thomas edison > a lifetime of invention : inventing the incandescent lamp
thomas edison > inventing the incandescent lamp : finding schenectady


Edison Comes to Schenectady

The Edison Machine Works was looking for a new home in May 1886. Edison’s workers were on strike, and he struggled to find room to expand.

Edison instructed his sales force to search for abandoned factory complexes, in a rural area, adjoining rail lines. One of his agents, Harry Livor, passed through Schenectady and noticed two vacant, unfinished factory buildings along the rail lines. The two buildings, each lacking a roof and a finished floor, had been developed as part of a failed locomotive manufacturing project. Livor telegraphed to Edison concerning the buildings. Samuel Insull, Edison’s Secretary, came up to inspect the complex.

With Insull’s recommendation, Edison offered $37,500 for the buildings. The owners refused to budge from the $45,000 asking price and it appeared that the deal might fall through. A group of Schenectady businessmen, led by Robert Furman and Nicholas Schermerhorn recognized the opportunity of having someone of Edison’s stature in Schenectady. The two men led the effort to raise the $7,500 difference to give to Edison to complete the purchase. Edison completed the purchase of the new Edison Machine Works in June, and then visited Schenectady to inspect his new property.

Edison’s work crews spent three months finishing the two buildings. The Edison Machine Works opened in October with over 100 workers, and was fully operational by December with over 300 employees.


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