Thomas Edison on Main street

Thomas Edison visits main street

Thomas Edison was an American inventor and businessman who has been described by some historians as “America's Greatest Inventor.”

Thomas Edison grew up in the American Midwest. He was just a teenager during the Civil War and managed to stay away from the conflict.

As a young man he sold newspapers and worked as a telegram operator for Western Union. It was around this time that he started to tinker with machines and began experimenting and developing inventions.

He came up with a voting machine that kept track of votes electronically in the summer of 1869. He received his first patent for that machine, and it would be the first of many.

Young Thomas Edison

Later Edison invented the phonograph which was an early music player. It allowed the general public to hear recorded music for the first time. Before that the only way to hear music was a live band. Edison didn’t stop there, he kept inventing. Next he came up with the motion picture camera, which allowed people to record video for the first time. But his most famous invention was an early version of the electric light bulb. It would go on to light people’s homes all across the country. His inventions have had a widespread impact on the modern world.

At the height of his career Edison established the first industrial research laboratory called “Menlo Park” in New Jersey. He surrounded himself with the best researchers. There, he was able to create anything he could imagine.

It was said that his laboratory had every substance in the world, every chemical, mineral, natural resource you could imagine. But in 1906 he was in need of a special mineral known as cobalt for one of his new inventions.

He had searched all across the United States looking for high-quality cobalt. It was hard to find, but he heard that there was good cobalt in Hickman County in Middle Tennessee. After confirmed reports of the mineral existing in this area, he arranged a trip to go test the cobalt for himself.

He traveled by train from New Jersey all the way down to Nashville in June of 1906. Then from Nashville he took the train west through Dickson County and then south into Hickman County.

He stayed with a prominent local family who cooked him meals and gave him a place to stay. He was in the area for several days searching through Hickman County for cobalt.

Edison located several samples of cobalt but said that he needed some chemicals to test the quality. He was told that the closest pharmacy was located in downtown Dickson on Main Street. He got back on the train in Hickman County and headed north back to Dickson.

He arrived at the Dickson railroad depot and immediately went to the local pharmacy on Main Street. Some say the old pharmacy was located in the building where the “Ginger Hibachi” restaurant operates today.

Edison showed the cobalt samples to the owners of the pharmacy and handed them a formula with a list of chemicals that he needed to create the test. The owners looked at him like he was crazy and told him that those chemicals were dangerous and they were very hesitant to sell them to him.

Thomas Edison

When the man explained he was Thomas Edison their attitudes changed. They practically handed him over the keys to the store. They told him to take anything that he needed. They were obviously shocked to be in the presence of such a famous and talented man.

After running some tests, Thomas Edison was able to determine that the mineral found in Hickman County was some of the highest quality cobalt in the world. He then made plans to have some cobalt mined and shipped back to his laboratory in New Jersey.

As news spread around Dickson that Thomas Edison was on Main Street, people began to flock to the area. By the time he was ready to leave almost everyone in the town had showed up to wish him well and tell him goodbye as he departed.

Edison returned back to Menlo Park in New Jersey but he never forgot the friends he made in Middle Tennessee. He sent signed pictures and even some inventions back to some of the people who helped him along the way. The people of Dickson never forgot about his visit either.

Years ago, there was a restaurant called “Ace’s Diner” that was located where Ginger Hibachi is today and they had an “Edison Burger” on their menu in honor of the famous inventor's visit to that building many years ago.

The legend of Edison’s visit has been around for a long time and hopefully the story will continue to be retold for many years to come.