The Jukebox is an automated coin-operated music player which plays individual songs. The differentiating factor of the Jukebox from a simple coin-operated record player is the ability of an automated machine to replace live music in a restaurant or bar. Background Louis Glass and William Arnold modified Edison’s record players to operate by coins. These […]

35-millimeter Photography

35mm film remained the standard for photography for decades until digital photography. The film is important because it enabled the miniaturization of cameras. Background The Houston brothers invented roll film and sold the rights to George Eastman. Eventually, Thomas Edison purchased 70mm roll film from Eastman to make movies. Subsequently, Edison employee William Dickson sliced […]

Electric Cars

Electric cars were a strong contender as a powertrain in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. In 1899, the Electric Vehicle Company (EVC) was the largest vehicle manufacturer in the US. Early electric cars were quiet and drove smoothly. Most nineteenth-century taxis were electric cars. On Year Year’s Eve, 1899, the US had more electric […]

Alternators / Long-Distance Transmission of Electricity

Alternators and Alternating Current enabled the long-distance transmission of electricity. Edison’s electrical plant ran on DC which does not transmit far. Under Edison’s system, there were electric plants every few blocks in cities (the inner Chicago loop had 25 electric plants at one point). Tesla’s AC system transmitted electricity much further; it’s the same we […]

Movie Camera & Projector

In 1878, Muybridge famously created high-speed moving photos, calling his machine a Zoopraxiscope. His photos illustrated how people and animals move. Eventually, Walt Disney and other animators and artists later famously used the strips to create more realistic animations. Eventually Edison’s Kinetoscope, publicly demonstrated in 1891, was a primitive device that showed moving pictures to […]


Mimeographs are essentially low-cost but low-quality and easy-to-use printing presses. They produced good-enough copies at a cost far lower than hand copying. Copies are produced from user-created stencils. Mimeographs remained the dominant form of document duplication for almost a century until photocopy machines became inexpensive and ubiquitous. For decades, mimeographs were the only way to […]

Induction Motors

“Intelligent people tend to have less friends than the average person.” Nikola Tesla There are two types of electricity, Direct Current (AC) and Alternating Current (AC). Vastly simplifying, in DC electrical systems the current flows in one direction, like current in a stream. This makes designing certain appliances easier; the motor turns in the direction […]

Electricity Factory & Distribution Network

After inventing the long-lasting light bulb, Edison needed an electrical grid to deploy his innovation. Remember that, at this time, all electrically powered devices ran off batteries. Background The Edison Electric Illuminating Company, founded after the light bulb company, funded both an electrical generation station, grid, and all supporting equipment. Edison innovated better dynamos, circuits, […]

Long Lasting Light Bulb

Edison’s bulb is well-known but what’s less understood is the enormous infrastructure required to power it. Edison created a power plant in New York City, power cables, transformers, power meters, insulators. When the lights finally came on, at the New York Times building, it represented the end of a herculean undertaking and the beginning of […]