Thomas Alva Edison, inventor of the phonograph, the incandescent light bulb, and many other devices that make our lives fuller and simpler, was born in Milan, Ohio, in 1847. The Edison Birthplace Museum features a collection of rare Edisonia, including examples of many of Edison’s early inventions, documents, and family mementos. The Birthplace is open February through December and is located at 9 North Edison Drive in Milan, Ohio (near Exit 118 of the Ohio Turnpike). Visit, learn about how this great man grew up and began the Age of Invention.
The Edison Birthplace was opened by his wife Mina and his daughter Madeleine as a tribute to the humble beginnings of a great man. The Edison Birthplace Museum is the only Edison site to have family involved, including great-grand children and a great-great-great-great niece on the Board of Trustees, and a great-great-great nephew as President.
The Edison Family
John Edison, great-grandfather of the inventor, originally settled in New Jersey during the colonial era. In the 1730s, he farmed a large tract of land not far from West Orange, New Jersey. (This is where Thomas A. Edison made his home some 160 years later.) Family fortunes fluctuated with the politics of the times. Like many well-to-do landowners, John Edison remained a Loyalist during the Revolution. Because of this, he was imprisoned and was, for a time, under sentence of execution but he was saved from this fate through the efforts of prominent Whig relatives. His lands were confiscated, however, and the family migrated to Nova Scotia. The Edisons remained in Nova Scotia until 1811, when they moved to Vienna, Ontario. Edison’s grandfather, Captain Samuel Edison, served with the British in the War of 1812.
In Ontario, Edison’s father, also named Samuel, met and married Nancy Elliott, a school teacher and daughter of Ebenezer Matthews Elliott, who was a captain in Washington’s army. The younger Samuel became involved in another political struggle — a much later and unsuccessful Canadian counterpart of the American Revolution known as the Papineau-MacKenzie Rebellion. Upon the failure of this rebellion, he was forced to flee across the border to the United States. After innumerable dangers and hardships, Samuel finally reached the town of Milan, Ohio, where he decided to settle. In Milan, Samuel established himself as a manufacturer of roof shingles and sent for Nancy and their five children to join him.
The Town of Milan
When the Edison family arrived in town to join Samuel (about 1840), Milan was entering the period of its greatest glory. Due to its location on the Huron River and the canal (built to link Milan to the Great Lakes), the town became a busy grain port. All sorts of commodities from every point in the state were conveyed to Milan in long wagon trains, then loaded aboard ships from warehouses that lined the banks of the canal. (One of the warehouses still stands by the abandoned canal basin.)
In 1847, 917,800 bushels of wheat were shipped from this port, making it the second largest wheat shipping port for an inland sea in the world after the Ukranian city of Odessa. Milan had also become a shipbuilding center, producing 75 lake vessels from 1840 to 1866.
By 1850, the advent of the railroads and consequent changes in transportation methods had put an end to the town’s great prosperity. The canal and the shipyard were eventually abandoned and the warehouses disappeared. Milan’s “golden age”, which had lasted only about ten years, was over — though shipments of grain continued until 1865.
The Birthplace House
According to records, the lot on which this house stands was bought in 1841 by Nancy Elliott Edison, mother of Thomas Alva Edison. Nancy and Samuel Edison started building their home, designed by Samuel, in the fall of the same year. Thomas Alva Edison was born in the house on February 11, 1847.
Edison’s parents sold the house in 1854, and the family moved to Port Huron, Michigan. The Birthplace was out of family ownership for the next forty years. In 1894, Edison’s sister, Marion Edison Page, bought the house and added a bathroom and other modern conveniences. Edison became the owner of his birthplace in 1906, and, on his last visit, in 1923, he was shocked to find his old home still lighted by lamps and candles! After the death of Thomas A. Edison from complications of diabetes on October 18, 1931, opening his birthplace to the public as a memorial and museum became the private project of his wife, Mina Miller Edison, and their daughter, Mrs. John Eyre Sloane. The Edison Birthplace Museum opened on the centennial of the inventor’s birth in 1947.
The house has been restored as nearly as possible to its 19th Century appearance. Because much of the Edisons’ original furniture was lost in moves and to a disastrous fire at their Port Huron Home, it was impossible to assemble much of the original furniture. Therefore, gifts and loans from members of the family have been supplemented by gifts and loans from friends and, in some cases, purchases of household articles of the period.
Today, this National Historic Site is maintained by the Edison Birthplace Association, Inc., a private, non-profit organization.
Starting from 1868, you can see all of the life-changing inventions Thomas Edison made until 1931.
In the year 1868, he:
Invented the electrical vote recorder.
In the year 1869, he:
* Invented the universal stock ticker and the unison stop.
In the year 1872, he:
* Invented the motograph.
* Invented the automatic telegraph system.
* Invented duplex, quadruplex, sextuplex, and multiplex telegraph systems.
* Invented paraffin paper.
* Invented the carbon rheostat.
In the year 1875, he:
* Discovered “Etheric Force,” an electric phenomenon that is the foundation of wireless telegraphy.
In the year 1876, he:
* Invented the electric pen used for the first mimeographs.
In the year 1877, he:
* Invented the carbon telephone transmitter, making telephony commercially practical. This included the microphone used in radio.
In the year 1877, he:
* Invented the phonograph. This was Edison’s favorite invention. He sponsored the Edison Phonograph Polka to help popularize the new device.
In the year 1879, he:
* Discovered incandescent light.
* Radically improved dynamos and generators.
* Discovered a system of distribution, regulation, and measurement of electric current-switches, fuses, sockets, and meters.
In the year 1880, he:
* Invented the magnetic ore separator.
In the year 1880, he:
* Discovered the “Edison Effect,” the fundamental principle of electronics.
In the year 1885, he:
* Discovered a system of wireless induction telegraph between moving trains and stations. He also patented similar systems for ship-to-shore use.
In the year 1891, he:
* Invented the motion picture camera.
In the year 1896, he:
* Invented the fluoroscope.
* Invented the fluorescent electric lamp.
In the year 1900, he:
* Invented the nickel-iron-alkaline storage battery.
In the year 1914, he:
* Invented the electric safety miner’s lamp.
* Discovered the process for manufacturing synthetic carbolic acid.
In the year 1915, he:
* Conducted special experiments on more than 40 major war problems for the Navy Department. Edison served as Chairman of the Naval Consulting Board and did much other work on National Defense.
In the years 1927-1931, he:
* Tested 17,000 plants for rubber content as a source of rubber in war emergencies. A piece of vulcanized rubber was made from a Goldenrod strain he developed.
This page contains a list of all the patents granted to Thomas A. Edison, listed in chronological order.
To find more information on them, please visit the Edison Papers.
Biographical, scientific, and cultural information relating to Thomas Edison.
On this page you can access all sorts of different downloadable documents. All documents are in a PDF file format. These documents are not editable. If you have a problem being able to download or access any of these documents, you can report it here.