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The Life of Thomas Edison
Part 1: Thomas Edison - The Early Years
The Life of Thomas Edison 
Part 1: Thomas Edison - The Early Years
Part 2: Thomas Edison Telegraph Work
Part 3: Thomas Edison Phonograph and Motion Picture Inventions
Part 4: Thomas Edison - Later Years
Thomas Edison
Thomas Edison, 1878. Photo courtesy of U. S. Department of Interior, National Park Service, Edison National Historic Site.
Thomas Edison Inventions and Biographies
Cylinder Phonograph
Disc Phonograph
Film Projectors
Failed Inventions
A List of Thomas Edison's Patents
Biography of Thomas Alva Edison
Timeline for Inventing Entertainment
The Muckers
Thomas Edison's forebears lived in New Jersey until their loyalty to the British crown during the American Revolution drove them to Nova Scotia, Canada. From there, later generations relocated to Ontario and fought the Americans in the War of 1812. Edison's mother, Nancy Elliott, was originally from New York until her family moved to Vienna, Canada, where she met Sam Edison, Jr., whom she later married. When Sam became involved in an unsuccessful insurrection in Ontario in the 1830s, he was forced to flee to the United States and in 1839 they made their home in Milan, Ohio.

Thomas Alva Edison was born to Sam and Nancy on February 11, 1847, in Milan, Ohio. Known as "Al" in his youth, Edison was the youngest of seven children, four of whom survived to adulthood. Edison tended to be in poor health when young.

To seek a better fortune, Sam Edison moved the family to Port Huron, Michigan, in 1854, where he worked in the lumber business.

Edison was a poor student. When a schoolmaster called Edison "addled," his furious mother took him out of the school and proceeded to teach him at home. Edison said many years later, "My mother was the making of me. She was so true, so sure of me, and I felt I had some one to live for, some one I must not disappoint." At an early age, he showed a fascination for mechanical things and for chemical experiments.

In 1859, Edison took a job selling newspapers and candy on the Grand Trunk Railroad to Detroit. In the baggage car, he set up a laboratory for his chemistry experiments and a printing press, where he started the "Grand Trunk Herald", the first newspaper published on a train. An accidental fire forced him to stop his experiments on board.

Around the age of twelve, Edison lost almost all his hearing. There are several theories as to what caused his hearing loss. Some attribute it to the aftereffects of scarlet fever which he had as a child. Others blame it on a conductor boxing his ears after Edison caused a fire in the baggage car, an incident which Edison claimed never happened. Edison himself blamed it on an incident in which he was grabbed by his ears and lifted to a train. He did not let his disability discourage him, however, and often treated it as an asset, since it made it easier for him to concentrate on his experiments and research. Undoubtedly, though, his deafness made him more solitary and shy in dealings with others.

Next page >Thomas Edison - Telegraph Work

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Photos Library of Congress, Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division

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