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Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

Posts Tagged thomas edison

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Inspired by Thomas Edison, Oliver Kuttner has not only driven his Very Light Car into engineering history, he’s also got one parked at the Henry Ford Museum.

Creating something new is arguably one of the most satisfying achievements in life. As engineers, our careers are littered with accounts where we’ve improved designs, given life to concepts and maybe even built something brand new and impactful.

For Edison2 founder Oliver Kuttner, all of those things have happened and his X-Prize winning Very Light Car (VLC) stands in the Henry Ford Museum’s growing collection of engineering marvels.

But unlike many of the stories about engineering brilliance, Oliver’s isn’t one about a lone genius working in solitude. Instead, his story is more modern – it’s one that revolves around inspiration coupled with collaboration. Continue Reading

by Kyle Maxey, Thomas Edison, engineering, environmentalism, Henry Ford Museum, Driving America, cars

Thomas Edison Perfecting His Wax Cylnder Phonograph, 1888 (Object ID: P.B.34600).

What's new on The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation this weekend? Host Mo Rocca shows us the hardware store robot; the incredible patent models from Thomas Edison that show us the beginning of our electronic world; how the USG Corp. is leading the way with grooming the next generation of engineers and mathematicians; the Israeli inventors of a printer that fits in your pocket. Learn more here and see a sneak peek below.

Lish Dorset is Social Media Manager at The Henry Ford.

printing, technology, by Lish Dorset, Thomas Edison, The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation

 

Time Card Punched by Thomas Edison at His West Orange Laboratory, for the Week Ending August 27, 1912 (THF108331)

 

Today marks the first day of #MuseumWeek, a week-long global celebration of culture in which The Henry Ford is taking part in. This celebration will channel the power of social media to raise greater awareness and appreciation for the world’s cultural resources. With the use of social media, #MuseumWeek is inherently taking advantage of the abilities that we now take for granted. We can capture sound, video, and still images, as well as be electronically connected to almost anyone in the human family. All in the palm of our hand. In mere seconds, you can see what I see, you can hear what I hear, and you can know what I know. It’s this knowing, which I believe, is the most important part for museums. I think that the simple act of learning about something new, broadens your perspective. It allows you to reanalyze the world you experience to incorporate what you’ve learned. It allows you to reflect. Museums sharing this ability to know over social media can help expand everyone’s perspective. That’s why museums and the cultural resources they protect are crucial to our society.

I thought it was only right that I use this blog post to talk about someone who played a major role in making our social media connection possible: Thomas Edison. Pioneer in electricity, sound, and video. His inventions laid the groundwork for the digital age we know today and the social media network that we increasingly rely upon. The objects I chose to represent him give us an inside look at the story of a man who redefined what it meant to “work.” Continue Reading

Thomas Edison, by Ryan Jelso

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This year, many transformative things have been set into motion at The Henry Ford. One of the most rewarding projects has been all of the hard work that has culminated with the first season of The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation, an educational television show produced by Litton Entertainment. Perhaps you’ve been watching the episodes on CBS, Saturday mornings? If not, you can view them here.

When we entered into a partnership with Litton, we also took the opportunity to turn our gaze inwards, to research the history of our own involvement with broadcast media. A dive into the archives of the Edison Institute revealed some gems—photographic collections that captured the visual history of media events on our campus spanning 60 years. Previous blogs detail how in 1955, Marion Corwell began hosting Window to the Past, our first live television show. That same year, NBC filmed an all-day live event using the then-new medium of color broadcasting; episodes of The Howdy Doody Show were captured that day. Other discoveries revealed Gladys Knight and the Pips on the Phil Donahue Show in 1973. Continue Reading

lighting, TV, Thomas Edison, The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation, technology, popular culture, Greenfield Village buildings, Greenfield Village, events, by Kristen Gallerneaux, actors and acting

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The very first episode of our new television show, "The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation" airs tomorrow morning during CBS' Dream Team lineup. We can't wait for you all to see the first episode, "Microscopic Windmills," featuring our own Menlo Park Laboratory in Greenfield Village. You can see a sneak peek below. Continue Reading

Thomas Edison, Greenfield Village buildings, Greenfield Village, by Lish Dorset, The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation

Thomas Edison Perfecting His Wax Cylnder Phonograph, 1888 (Object ID: P.B.34600).

All eyes have been on Menlo Park in Greenfield Village recently, both here at The Henry Ford and across the nation. Menlo Park kicks off the first episode of our new television series, “The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation” on September 27 as Mo Rocca tours the building to learn more about Thomas Edison and the work he researched in that very space. This weekend members of the American Chemical Society (ACS) will be joining staff from The Henry Ford to bestow a special honor upon the building: National Historic Chemical Landmark. Continue Reading

inventors, events, Greenfield Village buildings, Greenfield Village, Thomas Edison, by Lish Dorset, The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation

Henry Ford and Thomas Edison at Dedication of Menlo Park Glass House in Greenfield Village, 1929.

Later this month the first episode of our new television series, The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation, will debut on CBS as part of the Saturday morning Dream Team programming block. Members and visitors to The Henry Ford will recognize a familiar building in the first episode: Thomas Edison's Menlo Park Laboratory.

We've collected a handful of our digital resources for you to immerse yourself in. Make sure to check the blog every week this fall for more episode resource posts.

Lish Dorset is Social Media Manager at The Henry Ford. Continue Reading

by Lish Dorset, Greenfield Village buildings, Greenfield Village, Thomas Edison, The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation

Edison vs. Pathé and the Rise of the Movie Rental
Just a few years after cinema made its public debut in 1893, the marketing of home projectors began. Though by 1912 the market was flooded with them, the appeal had been limited. That was about to change. Soon two of the biggest companies in the movie business—one French, one American—went head-to-head, marketing their own home projectors as well as offering films for rent by mail, making them available through pioneering delivery systems. Yet only one of these companies would succeed.


Edison Kinetoscope, 1912-1913, object ID 29.460.14. (THF36602).

Thomas Edison is considered the father of motion pictures. He invented the original movie camera, the kinetograph, which was used to film movies shot at his movie studio, the Black Maria, the foremost of its kind. His lab developed the earliest films in motion picture history, and those movies were exhibited on a peep hole-like device, the kinetoscope—yet another Edison creation. On November 30th, 1897, Edison’s Projecting Kinetoscope was used to show movies on a screen in a commercial setting for the first time. In December 1903, the Edison Manufacturing Company released The Great Train Robbery, which would go on to be the initial motion picture blockbuster. The film industry would prove to be successful, yet rocky, for Edison over the next few years, but in 1912, the year his company launched the Home Projecting Kinetoscope, optimism was in the air.

Details of the new Edison Home Kinetoscope were announced in the magazine "Edison Works Monthly," Vol. 1, No. 2, October 1912, object ID 84.1.1630.9, page 11. (THF112041)

Charles Pathé, previously a phonograph importer, established the French company Pathé Frères in 1896. In 1902, the company introduced an improved movie camera, and soon it would become the leading model used in filming movies across Europe and America. The same year, they began shooting their own productions—completing them at a very fast clip—and distributing them, as well. They would soon dominate the European industry, so much so that Pathé Frères had few serious rivals. The Pathé K-O-K home projector was launched in 1912 in Europe, and the following year they introduced the device in the United States under a different name: the Pathescope. It was in this environment that home projectors finally became a product that the public could get behind.

The Pathescope and the Home Projecting Kinetoscope (also known as the “Home P.K.”) were similar products in many ways, yet had distinct differences. Both Edison and Pathé produced their own unique film size, which meant the films they rented out could be played only on their respective projectors. The companies also introduced a non-flammable film stock—a positive development in the minds of the general public—thus playing a major role in the appeal of the projectors to homeowners. The cost of the machines differed significantly, with Edison’s Home P.K. selling in the $75-$100 range (roughly $1,770-$2,360 in 2013 dollars), while the budget-priced Pathescope would set one back set one back $150 (about $3,540 today). Pathe's premium offering was priced at $250 (a whopping $5,900 in today’s dollars), making it far and away the priciest home projector available.

Details on Edison's motion picture rental plan also appeared in the same edition of "Edison Works Monthly," page 12. (THF112042).


Kinetoscope Film "Professor and the New Hat," Thomas A. Edison Co., 1913, object ID 63.85.3.

The fact that the companies offered movies for rent was also of considerable appeal to consumers, as was the system of home delivery by mail. In order to accomplish this, both Edison and Pathé established “exchange” hubs to ship and receive their films. Owners of the Home P.K. initially had to purchase a film, which ran in the $2.50 to $20 range ($59-$472 if priced today), and then pay an exchange fee of $0.30-$1 ($7-24 in 2013) when swapping one movie for another. Pathé’s method differed, as Pathescope owners instead paid a yearly subscription of $50-$100 ($1,180-$2,360 today), fees based on how many movies were rented at a time. Edison offered 50 films at launch, a number that grew to 160 by 1914; Pathé had 700 films by that time—a momentous disparity.

Due to a number of factors, including that it was notoriously difficult to operate, the Home P.K. never caught on. Edison’s company manufactured 4,600 projectors, but in the end sold just 500 (more than 8,000 Pathescopes had been sold at that point). Pathé Frères had a huge advantage not only in the number of titles available, but because their projectors were superior. It seems quality and quantity was just too much for Edison, and the Home Projecting Kinetoscope was retired in 1914.

Fast forward to the home video era: 1972 marked the year films became available on videocassette to rent, but it would take the arrival of the DVD format in 1997 before an entity had great success with home delivery of movie rentals. That same year, a new company called Netflix was founded. Their concept of offering films for rent by mail seemed revolutionary, and for modern America it most certainly was an innovative (and appealing) model. It was also an idea whose time had come—again.

Bart Bealmear is former research support specialist in the Archives & Library at The Henry Ford.

Bibliography

 

popular culture, technology, by Bart Bealmear, Thomas Edison, movies

The admiration Henry Ford held for his friend Thomas Edison has deeply shaped Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village, as evidenced today through the cornerstone in the Museum and through more than a half-dozen buildings related to Edison’s life and work in Greenfield Village. We’ve just digitized a number of photos of Edison to bring the total number of our Edison-related collections objects online to nearly 250, with a few more coming soon. Visit our collections site to see this photo of Edison in his West Orange lab in 1920, as well other recently added photos of the inveterate tinkerer analyzing things such as dictating machines, telegraph keys, and even an electric streetcar.


Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.

archives, digital collections, by Ellice Engdahl, Thomas Edison, photographs