Thomas Edison had an amazing 1,093 patents awarded to him during his lifetime. If you add foreign patents, that number rises to 2,332. The greater part of his patents were divided into the following categories: electric power and light, 425; recorded sound and phonographs, 200; batteries, 145; telegraphy and telegraphs, 185; iron ore milling and mining, 50; motion pictures, 10; cement, 40; and miscellaneous, 50. This famous inventor is recognized all over the world for the depth and breadth of his inventions. It comes as no surprise that many people, Steampunk fans included, would love to use Edison’s patent art for decorating their homes and places of business. We are happy to show you some of Edison’s most remarkable inventions that are now available as patent prints.
What exactly is Steampunk? I am glad you asked. Steampunk started out as an area of science fantasy or science fiction writing that combined both technology and artistic designs that were strongly influenced by machinery created in the mid to late 19th century. Steampunk has escaped the world of fiction writing. It has grown into an artistic movement that involves the culture of the Victorian era. It spotlights the inventions, fashions, art, culture, and the building style of that area. Steampunk holds dear the values of the Victorian, Georgian, and Edwardian eras. Its biggest heroes are novelists like Jules Verne and HG Wells, and scientists like Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison. A person only has to look at some of Edison’s remarkable patent drawings, which combine imagination and science, for an entranceway into the fabulous world of art that proudly carries the name of Steampunk.
Nineteenth and early 20th-century patent drawings are a treasure trove of invention images. The United States required a patent application by law to include a precise drawing of whatever invention was being applied for. Each patent drawing must be drawn in a simple, clear manner so that their workings will be readily understood by anyone looking at the patent description. The drawings during this time period were all created with black ink (i.e. black & white drawings). Steampunk art, which is based on the fantastic combination of history, science, industrial machinery, and futurism, embraces late 19th and early 20th-century patent prints, especially those by Thomas Edison, one of the most creative inventors of all time. Let’s take a look at just a few of Thomas Edison’s patent prints, and you will soon discover why lovers of Steampunk are choosing to decorate their houses, offices, and places of business with Edison’s patent drawing.
Edison’s Light Bulb
Edison began researching incandescent light bulbs (bulbs emitting light from being heated) in 1878. He would go on to test over 3,000 bulb designs between 1878-1880. Thomas Edision didn’t create the first light bulbs. He remodeled the way they used current and also changed what materials were used in its manufacture. On January 27th, 1880, Edison received a patent for an electric lamp that used incandescent light. Patent number 223,898 showed a drawing of an electric lamp which used a carbon strip or filament connected in a coil to platina contact wires. The patent art of this historic invention is inspiring. Decorating locations could include kitchens, dens, offices – practically anywhere that would delight the eye, and cause you to remember this historic invention that brightened up our world. No wonder that the symbol of a light bulb is used to show people having an idea or Eureka moment!
Edison’s Movie Projector (Projecting Kinetoscope)
James H. White was an early Canadian film pioneer who worked as a cameraman, producer, actor, and director of early films. He was working for the Edison Manufacturing Company in 1902 when he invented an improved way to feed, support, and adjust the film going into the Projecting Kinetoscope, and for its automatic take-up afterwards. White signed his invention over to Thomas Edison and they received Patent number US714845 A on December 2, 1902. (Edison always took sole credit for any product worked on in his laboratories. It’s said that this model was mostly invented by William Dickson and Charles Brown). Regardless of who first invented the kinetoscope, this motion picture device that allowed people to view films through a peephole was the direct ancestor to today’s movie projectors! Imagine how stunning this particular piece of Patent art would look on the wall of a den or home theater!
Although there were several inventors of machines that recorded sound before Thomas Edison’s phonograph, he was the first person to invent a phonograph that could both reproduce and record sound. His first phonograph was completed in 1877, and earned him the nickname of “The Wizard of Menlo Park”. An 1880 Patent drawing of Edison’s phonograph may be viewed here. Patent drawing number 454,942 (June 30, 1891) introduced a major improvement to the phonograph. These improvements included changes to the brown wax and black wax cylinder phonograph. These changes would lead to Edison having a very large commercial business making and selling both phonographs and records. Patent art for this particular phonograph would be welcome in any den, man cave, music room, or any concert venue.
Edison Patent Art for Telegraph
Thomas Edison was a telegraph operator in his youth, and he worked for the bureau news wire of the Associated Press. Edison was partly deaf and wanted to make the telegraph easier for him to use. Patent number 128,608 of July 2, 1872, provided a useful improvement to current printing-telegraphs. His invention made it possible to send messages back and forth between trains in motion, or between a railway station and a moving train. Five views of his 1872 telegraph patent are available here. These outstanding patent prints are available as a blueprint, on parchment paper or chalkboard, and in navy blue, black, burgundy, green, slate concrete, and sandstone.
Edison’s Electrical Automobile
Thomas Edison invented an improvement for the electrical automobile, patent number 750,102 on January 19, 1904. This invention would be one of several that he worked on during the 1910s. The 1912 electric car that Edison built used tone 30-volt electric motor and two 15-volt batteries. It had a top speed of approximately 25 miles an hour. It didn’t look like other cars of its day since it didn’t have a large compartment for the engine. One of its biggest problems was its price. It cost twice as much as the cars of his competitors. It also had too heavy batteries. Soon Henry Ford would own the market with his gasoline-powered cars. Thomas Edison was very unhappy with the result of his experiments with electric vehicles. He summed up his unhappiness in this famous quotation: ” I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that (electric cars) won’t work”.
Edison’s Rotary Cement Kiln
Patent number 775,600 of November 22, 1904 was for improvements for a rotary cement kiln. He studied the current spinning kilns that were used to make Portland cement and then built a kiln that was about 2 1/2 times as long as other kilns in operation. By making the machine longer, it was able to break up any masses or clumps of material effectively and quicker, no matter how far they were from the lower end. This invention made use of a gun, operated by steam or compressed air, that could shoot a projectile inside the kiln to break up material clumps. A plus for the Steampunk folks is that this machine used steam to shoot projectiles. A minus would be that this is a cement mixer, not the most exciting of topics for Steampunk fans used to much more exciting machinery!
Thomas Edison Patent Art for Electric Generator
Those Steampunk fans mentioned above would love Edison’s Electric Generator, Patent number 281,351 of July 17, 1883. This invention was a combination of operating steam engines and electrical generators. It could be used in central-station plants to supply electricity with constant pressure. Independent high-pressure steam engines were used to operate these machines with greater economy and higher speed. This invention made it possible for central stations plants to be constructed in much smaller locales. Patent prints of these electrical generators are much more attractive for home decorating, and would look wonderful in geek dens, man caves, and any office setting.
Edison’s Voting Machine
On June 1, 1869, Thomas Edison got a patent for one of his largest failures – an electrographic voting machine. Patent number 90,646 was brought down to Washington D.C. to demonstrate to members of Congress by telegrapher Dewitt Roberts (who had bought an interest in this patent from Edison for $100). The committee chairman responsible for voting yea or nay on this machine told Dewitt “If there’s one invention on this green Earth that we don’t want, this is it!” Of course, roll-call voting was the norm for our two legislative bodies for many years to come (the Senate still uses roll-call voting!). An official voting machine was approved in 1881 for use in a US general election, and that one was invented by a man named Anthony Beranek. Edison’s design? It spent the years unused and collecting dust inside the patent office.
How the First Tattoo Machine was inspired by Edison’s patent
Samuel O’Reilly was the name of the inventor of the world’s first electric-tattoo machine in 1891. He was inspired by Thomas Edison’s idea, an Electric Pen, which he invented in 1876. The electric pen was used by businesses as part of a document duplication system. Edison’s Electric Pen didn’t use ink. Instead, it used perforated holes inside a master form, which became a stencil. The surface of this stencil had ink rolled onto it, and passed through holes in order to make copies on blank sheets which were placed under the stencil. O’Reilly added an ink reservoir and multiple needles, and in this way he received a patent. Having a piece of tattoo history on the wall could add a touch of history anywhere in the house. It would also be a great decorating statement for offices and businesses.
Edison’s Alkaline Battery
One of Thomas Edison’s most interesting patent drawings is of an alkaline battery. This patent was issued on July 31, 1906. Edison invented the very first alkaline battery in 1901 as an alternative to heavy lead batteries of the day. The 1906 patent refined the alkaline battery to such a degree that it is still used extensively around the world. The patent drawing is so interesting because it takes a simple object and shows its unique and symmetrical beauty. Anyone who is interested in automotive industrial design would be proud to have this patent art adorning their office, study, man cave or geek den.
Image Source: By Smirkybec (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons