Listen to Thomas Edison's Scary Talking Dolls and Never Sleep Again

Thomas Edison’s phonograph company came out with a line of groundbreaking “talking” dolls in 1890. They lasted only six weeks before being yanked from stores, because the dolls sound like the risen Satan singing a lullaby. Now with the help of new technology, you too can listen to the dolls’ voices and never be at… » 5/05/15 5:40pm 5/05/15 5:40pm

New Board Game Pits Tesla Against Edison, History's Greatest Underdog

Everybody knows that Nikola Tesla was a genius. But with all the attention being paid to Tesla here in the 21st century, many kids today must wonder what happened to his rival, Thomas Edison. Well, soon everybody will have a chance to tinker with technology history by putting their (fake) money behind inventors like… » 3/20/15 2:26pm 3/20/15 2:26pm

Cecil B. DeMille Kept a Wolf and Guns To Defend Against Edison's Thugs

Why did Southern California become the epicenter of the American film industry? The nice weather certainly helped. But there's another element that modern Hollywood probably hopes you'd forget: Rampant piracy. Even though it was just the piracy of movie camera tech rather than the Jack Sparrow variety, there were… » 1/29/15 4:15pm 1/29/15 4:15pm

The Forgotten Story of NYC's First Power Grid

Lower Manhattan of the 1880s was a wonderland of futuristic technology and engineering: The city's first cable car arced over the harbor. A spindly new steel bridge was forming to connect Williamsburg to the city. And on the Lower East Side, Edison was tearing up the streets to build the first permanent power… » 1/26/15 4:13pm 1/26/15 4:13pm

The Very American History of Christmas Lights

Christmas lights are a uniquely American tradition. That's not just because the first electric Christmas lights appeared in America. The tradition embodies a certain American-ness, an ingenuity and hunger for innovation, that's easily overlooked. America doesn't just make things. America makes things spectacular. » 12/24/14 10:01am 12/24/14 10:01am

Thomas Edison's Talking Dolls Sound Like They're Possessed By Satan

Thomas Edison is remembered for his contributions to many great innovations, including the phonograph, the light bulb, and the movie camera. But few people today remember one of his most spectacular failures: a talking doll that was the must-have Christmas toy in 1890. There was just one little problem with the… » 10/07/13 5:22pm 10/07/13 5:22pm

Making Nikola Tesla a Saint Makes Us All Dumber

Mike Rugnetta over at the PBS Idea Channel has an interesting video about how popular history is made. Specifically, our popular understanding of the late inventor (and internet folk hero) Nikola Tesla. He argues that there are essentially two Teslas: The historical Tesla who did things like promote eugenics, and had… » 9/13/13 2:24pm 9/13/13 2:24pm

How Christmas Tree Lights Evolved from Major to Mild Fire Hazard

Before our Christmas tree lighting needs were taken care of with $25 and a trip to Target, creating the atmosphere meant placing candles—wax towers topped with fire—onto seasonal kindling. Think it's frightening now when your dog tugs a branch? Just imagine your living room bursting into flames for the sake of… » 12/08/11 8:00pm 12/08/11 8:00pm