Thomas Edison's Menlo Park Laboratory

Object: Thomas Edison's Menlo Park Laboratory   The Henry Ford, Dearborn, Michigan, USA
Place: Greenfield Village   EMu user since 2010
Date: 1929    

Thomas Edison's Menlo Park LaboratoryThomas Edison’s Menlo Park Laboratory is recognized internationally as the birthplace of modern sound recording and electric lighting technologies. Its prototypical research and development set-up - nimble, multi-disciplinary and versatile - continues to inspire innovators of all kinds.

Henry Ford’s recreation of the Menlo Park complex in Greenfield Village was both exacting yet somehow fluid. The buildings were oriented in a similar manner to the original structures in New Jersey, and they incorporated as much original material as could be found in the late 1920s.

But Ford also gave the lab two pasts at the same time: he equipped the laboratory building with its own library and small machine shop (as it had been from 1876 to 1878 when it was the sole building on the site) but also recreated the library/office and machine shop buildings added as part of the later, expanded installation. The interior of the lab was meticulously recreated: original artifacts provided by Edison were used throughout the building, and were arranged based on the recollections of Edison and his associates.

Thomas Edison's Menlo Park LaboratoryFord’s version of Menlo Park was central to the October 21, 1929, opening ceremony for The Henry Ford (originally called the Edison Institute). At “Light’s Golden Jubilee”, honoree Thomas Edison and his former assistant Francis Jehl recreated in the lab the moment they lit the first electric lamp, as Ford and President Herbert Hoover looked on. Today, the installation continues to affirm Ford’s faith in the power of places that could, as he put it, “teach more than books can teach.”