Monday, June 3, 2013

It's Electric

 We recently returned from a visit to the Thomas Edison historic site in West Orange, N.J. I was quite worn out afterwards after climbing up and down throughout a factory and then a Victorian mansion, but I enjoyed it. Looking at the old machines reminded me of my father who was a factory foreman. We didn't get into the chemistry lab as there already was a tour going, but did see where designs were drawn up and a museum exhibit of various items. There was a man running small motors to explain the difference between AC and DC power. Outside, strange noises reached us from the men recording sounds on wax cylinders to show how the first records were made. Then we took a shuttle bus to Edison's home, Glenmont, which was built in 1886 in what is known as the Queen Anne revival style and which proved to be very interesting as it was furnished with the original items and looked as though Mr. Edison would be home from the factory down below in the valley any minute. It was situated on the top of a hill and had wonderful breezes in spite of a day in the 90's. An elderly man sat in the garage and told visitors how Edison went on camping trips with a "convoy" of fifty vehicles. Rich people in the 1920's had quite a different lifestyle from today - not that I am well acquainted with lifestyles of the rich in the present day! I hope Zach enjoyed something of it all at 10 years of age. Maybe he will remember the tiger skin rugs in the parlors!
We were told that some actual Edison grand children (adults) might be present as they frequently turned up on Edison Day. Of course we don't know if we were rubbing shoulders with an Edison or not, but it led me to read up on the family a little. I discovered that Samuel Edison, Thomas's father, was born in Nova Scotia, as was Art's grandfather. They also had Loyalist origins, fleeing from New Jersey to Canada after being arrested during the Revolution. The Edison family eventually went back to the United States, where Thomas A. Edison was born in Ohio. He finally ended up back in New Jersey. What a good thing his ancestor didn't get hanged for his Loyalist sympathies! (Which almost happened, I believe.) We might not have had electric lights that worked - at least, as early as we did have them. And would Hollywood have existed? Edison pioneered the movie industry. This site is definitely worth a visit as there is much to explore. The friendly Park Rangers were very helpful. Also interesting to us were the surroundings of Glenmont. It is located in what is probably the first gated community in America, of 450 acres, along with another 173 estates, and contains its own park within a park. As we sat on an iron bench under a tree on the rolling lawns, viewing the house, I thought it would make a wonderful setting for a novel. Jane Austen would have loved it.

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