Thomas Edison’s laboratories produced ground-breaking new technologies like the phonograph
and motion camera, but they also pioneered industrial research and team-based innovation.
Edison worked at his West Orange lab from 1887 to his death in 1931. When it opened, the lab
was the world’s best-equipped private industrial research facility, providing Edison with all the
resources he needed -- including highly-skilled experimenters, the best tools and equipment and
the latest scientific knowledge -- to turn ideas into commercial products. By Edison’s death, the
West Orange lab was at the center of a massive industrial complex, manufacturing phonographs,
storage batteries other products. Today, the West Orange lab is part of Thomas Edison National Historical Park, a unit of the National Park Service.

Building 1 was the galvanometer room which contained equipment for electrical research and testing. A galvanometer is an instrument that measures electric current. This room reflected Edison's continued interest in electric light research at West Orange.

Interior of Building 1 in 1917

Vault 8 was constructed in 1912-1913 for fireproof storage of films produced by Edison's Educational Motion Picture Department.

Employees exiting Building 5 for a fire drill. Vault 8 is seen to the right.

Building 11 was constructed around 1898 as a temporary work space. Edison and his staff used it for different projects, changing the interior as their research needs changed. To make room for Vault 12, an underground storage facility constructed by the Edison Co. to store artifacts and documents, Building 11 was dismantled and donated to the Henry Ford Museum in 1940.
In 2003 The Henry Ford Museum returned the building to the park.

The courtyard, with Building 11 on right.

This is a reconstruction of the Black Maria, a building constructed in 1893 as an experimental motion picture studio. This odd-shaped structure was designed to keep sunlight on the stage while Edison's film pioneers made kinetoscope films.

The Black Maria in 1893.

The Courtyard - This open space between the laboratory buildings served many purposes: delivery area, test site, motion picture set, photograph backdrop, greeting area, and parking lot.

Workers prepare to use a fire hose in the courtyard just outside building 5 while others prepare to ascend a ladder during a fire drill in 1912.

Edison at the wheel in the courtyard, 1912.

Building 2, the Chemistry Laboratory

Thomas Edison and President Herbert Hoover at the entrance to Building 2, the Chemistry Laboratory in 1928.

Chemistry Laboratory - In 1888 this building was one of the best-equipped chemistry laboratories in the world. Within its walls, Thomas Edison and his chemists experimented on everything from phonograph records to rubber.

Thomas Edison in the Chemistry Laboratory (Building 2) in 1908.

Building 3 - The front area of this building was used for chemical storage. The back area housed the pattern shop.

Pattern Shop (right) - Within this building carpenters shaped wood models, or patterns. From these wooden pieces, Edison and his employees made the parts for working models, specialized machinery, and other devices.

Workers forged metal parts for inventions and laboratory machinery in Blacksmith shop, the fourth constructed at the lab, (Building 7, to the left). It was built in 1919.

Mr. Mudd and his staff in the Building 3 pattern shop on January 6th, 1917.

In the metallurgical laboratory, workers collected, and analyzed minerals for Edison's ore milling project in the 1890s, and metals used in the storage battery. Later, researchers experimented on sound recording and phonograph record duplication. By 1912, much of the experimental work focused on the diamond disc phonograph.

Edison and his assistants, known as the "Insomnia Squad" pause for a meal in Building 4 in 1912.

Modern view of Building 5, the main laboratory building, as seen from outside the lab gates at the intersection of Main St and Lakeside Ave.

Building 5 in 1887

Edison in 1913 with a group in front of the Building 5 entrance.

The timeclock, just inside the entrance of Building 5.

Thomas Edison using the timeclock in Building 5, 1921.

The library was Edison's office and was a resource of scientific and technical information for Edison's workers. The grandeur of the library, which contains mementos from his long career, reflected Edison's status as America's most famous inventor.

Thomas Edison working at his desk in the library of building 5 on January 31, 1912.

Stock Room - Edison filled this room from floor to ceiling with supplies for his experiments - everything from common objects like nuts and bolts to more exotic materials like elephant hide or rhinoceros horn.

Building 5 first floor stock room on April 1, 1914.

A handwritten list of stock room supplies ordered by Thomas Edison in 1887.

Skilled machinists in the heavy machine shop used these tools to cut and shape the metal parts to construct models of Edison's inventions.

Building 5 heavy machine shop on April 1, 1914.

Workers in the precision machine shop used these tools to build prototypes for smaller inventions like the phonograph and the storage battery. They built working models and explored ways to improve existing Edison products. The rooms open layout allowed workers to modify the floor plan as their needs changed.

The second floor precision machine shop in 1914.

Edison used Room 12 as a private research space. During the labs construction in 1887, Edison asked builders to set aside a room for "sub rosa" or secret projects.

In this room, draftsmen took the rough sketches produced by Edison's experimenters and turned them into the precise measured drawings that machinists used to construct invention prototypes.

In the music room staff made experimental recordings on wax cylinders to discover the best sound recording techniques. In the early 20th century this room became what today's music industry calls an Artist & Repertoire department, where Edison selected songs and artists for his record catalog.

Music Room in Building 5 in 1900.
(L to R) Albert Kiffer, A.T.E. Wangemann, and George Boehme.

Thomas Edison in the third floor music room with Helen Davis singing and Victor Young at the piano, 1925.

Many of the images of Edison and his inventions were photographed in this room, the photo department. Edison used these photographs to promote his products and his public image.

Interior of the Photo Services Department with Photographer Lewis Leuder at his desk in 1917.

The park's museum collection includes more than 400,000 artifacts, five million documents, 60,000 historic photographs, and 35,000 sound recordings. The cabinets and shelves in this room display some of these artifacts.

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