On September 15, 1878, a group of New York reporters traveled to Thomas Edison's laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey, to hear his most startling announcement to date. In just six weeks, he told them, illumination by gaslight would be obsolete. He would create a vast, new industry to provide electric power that would light up America -- and revolutionize the world. "When I am through, only the rich will be able to afford candles," he said. Gas stocks plummeted overnight. J.P. Morgan hastily provided the 31-year-old inventor with the capital he needed to carry out his daring scheme.
The first electric lights cast their golden glow over Menlo Park on New Year's Eve 1880. Edison, the worker of miracles, had triumphed. Carolyn Marvin, Historian and Author says, “Victorians saw the electric light and the effect of electricity (or 'the lightning') as having an almost religious power. Edison was both godlike, because he could manipulate the lightning, and a very dark and satanic figure for the same reason. He could challenge God's order."
The time had come to start mass production, when Edison approached his investors, they turned him down flat. Nothing more, they said, before their initial investments had paid off. "The issue is factories or death!" raged Edison, and raised the funds himself. At 3pm on September 4, 1882, Edison threw the switch that would start up America's first power plant, serving a square-mile area that included some very wealthy and influential customers: J.P. Morgan, the Stock Exchange, and the nation's largest newspapers. "I have accomplished all that I promised," the inventor said.
In New York, Edison staged an "Electric Torch Light Parade" in which 400 men marched through Manhattan -- wearing light bulbs on their heads and power lines down their sleeves that were connected to a horse-drawn, steam-powered generator. The message came across "Loud and Clear" electricity was safe. In 1887 Edison set up the Edison General Electric Company, and J.P. Morgan paid nearly two million dollars to buy into it.
Edison, the world's greatest inventor had become a prosperous industrialist. No longer did his photographs show a rumpled, unshaven country boy, but instead, a smartly tailored, urban gentleman.
His wife, Mary, had died, leaving 40-year-old Edison with three children to raise. He soon married a beautiful young woman, Mina Miller. Edison's hearing had been deteriorating since he was 11; he taught his second bride Morse code so they could communicate by tapping on one another's wrists.
In the late-1890s, Edison and George Westinghouse (using patents made by Nikola Tesla) engaged in what’s known as the "Battle of Currents,” battling for popularity as the world’s electric demand grew. In a last-ditch effort to save the business he had created, Edison took advantage of an unusual opportunity to discredit Westinghouse. He gave his full endorsement to a plan to use 1,000 volts of AC - from a Westinghouse generator-to execute criminals sentenced to death in New York state.
The first execution turned into a grisly spectacle, damaging Edison's reputation. The board of Edison General Electric decided to adopt AC power, and dropped Edison's name; the company was now called "General Electric."
Courtesy of winter resident Thomas Edison in 1898, Fort Myers received electric light. Though many of the local folks didn’t like it because it kept the cows up at night.
In the second half of his life he would invent the first motion picture camera, improve his phonograph, and become America's first entertainment mogul. "People will forget," he stated with typical bravado, "that my name ever was connected with anything electrical."....
It’s that time again to cover yourself in glittering lights
"The 79th Edison Festival brings together the inventions and innovations of Thomas Alva Edison while celebrating our history and culture here in Fort Myers and southwest Florida from February 11 – 19," said Kevin Anderson, Board President. As homage to the famous inventor, the Edison Festival requires everyone in their Grand Parade to excite spectators by wearing some sort of illumination.
The Edison Festival of Light, Southwest Florida's largest and longest running festival announces its official event schedule:
Crafts on the River – Feb. 17 – 19, 2017 – 10 am – 5 pm Friday and Saturday, 10 am – 3 pm Sunday
Parade Celebration – Feb. 17, 2017 - 5 pm – 9 pm and Feb. 18, 2017, 11 am – 7 pm
Edison Festival of Light 5K – Feb. 18, 2017, 5:45 pm Centennial Park, Ft Myers
Grand Parade of Light – Feb. 18, 2017 – 7 pm – 10 pm, Fort Myers
Classic Car Show – Feb. 19, 2017 – 10 am – 3 pm, Edwards Drive, Ft Myers
For more information, visit www.edisonfestival.org or call 239-334-2999