Monday, April 9, 2012

Thomas Edison's Hometown: Port Huron

"Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration."  -Thomas A. Edison

 Another one of the hidden gems of Port Huron is that it is Thomas Edison's boyhood home. When my family visited last week we took the opportunity to go to the Thomas Edison Depot Museum, which pleasantly surprised me. Thomas Edison was quite the character growing up and I really appreciated the stories and culture that shaped him. Here are some fun facts about Thomas Edison that you probably did not know.

Thomas Edison Depot Museum in Port Huron MI.

1. Thomas Edison caused a LOT of trouble as a boy. He once made a solution out of mashed up worms with the logic that birds can fly because they eat worms. He then told a girl if she drank it, it would make her fly too... well it didn't and she ended up getting really sick instead. (and this is just one of many stories like this) He also not only succeeded in burning his fathers barn down with his numerous science experiments, he also succeeded in setting fire to the moving train car he used to print off his newspaper he wrote and sold. After that exciting event they naturally kicked him and his equipment off the train.   

2. Thomas Edison only had 3 months of formal education. When he overheard his teacher call him addled (easily confused) it greatly upset him and he told his Mom about what he had heard. She then marched right up to the headmaster and told him that perhaps if his lessons were more interesting it would keep Thomas's attention. She then decided that she would teach him.. and she did using R.G Parker's School of Natural Philosophy as the basis of her curriculum. 

3. Thomas Edison was a huge businessman He did not grow up in a family with money and learned quickly the value of earning money. At age 12 he started his own newspaper that he wrote and sold on the train from Port Huron to Detroit where he sold it for a penny. He eventually expanded his business by selling fruits and vegetables on the train too. He was always looking for a way to make more money so he could fund his science experiments. Then when he was in Detroit he would check out books in the public library and read them late at night while reenacting all the experiments he read about. (He only slept 4-6 hours a night much to his Father's dismay.) Also, as a boy he wrote patents weekly for his new inventions so he could make a profit off of them.  

4. Thomas Edison was hard-of-hearing. Many of his experiments where geared toward increasing his ability to hear. Despite this disability, he could still hear faintly and took a great liking to the telegraph because he could hear the messages clearly without background noise distracting him. He convinced the telegraph guy at the train station to teach him where he learned Morse code.

5. Thomas Edison made a lot of powerful connections in Detroit. He became good friends with Henry Ford and they would take yearly camping trips together with other interesting and important people. Thomas Edison liked to be around people with a wide variety of interests from his own so that he was always learning something.

and my personal favorite.....

5. Thomas Edison HATED Port Huron. His family was poor and they held unpopular beliefs in the community.  I'm sure his mischievous behavior was probably not appreciated by the community either.

It's a very interesting history! I hope you enjoy these random bits of information.


  1. Interesting post: Although this was really never stated I think that there is definitely some connection within these facts.

    I'll admit that I just finished reading through Imagine by Jonah Lehrer in which creativity and imagination are dissected and explored - so this topic is fresh in my mind. In Lehrer's book he argued that creativity flourishes in areas where people are in constant interaction and there are constant stimuli for spawning new ideas, or new uses for old insights.

    So I found myself asking this question: where might this young inventor have found his creative spark? Was it on the train? Or through his meetings aboard it? Was it when he was plugged into the powers of Detroit? Or reenacting experiments? What about having the charm and guts to make the telegraph operator teach him his trade? Maybe what made Edison so successful was that he had an indepth knowledge of a lot of different things, and was able to bring ideas together to solve problems. If so, then I guess genius is only 1% inspiration - and the rest is knowing what to do with it.

    1. I think part of Edison's abilities come from making something out of nothing. When you don't have resources or advantages at your finger tips you have to think creatively out of the box. Part of this is bringing people of influence into your inner circle because they have resources you don't.

      As for the telegraph operator, there's quite the story. Edison was always interested in learning but the operator was hesitant to teach him at first. Then one day when they were talking the telegrapher's young son got stuck on the train track when a train was coming (I'm not even kidding). The father froze but Edison ran out on the track and saved him just in time. Needless to say after that the operator was happy to teach him.

      So I think it's a combination of things: working hard, ability to think in a different way than others, and taking advantage of opportunities. OH and a little bit of courage and determination go a long way too. :)

  2. I found this post very interesting. It's amazing to me that he had only 3 MONTHS of formal education...considering he was one of the brightest minds that mankind has ever seen. Quite amazing. Great post Amanda.

  3. Despite his childhood pranks, Thomas Alva Edison was a genius. To accomplish what he did as an adult, with such limited formal education, proves that he had common sense. An ingrediant so important in ones life. With out it, all the education in the world is useless.