Our lives would be so much dimmer if it weren't for Thomas Edison and the incandescent light bulb. Did you know that Kentucky played a significant part in sharing this invention with the world and Edison actually lived in Louisville when he was a young man?

Louisville Metro TV Youtube
Louisville Metro TV Youtube

Thomas Edison Once Lived in Louisville, KY

In 1866, when Thomas Edison was 19 years old, he moved to Louisville and worked as a telegraph key operator. He was very skilled and apparently, there was an operator shortage at the time, so he was quickly hired by Western Union.  Edison was fascinated with improving the telegraph and he learned the ins and outs of electricity which helped him in his experiments going forward.

During this time, he rented the front room of an old house on Washington Ave in what is known as the Butchertown area. Working for the Associated Press wire, he took the night shift which allowed him some privacy to pull double duty and conduct experiments at work. The story goes that this situation did not end well.

Louisville Metro TV Youtube
Louisville Metro TV Youtube

While handling a vial of sulfuric acid one evening, he accidentally spilled it and it leaked through the floorboards onto his boss' desk. As you can imagine, this did not go over well and he was fired! Thomas Edison then moved to New Jersey to continue working on his inventions in his famous Menlo Park laboratory.

Telegraphs, Phonographs, and Light Bulbs, Oh My!

Thomas Edison is known as one of the most prolific inventors in world history. With 1,093 US patents and more in other parts of the world, he is credited with creating a telegraph that could send multiple messages at once, the Phonograph for playing recorded sound (the great-grandfather of the record player, if you will), and the Kinetograph one of the earliest video cameras. These are only a few of the many inventions we still benefit from today.

Of course, he is most known for his work on electric lights and the incandescent light bulb. While Edison did not invent the light bulb, he made improvements to the type of filament used which made the bulbs last longer and more cost-efficient. As well as developing a generator to run the electricity. Because of this, he ended up back in Louisville, KY sixteen years later for the Southern Exposition.

Thomas Edison Lit Up Louisville, KY Southern Exposition in the Late 1800s

The Southern Exposition was a series of World's Fair events over the span of five years. Located in the Old Louisville area, it showcased achievements in art, music, industry, horticulture, etc. but before Thomas Edison's Electric Light Company came to town, they could only host during the day.

The Louisville Board of Trade contracted with them for the largest display of incandescent lights at the time. Five thousand bulbs lit up the Expo in the evening so more people could enjoy the events. In fact, in the first 88 days, 770,048 people were recorded to have attended!

Tour Thomas Edison's Louisville, Kentucky Home in Butchertown

You can see the 1850s shotgun-style duplex in Historic Butchertown and what it looked like when Thomas Edison lived there. The inside also houses a museum of artifacts and iconic inventions that he very well could have dreamt of while sleeping in his tiny bed right here in the heart of the Bluegrass State. Volunteers host tours upon request by visiting historichomes.org. Here is a small peek at what it looks like.


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