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Edisonia: Edison's British Patents at NYPL


Thomas A. Edison.  Phonograph., Digital ID 1651646, New York Public LibraryA freak October blizzard. Driving to the WOHS reunion. Highway traffic stopped I decided to bushwhack through Newark and the Oranges. Locations remembered, long deteriorated, run-down urban industrial decay.

Really, it was just a patent that started this chain of rememberances. Looking for a different British patent from 1873 I saw the name: Thomas Alva Edison. Dated September 11th, Number 2988 for Perforated Telegraphic Paper. Edison. The inventor. If you lived in West Orange, you definitely heard of him.

The labs. The factory. And if you go back far enough, the used car dealer across Main Street (where we got our first car). Even just a few visits made a lasting impression.

Edison had 1093 U.S. patents issued! But British patents? How many, and when? How can we find this out?

Thomas Alva Edison., Digital ID 1227630, New York Public LibraryWell, there's Rutgers (Alma Mater!), with their Thomas Edison Papers. They mention one of the school's items with British patents from 1872-1880. And a book, Edison, His Life and Inventions by Dyer and Martin -- but that was published in 1910, and Edison lived until 1931. So how can we find out more?

Since we know the inventor's name, we can use the annual Index to Names of Patentees and Applicants ... (NYPL's call number JSM 06-72) published under the auspices of the British Patent Office from 1854 until 1970. Would that copies were online - but other than a few strays, I haven't been able to find much (a list of 3 digital versions is at the end of this post - 2 covering 1617-1852 and the third covering part of the time Edison was applying for British patents -- if anyone can find more digital versions from the time of Edison, please send them along!). Luckily, we have copies here at SIBL, and I've looked up and added images for relevant entries for 1882 and 1883 as samples.

Edison British Patents - 1882Edison British Patents - 1882

Edison British Patents - 1883Edison British Patents - 1883

Edison Plant - West OrangeEdison Plant - West OrangeOf course, for serious research on this topic, someone will have to look at all the annual books. Time permitting, I may give that a try. And, please remember, NYPL has a nearly complete collection of British patents - so researchers can see the actual Edison patents here at SIBL! See our guide to foreign patents.

For more on researching early British patents, you might want to read British Patents of Invention, 1617-1977: A Guide for Researchers, by Stephen Van Dulken (our call number JBF 10-126).

Edison Factory - West OrangeEdison Factory - West OrangeOnline copies of the Name Index:

Alphabetical index of patentees of inventions ... 1617/1852 (Original version - Hathi Trust)
Alphabetical index of patentees of inventions ... 1617/1852 (1969 reprint - Hathi Trust)
Alphabetical index of patentees of inventions ... 1876 -- 1880 (Google Books)


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