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Thomas Edison's Menlo Park Complex and the Light's Golden Jubilee Celebration

Updated: Jul 21, 2022

In June of 2017, we traveled to Dearborn, Michigan and visited Henry Ford's Greenfield Village. Located at the village is the actual Thomas Edison Menlo Park Laboratory which Henry Ford moved to the village in 1929.

Although the laboratory was originally located in Menlo Park, New Jersey, it was disassembled and moved to Henry Ford's Greenfield Village in 1929 to restore and preserve this historical building (more on that below). It is now located at 20900 Oakwood Boulevard Dearborn , MI 48124.

In 1876, Thomas Edison set up his home and research laboratory in Menlo Park, which at the time was the site of an unsuccessful real estate development named after the town of Menlo Park, California. While there, he earned the nickname "the Wizard of Menlo Park". The Menlo Park lab was significant in that it was one of the first laboratories to pursue practical, commercial applications of research. It was in his Menlo Park laboratory that Thomas Edison invented the phonograph and developed a commercially viable incandescent light bulb filament. You can find out more history about the laboratory in our following video.

When we first arrived at the village, we decided to take a train ride around the area to see the layout of the village. When we got off the train, our first destination target was the Thomas Edison, Menlo Park Complex. Both of us are fascinated by the works of Edison, me for the historical aspect and Marianne for the science. We were just thrilled to have the opportunity to witness some of the artifacts that were in the buildings. Little did we know, we would find much more. We decided we wanted to watch the reenactment by one of the living history actors at the complex (who portrayed a younger Edison right before he finalized the invention of the light bulb), and the things we learned were nothing short of amazing.

After the reenactment was over, we went inside the building and walked through the laboratory. It was awe inspiring to see the items that were in the building at the time Edison used this facility. From the chemical bottles down to the organ they used to relax, everything seemed to be organized and stored in it's appropriate location. We were even told during the tour that Edison himself, came to the laboratory once it was reconstructed and organized the chemical bottles into their appropriate places. I will talk about Edison being at the reconstructed laboratory below.

Another impressive building at the complex was the machinery building and how the powered generator would operate the various pieces of equipment throughout the building by the used of straps and pulleys. Today, we are just used to plugging the device into an outlet, but here is how they used to power machinery by steam engine.

Before leaving the complex, we made another walk through the first floor of the laboratory to make sure we saw everything that was in the building. To our surprised we came upon another demonstration that was taking place. It was just getting ready to start, and since we were a few months into working our YouTube channel, we decided to pause and record the demonstration. In the following video, you will see how a phonograph operates, pretty impressive.

We released the above video as a special collaboration with a YouTube friend of ours, Doodles By Doug. Please take a moment and watch him make the sketch below and checkout his channel for more of his doodles.

Now, of course it wouldn't be an "Our Haunted Travels" blog post if we failed to mention some of the paranormal activity that takes place at the laboratory, so check out the video below. Before you do that, you might wonder... "Why would there be paranormal activity at a building that was moved to this location?" Well, I will address that below the video... so make sure you watch, and keep reading.

Back to the theory as to why there could be paranormal activity at this building, even though it was moved from New Jersey to Michigan. Well, let's address that with a few different possibilities. First, this is a very historical building, thousands of people have walked through the doors over the years. This is a combination of many emotions and energy emitted within the walls of a single building. We hear about this all the time with historical locations, but there is another thing that we discovered while recording the historical profile video (above). Not only were the buildings from Menlo Park moved to this location, they also moved the top soil. Seven rail car loads of dirt were loaded up and moved to the location as well. So, not only is this a historical reconstruction of the buildings, but the entire facility and actual ground has been moved to this location. We know that one of the theories is that paranormal activity is tied to the actual grounds it takes place on not just the building... Interesting thought here.

When I sat down to write this blog post, I thought it would be a simple one to knock out and get done, until I came across the question as to why and how the building was moved. I know that Marianne talked about this in the history and profile video (above) for the location briefly. She mentioned that the Menlo Park location was run down and abandoned. Most of the original laboratory was gone and some of the building had burnt down back in 1913, but Henry Ford wanted to preserve this location for his long time mentor and friend Thomas Edison. I think the story behind finding the complex and moving it is an interesting one, so I will include that in this post as well.

Moving the Complex, Reconstruction, and the Lights Golden Jubilee Celebration

Henry Ford was an extremely wealthy man and he employed some very talented archeologists and architects to find and recover the laboratory. They even found pieces from the buildings buried as trash and brought them back to once again be part of the building. The driving force behind doing this was to have a dedication ceremony of Greenfield Village at the reconstructed Menlo Park Laboratory in Dearborn Michigan in 1929, which just so happened to be the 50th Anniversary of Edison's invention of the light bulb. I found this newspaper article (linked to on the Henry Ford Museum website) that shows Ford and Edison in Menlo Park, New Jersey looking over the foundation of the buildings. Also, you can see a picture of the laboratory as it stood at the time in Menlo Park, New Jersey and the condition it was in before they moved it.

Painstakingly, almost every board was located for the building (again we mentioned this in the history and paranormal profile video), since Ford even purchased some barns, sheds, and farmhouses surrounding the Menlo Park property that used some of the boards from the laboratory to fix their buildings, so he could get the original boards back. That right there is kind of mind blowing. Why not just replace them? Henry Ford wanted the original building intact, and if you have that kind of money backing a goal, you pretty much get what you want.

The following video is some archive footage of the reconstruction of the Menlo Park laboratory in Greenfield Village.

Edison himself oversaw the reconstruction of the Menlo Park complex in Dearborn, Michigan. The dedication ceremony was scheduled for October 21, 1929. Part of the ceremony was that Edison was going to recreate the light bulb during the dedication, which they called the "Lights Golden Jubilee Celebration." This was huge news at the time, and was even broadcast live over NBC radio across the globe on as many as 140 stations. When the light bulb lit up, the bells at the replica Independence Hall at the Henry Ford Museum rang for the first time and lights across the world blinked on and off to join in the celebration. I found a website that talked about the dedication on the 90th anniversary, entitled Greenfield Village to mark 90th anniversary Oct. 21, which goes into details about the dedication ceremony.

Thomas Edison (left); Henry Ford; and Edison’s former assistant, Francis Jehl, are shown in the Menlo Park lab at Greenfield Village. Photo courtesy of the Dearborn Historical Museum

Now, when I say this was a big deal, let me explain that a little better. The following excerpt is from an Essay recorded at the Library of Congress about the event.

No invention—save perhaps the wheel and the printing press—has altered the world more significantly than the electric lamp. Hence, when its 50thanniversary occurred, in October of1929, the globe reacted and celebrated its creation and creator, Thomas Alva Edison. Like the US Bicentennial some 40years later, the commemoration of light resulted in a wide assortment of tributes. Across the country, museums and libraries put up special displays; towns draped signs and bunting, held parades and sent up fireworks; officials issued proclamations; schools staged activities; cities illuminated their local monuments in electric light showers; stores held special sales; and the US Post Office even issued a commemorative stamp. All these activities culminated on October 21thwith a special dinner and radio broadcast that heralded this once “new fangled contraption” and the opening of the Edison Institute of Technology in Dearborn, Michigan, the home of Edison friend and admirer Henry Ford.

The President's Arrival

President Herbert Hoover attended the event to dedicate the Thomas Edison Institute of Technology, later renamed to the Henry Ford museum. The following video shows the arrival of the president and his wife at the museum and the two being greeted by Henry Ford and Thomas Edison.

In the following video, you will see the actual re-enactment of the lighting of the light bulb. This is some amazing historical footage.

Thomas Edison's Speech That Was Broadcast on NBC Radio

I had to pull Marianne on the research for this blog and asked her to try and find me a piece of the recording of the broadcast that went out over NBC Radio. She found that a section of the recording is actually archived in the National Archives; however, they do not place it online. She did find a recording that was broadcasted out that is a speech by Thomas Edison himself. Of course, this was found on YouTube.

The NBC Radio Broadcast

We did some more searching on YouTube and found the following videos that is 31 minutes long. We are not sure if this is the entire radio broadcast, but the original broadcast included the following:

  • Hosted by announcer Graham McNamee

  • Speeches by President Herbert Hoover

  • Speech by Marie Currie

  • Speech by Henry Ford

  • Speech by Albert Eisenstein from shortwave radio from Berlin

  • Message from the Prince of Whales

  • Message from President Von Hindenburg

  • Message from Commander Richard Byrd from the South Pole

Artifacts from the Celebration

The Henry Ford Museum has many artifacts in their collection about the event that you can visit on-line at their website. From invitations, telegrams, and letters from people like Orville Wright, these items are now archived if you would like to view some of them.

Those Who Attended

In attendance (besides Edison and Ford) were celebrities such as President Herbert Hoover and Mrs. Hoover, their first trip since President Hoover's inauguration, Walter Chrysler, Marie Curie, George Eastman, Aimée de Heeren, Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon, Adolph Ochs, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Will Rogers, Julius Rosenwald, Charles Schwab, and Orville Wright, with Albert Einstein via a special radio transmission from Berlin and Commander Richard Byrd from the South Pole. Can you even imagine the conversations that took place that night?

Let us know down in the comments if you have visited this location in the past, if you have heard about the celebration, or if you would like to visit this location in the future.

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