Thomas Edison was one of the most famous inventors of all time. His inventions influenced modern life, making our way of living today possible. His son tried following in his footsteps, but did you know he was not happy about his son’s chosen path?
Thomas Edison Jr. wasn’t a brilliant inventor. He used his father’s name to sell his useless invention as a marketing scheme. He went as far as claiming his invention could cure anything without proper medical testing.
Who was Thomas Edison Jr.?
Thomas A. Edison, Jr. was born on January 10, 1876. He was the son of the famous inventor Thomas Edison to his first wife, Mary Stilwell. Like many in the time, Edison was mainly raised by his mother since his father worked long hours and wasn’t expected to be actively involved in childcare.
Edison was just eight when his mother died, leaving him in the care of his relatives. He was then sent to boarding schools when he was a teenager, spending most of his time there. But despite the distance, Edison maintained a strong relationship with his stepmother, Mina Miller Edison. It was hypothesized that Edison was infatuated with her since she was just a few years older than he was.
By the time he turned 17, Edison had left school and worked for his father in their mining business in Ogden, New Jersey. Despite being the owner’s son, Edison was only given menial tasks and had little time with his father. This caused him to develop bitterness and hostility. Edison also suffered from the pressure of being the son of a world-renowned inventor, whom he could not emulate since he did not display the same level of intelligence as his father.
Edison was also known to be immature, sickly, extremely sensitive, and desperately insecure. When he grew up, he tried hiding his feelings of inferiority with grandiose acts and consuming alcohol.
Edison married a young actress named Mary Touhey, but the young couple’s relationship was extremely short. After their honeymoon, they immediately announced their separation. Touhey capitalized on using Edison’s name until she died unexpectedly when she was just 27. (Source: Edison Tin Foil)
How Did Thomas Edison Jr. Use His Father’s Name?
Edison also capitalized on his father’s popularity, establishing several enterprises and developing alleged breakthrough inventions, using misleading claims. He founded companies like Thomas A. Edison, Jr. Chemical Co., the makers of Wizard Ink, and the Magno Electric Vitalizer, a device claiming to be able to cure any ailment.
He also established the Edison Jr. Electric Light and Power Company, Thomas A. Edison, Jr., and Wm. Holzer Steel Process Company, and Thomas A. Edison, Jr. Improved Incandescent Lamp Company. His wishes to emulate and capitalize on the family name also brought him to model his handwriting and signature to look like his father’s.
After shady dealings and court proceedings, Edison was sent by his father to his mushroom farm in New Jersey, where he set up a small laboratory, still in pursuit of becoming like his father. He wanted to improve the automobile carburetor with the help and support of his father’s friend, Henry Ford.
He completed his invention, the Ecometer, but it was a failed product. When his father died, Edison was able to get a job in the Edison laboratory. His step-brother, Charles, promoted him to an authoritative position and appointed him as one of the board members. His tenure in the company didn’t last long. Edison died on August 25, 1935, in a hotel in Springfield, Massachusetts. (Source: Edison Tin Foil)
Why did Edison Jr. Change His Name?
When Edison was managing his shady enterprises, his father went to court and obtained an injunction to forbid Edison from using his name in commercial enterprises. He also legally disowned him.
Edison’s lawyer negotiated a peace treaty between father and son. The treaty allowed Edison to receive a $35 weekly allowance for him not using the family name altogether. This allowance was then raised to $50. Edison then assumed different names like Burton Willard or Thomas Willard after that. (Source: Edison Tin Foil)