West Orange (New Jersey, USA): A visit to the Thomas Edison National historic Park with kids

Today, just for fun, let’s start the day with a little game and answer the following questions. In the past 24 hours have you:

  1. Switched on the light?
  2. Watched TV?
  3. Listened to music?

If your answer was YES to at least one of the three questions, say out loud, “thank you, Thomas Edison!”.

Thomas Edison’s inventions

Edison national historic park west orange, new jersey

When my dear friend Shari suggested we visit Thomas Alva Edison’s lab, I accepted it right away. Ignorance is bliss, really! I explained to my son Stefano that we were going to see the place where the “light bulb” was born, and he was truly thrilled. And so off we went. As soon as we reached the lab, I immediately understood how little I had known about Thomas Edison. What lab? We found ourselves in a large area full of buildings – all labs in fact, waiting to be visited. I learned that the “father of the light bulb” is also the father of 1092 other patented inventions and that, in his labs, over 200 scientists and researchers used to work there, at the same time.

Visiting the lab(s)

Edison national historic park west orange, new jersey

It became soon clear that it was necessary to get ourselves a schedule of the guided visits to the various buildings, so that we could choose which labs to visit, bearing in mind that they also had to be interesting for a 6-year-old boy, too.

To our utmost surprise, we discovered that the invention of very first short films belongs to Thomas Edison and not Lumière brothers. He invented the kinetoscope (the precursor of the projector) and also the first movie studio, a large bos all painted black, called the Black Maria, indeed. This studio, covered in black tarpaper (except for a window in the ceiling), was built on rails so that it could rotate following the sun.

And what about the phonograph, the ancestor of the old record player? The room where it was “created” happened to be my son’s favorite, probably thanks to the dozens of acoustic trumpets of various sizes scattered all about.

The visit through the eyes of a child

Edison national historic park west orange, new jersey

Overall, it was a truly interesting visit. There are thousands of curious objects, inventions and work desks everywhere, and they are kept as they were when Thomas Edison died, dust included. It is a bit like going back in time.

In my opinion, the information provided by the very knowledgeable guides was a bit too much, especially for kids. However my son, who does not understand English, soon decided to stop listening to my translation and “visited” mainly “with his eyes”; to him it was a bit like entering a magic world, an invention factory. He let his imagination run wild, and he was the happiest boy in the world.


Edison national historic park west orange, new jersey

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