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 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.
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.
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.
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.