and his secretary was held in the second floor offices of the Sterling Colliery Company at the corner of Sunbury and Washington Streets. Oscar Kubach, colliery clerk and amateur thespian, jotted down the minutes of the meeting. In addition to the two distinguished visitors, the following persons were present: William H. Douty, Holden Chester, John Mullen, C. C. Leader, William Beury, George O. Martz and W. C. McConnell of Shamokin and Andrew Robertson Sr. of Pottsville.
At that meeting and joint conference, the Edison Electrical Illuminated Company of Shamokin was organized. A
charter of incorporation was granted in November 1882 as certified by the Pennsylvania State Department of Internal Affairs. Shamokin had the first Pennsylvania Edisonincandescent illuminating company in the world wherein the money invested was supplied entirely by local capital.
The electric company purchased two lots now occupied by the Jones Hardware Company, the former Knights of Columbus building. The lots were low-lying and swampy during the early period of their transformation, the habitat of frogs, lizards, and mosquitoes. A very substantial brick plant was placed on the north end of the property, abutting on a spur of the Pennsylvania Railroad and displacing old coal storage bins and chutes.
Construction of the Shamokin central station was completed and operation began on
September 22, 1883. Mr. Edison was present at the Shamokin Plant and issued the order to the plant foreman to throw the switch delivering electrical power for the first time in history to three Shamokin buildings.
A large crowd followed the inventor to the home of Kitty McConnell. "Aunt Kitty" was an enthusiastic supporter and financial investor in the new lighting plans and consented to have her mansion at Sunbury and Orange Streets wired with the
Edisonsystem. With rumors afloat that the electrically charged wires were a fire menace, "Aunt Kitty" cautiously stipulated that the first wiring be run on the wall surface and only the kitchen was to be wired. The McConnell mansion became Shamokin’s first residential property to utilize the electric power.
The crowd continued its march a few blocks away to a commercial building owned by the Illumination Company president and financier, William Douty. President William Douty had his business property, "Brownstone Front," wired on the first floor where Abe Strouse, pioneer merchant, ran a store. When the electric current was switched on the first night from the
Independence Streetplant, Edisonwas here watching the test. Summoned to the scene, he threw the controlling lever that set each lamp filament glowing with a steady light that excited the wonder and admiration of friends and skeptics alike. This building became Shamokin’s first commercial structure to be wired for lighting. The building is still standing and is located on the corner of Rock and Sunbury Streets in Shamokin. The second and third floors of the building were used by Edisonto house his laboratory until the plant laboratory was completed.
The crowd was then lead to the
third and most celebrated structure to be illuminated that evening. Saint Edwards Catholic Church on
The Davies Brother who advertised their electrical contracting company as “Davies Brothers Incandescent House Wiring, Electroliers, and Supplies” wired all three buildings.
During his stay in Shamokin,
Edisonresided in housing on Station Row just west of Myron Thomas’s Photographic Studio on Independence Street.
Similar to the experience, in many other communities when electric lighting was first introduced, the public exhibited considerable timidity about having its businesses and homes wired. Installations were made without any considerations for decorative effect. The officers of the company, glad to make the change from coal oil lamps, volunteered to blaze the trail to a new and happier medium of lighting.
While in Shamokin,
Edisonwas persuaded by William Brock to visit the photographic studio of Myron Thomas then located on Sunbury Street, a few doors east of Shamokin Street. The success of the pioneer Shamokin photographer was acclaimed by Edisonin flattering terms. For several decades, many copies of Edison’s favorite portrait were made by Mr. Thomas at the request of the famous inventor, who autographed the photographic portraiture and sent them to friends throughout the world.
Sunbury – First Electrical Service
William Brock, first superintendent of the Shamokin plant and esteemed by
Edisonas an associate pioneer in electric lighting explained why Shamokin was not the first in providing electrical servicing. “It is safe to assume that because of the vast difference in the character of construction, superior and far more extensive equipment, work on the Shamokin plant antedated the starting of work on the Sunbury equipment.”
However, the Sunbury generating plant was completed in June of 1883, three months before the Shamokin plant. A three-wire line was extended from the Sunbury plant to the City Hotel and on the night of
July 4, 1883, Edisonswitched on the current to a 100-candle power light over the City Hotel Entrance. The City Hotel, later renamed The EdisonHotel, became the first hotel in the world to be illuminated by Edison’s system. On the same day, Edisonwired the Railroad Station on Second Streetin Sunbury.
, Orange, New Jersey August 5, 1914, Thomas Edison says in part: "As a matter of fact, Sunbury was the first three-wire electric light station in the world where overhead conductors were used throughout the streets. It was started in operation July 4, 1883. Shamokin was the second station of this kind.
– Historical System Carmel
November 17, 1883, the Edison Electric Illuminating Company of Mount Carmelwas founded. This was the first isolated electrical plant in the world; i.e. Mount Carmelwas the first town lighted exclusively by electricity.
Eastern Pennsylvania Companies
Edison Companies spread throughout eastern
. Besides those located in Shamokin, Sunbury and Mount Carmel, additional local electric companies were licensed in Ashland, Catasauqua, Harrisburg, Tamaqua, Hazleton, Lancaster, Pottsville, Easton and Williamsport. Pennsylvania
Tributes to Thomas Alva Edison
Thomas Alva Edison died on
Life Magazine’s 2000 Millennium edition
Thomas Edison ranked thirty-fifth on Michael H. Hart’s list of the most influential figures in history.
In recognition of the enormous contribution inventors make to the nation and the world, the Congress, pursuant to Senate Joint Resolution 140 (Public Law 97 – 198), has designated February 11th, the anniversary of the birth of Thomas Alva Edison, as “National Inventor’s Day”.