Gallery: Edison's Workshop

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A tour through Building Number 5, the most important structure at Edison's famed Essex, New Jersey, campus, where the inventor tinkered with audiovisual equipment

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Welcome to West Orange in Essex, New Jersey, site of Thomas Edison's famed campus for invention.

The good folks at the Library of Congress took dozens of photos of the site, and thousands of other buildings, in an attempt to preserve our architectural and technological history. What you'll see in the gallery below is a selection of the images from the Built in America collection. The exact date of the photos is unknown, but they were compiled beginning in the late 1960s. While there were nine buildings on Edison's campus, I focused here on Building Number 5, which was built in 1887 and housed the machine shop among other experimental facilities. It's the building you see above on the left.

Unlike some other Edison locations, the first floor of the building retained much of its historical flavor through the 20th century. The third floor, by contrast, came to be used largely for storage, serving as a fascinatingly messy archive of audiovisual experimentation.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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