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Inventors The Motion Pictures and Sound Recordings of the Edison Companies
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1847-1879 | 1880-1889 | 1890-1899 | 1900-1931

The following timeline focuses on major events in the inventor's personal life and on his motion picture and phonograph inventions.
1847-1879 (TOP)
- Thomas Alva Edison born on February 11 in Milan, Ohio.
- His family moves to Port Huron, Michigan.
- Young Thomas takes job selling newspapers and candy on the Grand Trunk Railway.
- He begins work as a telegraph operator in Port Huron.
- Obtains telegraph job for the Grand Trunk Railway in Ontario.
- Returns to the U.S. in the fall and goes from city to city as a telegraph operator.
- Arrives in New York City and eventually gets job at Laws' Gold Indicator Co. after fixing the company's stock ticker.
- Receives patent in June for his first invention, an electric vote recorder.
- Opens his first workshop in Newark, New Jersey.
- Marries Mary Stilwell on December 25.
- Daughter, Marion Estelle ("Dot"), is born.
- Moves to Menlo Park, New Jersey, and establishes laboratory.
- Son, Thomas Alva, Jr. ("Dash"), is born on January 10.
- Invents carbon telephone transmitter, extending the clarity and range of the telephone.
- Develops tin foil cylinder phonograph; files patent for it on December 24 which is awarded on February 19, 1878.
- Edison Speaking Phonograph Co. incorporated April 24.
- Son, William Leslie, is born on October 26.
- Devises an electric incandescent light bulb that lasts for more than 13 hours.
- Organizes the Edison Ore Milling Company.
second wife Mina
- Discovers phenomenon which is later termed the "Edison Effect".
- Creates the Edison Electric Lamp Co., the Edison Machine Works and other companies to produce his electric lighting system.
- Opens a commercial electric station in New York City with approximately 85 customers.
- The Menlo Park laboratory is closed, and another instituted in New York City.
- Edison's wife, Mary, dies on August 9.
- Patent awarded to Chichester A. Bell and Charles Sumner Tainter for their wax cylinder graphophone; Edison later refuses to collaborate with them on the invention.
- Marries Mina Miller on February 24.
- Moves his laboratory to East Newark, New Jersey.
- Develops the New Phonograph, using a wax cylinder.
- Edison Phonograph Co. formed in October.
- Moves to a larger and more modern laboratory in West Orange, New Jersey.
- Meets Eadweard Muybridge, who shows him his zoopraxiscope; Edison sets William K. L. Dickson and other assistants to work to make a Kinetoscope, "an instrument which does for the Eye what the phonograph does for the Ear".
- Improved Phonograph introduced, followed by the Perfected Phonograph.
- Daughter, Madeleine, is born on May 31.
- Jesse H. Lippincott assumes control of phonograph companies by forming the North American Phonograph Co. on July 14; leases phonographs as dictation machines.
- Files his first caveat (a Patent Office document in which one declares his work on a particular invention in anticipation of filing a patent application) on the Kinetoscope and Kinetograph on October 8; William Kennedy Laurie Dickson assigned to work on project.
- Produces dolls with tiny cylinders inside to make them talk for the Edison Phonograph Toy Manufacturing Co.; project ceases in March 1891.
- Edison General Electric formed in April.
- Edison Manufacturing Co. is organized.
With children Madeleine and Charles circa 1892

- Lippincott becomes ill and loses control of North American Phonograph Co. to Edison, its principal creditor.
- Son, Charles, is born on August 3.
- A peep-hole viewing machine shown by Edison on May 20 to participants from the National Federation of Women's Clubs.
- Edison General Electric and Thomson-Houston merge into General Electric.
- Construction on a film studio known as the "Black Maria" completed in February; earliest Edison motion pictures were filmed there.
- First public demonstration of 1 1/2" system of Kinetoscope at the Brooklyn Institute on May 9.
- Copyright registered to William K. L. Dickson for sample kinetoscope records on October 6.
- Declares bankruptcy for the North American Phonograph Co.
- Applications submitted to U.S. Patent Office for the Kinetograph and the Kinetoscope.
- First Kinetoscope parlor opened in midtown Manhattan on April 14.
- Puts the Edison Manufacturing Co. in charge of the manufacture and sale of Kinetoscopes and films on April 1.
- Edison and Dickson experiment to synchronize sound with film; the Kinetophone is invented which loosely synchronizes a Kinetoscope image with a cylinder phonograph.
- The Edison Spring Motor Phonograph appears.
- Dickson resigns on April 2.
- C. Francis Jenkins and Thomas Armat demonstrate their Phantoscope, a motion picture projector, in Atlanta, Georgia, in late September to early October.
- Forms the National Phonograph Co. with the purpose of manufacturing phongraphs for home use on January 27.
- Spring Motor Phonograph is released under aegis of the National Phonograph Co., followed by the Edison Home Phonograph.
- Negotiates in January with Raff & Gammon to manufacture the Phantoscope which Armat presents as his own invention; machine is renamed the Vitascope in February, and Edison's name put on it.
- Vitascope publicly exhibited at Koster & Bial's Music Hall on April 23 to great acclaim.
- The company begins practice of copyrighting its films on October 23 by sending short pieces of positive nitrate film from the motion pictures to the Library of Congress.
- Distances himself from agreement with Raff & Gammon; introduces the Projecting Kinetoscope or Projectoscope on November 30 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
- Edison Standard Phonograph manufactured.
- Begins to send positive paper prints of motion pictures for copyright deposit to the Library of Congress in August.
- James White hired to head Kinetograph Department at the Edison Manufacturing Co. in October.
- Begins legal battles in December that continue for the following year against other producers and exhibitors whom he charges with infringement.
- Spanish-American War occurs; Edison Company sends cameraman to Cuba to film scenes of war.
- Son, Theodore Miller, is born on July 10.
- Edison Concert Phonograph introduced.
Glenmont  home, circa 1892
- Edison Manufacturing Co. incorporated on May 5.
- Edwin S. Porter hired by Edison Co. in November to work with film equipment; he later becomes the company's most famous director.
- Process for mass-producing duplicate wax cylinders put into effect; they are known as Gold Moulded cylinders.
- A new film studio for the Edison Co. in New York is completed in January; this is the nation's first indoor, glass-enclosed studio.
- U.S. Circuit Court recognizes Edison's motion picture patent claims in his suit in July; American Mutoscope & Biograph Company appeals decision.
- Edison cameras are present at Pan-American Exposition when President McKinley is shot by an assassin.
- Circuit Court's decision reversed on March 10 by Court of Appeals, which essentially disallows Edison having a monopoly on motion picture apparatus.
- One of the most famous early films, The Great Train Robbery, directed by Edwin S. Porter, is filmed during November.
- Business Phonograph introduced.
- Nickelodeons become popular in Chicago and later spread to other urban areas.
- Amberol Record introduced; the cylinder could play as long as four minutes, twice as long as previous cylinders.
- Association of Edison Licensees and Film Service Association formed; Motion Picture Patents Co. formed from it later to include Biograph licensees.
- New film studio opened in the Bronx, New York, June-July.
- Edwin S. Porter fired on November 10.
- Company reorganized into Thomas A. Edison, Inc.
- Edison Disc Phonograph shown in public for the first time.
- Disc Phonograph put on sale.
- Blue Amberol introduced, an unbreakable cylinder with superior sound.
- Kinetophone is introduced, which attempts to synchronize motion pictures with a phonograph cylinder record.
- Kinetophone abandoned.
- Tone tests for Diamond Discs introduced.
- Motion Picture Patents Co. found guilty of antitrust violation on October 1.
- Edison named head of the Naval Consulting Board.
- American involvement in World War I begins; Edison creates Army and Navy Model of the Disc Phonograph.
- Motion picture studio ceases production in February; studio sold on March 30 to the Lincoln & Parker Film Co.
- Resigns as president of Thomas A. Edison, Inc., and becomes chairman of the board; his son, Charles takes over as president.
- Takes over Aplitdorf-Bethlehem Electrical Co., a move which allows him to manufacture radios.
- Awarded Congressional gold metal for his many contributions.
- Makes programs for radio on long-playing discs; first used by radio station WAAM of Newark, New Jersey, on April 4.
- Edison Portable Disc Phonograph with New Edison Needle Records introduced.
- Orders given on October 21 to close the Edison disc business.
- Dies in West Orange on October 18.
Photos Library of Congress, Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division
From Mary Bellis,
Your Guide to Inventors.
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