Thomas Edison, world famous inventor, visits Seattle on September 11, 1908.

  • By Greg Lange
  • Posted 1/01/1999
  • Essay 2066
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On September 11, 1908, Thomas A. Edison (1847-1931), accompanied by his wife and daughter, visits Seattle and stays at the Rainier-Grand Hotel (909-915 1st Avenue -- in 1999, the site of the old Federal Office Building) while on a long-deferred vacation. The family had just visited Yellowstone Park.

Music, Movies, Light, Sound

Edison was the most productive inventor of his time. During his lifetime he received more than 1,300 U.S. and foreign patents for his inventions. Among them were an improvement to the telephone transmitter (1877) that Alexander Bell had invented (1876), the cylinder phonograph record player (1877), an economical incandescent light (1879), and the kinetoscope, which was the first practical motion-picture device (1893).

Until this vacation, Edison had worked for years at a phenomenal pace, nearly 365 days a year from morning till night, at his New Jersey laboratory. Edison promised his wife that he would not work so hard, but even on this vacation he carried a notebook and constantly jotted down ideas to investigate later.

Electricity and Concrete

One of his interests was hydroelectricity. With the depletion of coal, an alternative source of energy was essential. At this time transmission lines could only economically carry electricity 500 miles, and Edison was attempting to greatly extend the range so the immense waterpower of the Pacific Northwest could be brought to greater number of people and businesses.

Edison also believed that concrete would be the building material of the future and would reduce the cost of building a residence. He was working on a mold that would make it possible to construct a one-piece concrete house in a day. He predicted that skyscrapers would be constructed with poured cement.

On September 12, 1908, Thomas Edison took a tour of the Denny Regrade project -- the massive regrading of Denny Hill to create a flatter area north of downtown. Newspapers stated that the Edisons intended to stay in Seattle until Sunday September 13, 1908, and that they would then visit Portland and Colorado before returning to East Coast.


“Wizard Edison on a Vacation Visits Seattle,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, September 12, 1908, p. 1; “Inventor Views Regrading in Seattle,” The Seattle Times, September 12, 1908, p. 2.

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