Using his entrepreneurial skills to implement business diversification and divisional structure in the format of mass production, Edison dramatically influenced modern society by developing, manufacturing, and marketing practical products, particularly electric lightbulbs, electric generating systems, phonographs, and motion-picture projectors.
Selling newspapers, candy, and vegetables on the Grand Trunk Railway and later working as a telegraph operator for the same company helped young Thomas Alva Edison recognize his skills as a businessman and motivated him to develop an intense work ethic, resourcefulness, and creativity. In his spare time, he concentrated on reading and experimenting with printing presses, electrical systems, and mechanical apparatuses.
Through his invention and sale of improved telegraphic devices, Edison earned the money necessary to establish an industrial research lab in Menlo Park, New Jersey, in 1876 with the goal of inventing, manufacturing, and marketing useful products. He did not want to be an inventor who just turned ideas into patents; rather, he wanted to reap the financial benefits that would result from also producing and selling practical inventions. After initially manufacturing incandescent lightbulbs in Menlo Park, Edison set up a large factory in Harrison, New Jersey, to pursue that task. He learned that the cost of manufacturing a product could be significantly lowered by implementing
Thomas Alva Edison.
In 1887, Edison moved his industrial laboratory to West Orange, New Jersey, where he concentrated on making useful small products, such as his electric fan and phonograph, that had a high profit potential and low capital requirement. Edison was one of a very few American businessmen during the 1890’s who were willing to gamble on new ideas and new markets for consumer goods in rapidly growing American cities. By 1906, Edison had manufactured more than one million phonographs.
Another important product produced at the West Orange laboratory was Edison’s motion-picture camera. After he experienced financial disasters in the electrical industry and the ore-milling business,
Alvarado, Rudolph. The Life and Work of Thomas Edison. Indianapolis, Ind.: Alpha, 2002. Millard, Andre. Edison and the Business of Innovation. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993. Pretzer, J. William S. Working at Inventing: Thomas A. Edison and the Menlo Park Experience. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002.
Alexander Graham Bell
American Industrial Revolution