Who was Thomas Edison?
Thomas Alva Edison was an American inventor who held over one thousand U.S. patents in his name, as well as many patents in various European countries. Nicknamed “The Wizard of Menlo Park,” his most famous inventions led to the first practical, long-lasting electric light bulb, the phonograph, and the motion picture camera. Other notable inventions included a stock ticker and a battery for an electric car.< /p>
In 1880, Edison patented an electricity distribution system with a goal of capitalizing on his electric light bulb. One of the employees at his company in France, and later New York, was Nikola Tesla. Tesla eventually left to work on his own. Among Tesla's patents was an alternating current induction motor and transformer which was licensed by George Westinghouse. Westinghouse and Edison became embroiled in what became known as the “War of the Currents” which pitted Tesla's alternating current (AC) against Edison's direct current (DC). The lower cost of distributing AC eventually led to a Westinghouse victory.
In order to compete with Westinghouse's AC, the Edison General Electric Company merged with another AC firm, the Thomson-Houston Electric Company. The combined company became known as the General Electric Company and was one of the original 12 companies listed in the Dow Jone Industrial Average. Today it is the only one of the original companies still listed in the index.
One of the closest of Thomas Edison's famous kin is a signer of the Declaration of Independence, Robert Treat Paine. Thomas Edison also has a kinship to the Roosevelt family including Eleanor Roosevelt, both Presidents Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt, and Theodore's wife Edith (Carow) Roosevelt. Considering Thomas Edison's involvement with the invention of motion pictures, it seems only fitting that he has a number of family connections to movie and television celebrities including movie actor John Wayne, television actor Ted Danson, television journalist Anderson Cooper (and his mother fashion designer Gloria Vanderbilt), and movie actor Clint Eastwood.
The Charter Oak
In 1662, King Charles II granted the Connecticut Colony an unusual amount of autonomy when he granted the colony its royal charter. After being officially sealed and registered, the document was sent to Connecticut. However when King James II took over in 1686, he appointed Sir Edmund Andros as governor-general. Andros believed that his appointment invalidated the charters of the colonies and he sought to collect them from each colony. According to tradition, Connecticut's royal charter was hidden inside a hollow oak tree to keep Andros from confiscating it and the oak tree became a symbol of American independence. In 1999, the Charter Oak was commemorated on the Connecticut state quarter.
Robert Treat is the 5th great-grandfather of Thomas Alva Edison. He was the colony's militia leader and in 1676 participated in King Philip's War. Robert Treat was also the governor of the Connecticut Colony between 1683 and 1698. When Sir Edmund Andros arrived in Hartford in 1687 to collect Connecticut's royal charter, Gov. Treat is said to have played a key role in concealing the document in the Charter Oak.
The Origins of John Edison
John Edison is the great-grandfather of Thomas Alva Edison. Many sources claim that John Edison was Dutch and that he came to America from Holland around 1730. However in recent years there have been some researchers who claim that John Edison is not from Holland after all.
In one scenario, John Edison is said to be the grandson of John Eddison (1658-1728) of Yorkshire, England. The younger John's father is said to be the elder John's son Thomas. Thomas is said to have fled to Holland with his family to avoid religious prosecution in England. He is said to have died at sea while on the voyage to New England with his family.
In another scenario, the belief is that the Edison family was already in New England for a few generations before John was born and that he may have been the grandson or great-grandson of Pieter Marcellus van Beest who settled in New Jersey in 1674. Unfortunately none of these theories have yet to be proven.
The Mystery of Thomas Edison's Maternal Grandfather
Prior to the 1990s, most biographers and other researchers mistakenly claimed that the father of Thomas Alva Edison's mother, Nancy Matthews Elliott, was the Rev. John Elliott, an American Baptist minister in Vienna, Ontario. In fact, the Rev. John Elliott was Nancy's brother and not her father. Their father was Ebenezer Matthews alias Elliott. Although Ebenezer's birth name was Matthews, he is said to have assumed the name Elliott after an aunt. Ebenezer was the son of Abner and Lois (Hotchkiss) Matthews. You can read more about this issue at the Thomas A. Edison Papers Project.
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