Illuminating Edison, The Genie of Menlo Park and the New York Sun, 1878-1880

In early January 1878 Amos J. Cummings, editor at the New York Sun newspaper, was provided with a written introduction to soon-to-be-famous inventor Thomas Alva Edison. After visiting Edison at his Meno Park, New Jersey laboratory, Cummings wrote a lengthy article for his paper about the 31-year old inventor and his latest creations, especially the phonograph. The story about Edison went viral, racing across the nation in the pages of other newspapers. It was then picked up by Scientific American Supplement, a popular magazine. Edison’s renown was assured. The media coverage also served to attract investors needed to support his research.

Over the next three years Cummings and Edison became friends. The Sun journalist wrote seventeen articles about Edison, especially his on-going experiments to create a practical electric light bulb. The “Genie of Menlo Park,” as Cummings dubbed him, was featured in still other stories that appeared in the Sun, many of which were then reprinted in other papers. For a time, there was almost weekly press coverage as Edison worked to bring electricity and electric lights to everyday people, even while fending off disparagement from gaslight company executives and rival inventors. It was an exciting time for Sun readers.

Illuminating Edison reprints a selection of the Sun stories from those early years of innovation. By the end of 1880, thanks to Edison, the success of electricity and electric lights was assured. Life would never be the same.

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