Today, the Thomas Edison Commemorative Silver Dollar Coin remembers the fire begun on December 9, 1914 that destroyed much of the man’s working property.
From the Youngstown [OH] Vindicator newspaper of the next day:
Edison Loss Is $7,000,000; To Begin All Over Again
When the fire which swept the ten-acre manufacturing plant of the Thomas A. Edison companies here was extinguished today, a hurried inventory of the damage revealed that eleven of the 18 buildings had been destroyed, others had been damaged and that the loss would approximate $7,000,000.
Seven thousand men are employed at the plant and half of these, it is estimated, will be out of work temporarily.
The entire force of employees was put to work today at removing the debris.
Under the active supervision of Thomas A. Edison, they began tearing down the concrete walls which had to be removed, while the embers were cooling.
Immediate steps to rebuild have been taken.
Four firemen were injured in fighting the blaze, and were taken to a hospital, but are not thought to be seriously hurt.
“Although I am more than 67 years of age, I’ll start all over again tomorrow,” said Mr. Edison last night. “I am pretty well burned out tonight, but tomorrow there will be a mobilization here, and the debris will be cleared away if it is cooled sufficiently, and I will go right to work to reconstruct the plant.”
The inventor expressed himself as he stood watching the flames lick up building after building of his mammoth electrical plant.
The fire was started, it is thought probable, by an explosion in the inspection building, one of the smaller frame structures.
This building was quickly a mass of flames and the spread of the fire to other structures nearby was rapid.
The quantities of chemicals in some of the larger buildings made the work of fighting the flames extremely difficult, as the firemen were constantly in danger of injury.
Explosions of chemicals occurred frequently.
Employees who were at work in the various departments about the plant all escaped safely, the fire drill bell being sounded and men and women marching out in virtually perfect order.
In all, 11 buildings in the main plant went down with the fire.
The buildings destroyed included those occupied by the New Diamond Disc company, the one occupied by the Kinetophone company, and the building which housed the Bates numbering machines, together with the Primary Edison Battery building, the talking Machine building and the Administration building.
Mr. Edison was in the plant when the fire started, about 5:30 o’clock.
He came calmly from his laboratory, where he had beenat work, and took charge of the first operations of the factory’s private fire fighting force.
But his wife, running from the house a few hundred yards away and followed by her sons, Thomas, Jr., and Charles, found the master almost a maniac.
Mr. Edison, after witnessing the startling swift spread of the fire from the film department, where it started, to the adjoining buildings on all sides, had become practically helpless.
He later recovered.
Thomas A. Edison had been 24 years in the building of the West Orange works.
He moved there from Menlo Park, where he had made his start in a little wooden factory, the birthplace of the incandescent light.
At least one man perished in the flames.
This became known today with the finding of a charred body in the ruins of the film house where the explosion occurred, which started the blaze.
Two other men, both workmen, were reported missing.
The flames were beaten back from the laboratory and workshop of Mr. Edison where were stored innumerable records and materials gathered from every corner of the world, the result of more than 30 years of the inventor’s efforts.
At the height of the fire, a force of men removed the most valuable records to Mr. Edison’s home in Llewellyn Park, not far away.
The Thomas Edison Commemorative Silver Dollar Coin shows with an image of the burned buildings of his manufacturing plant in 1914.