The Age of Edison: Electric Light and the Invention of Modern America

The Age of Edison: Electric Light and the Invention of Modern America

by Ernest Freeberg


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A sweeping history of the electric light revolution and the birth of modern America
The late nineteenth century was a period of explosive technological creativity, but more than any other invention, Thomas Edison’s incandescent light bulb marked the arrival of modernity, transforming its inventor into a mythic figure and avatar of an era. In The Age of Edison, award-winning author and historian Ernest Freeberg weaves a narrative that reaches from Coney Island and Broadway to the tiniest towns of rural America, tracing the progress of electric light through the reactions of everyone who saw it and capturing the wonder Edison’s invention inspired. It is a quintessentially American story of ingenuity, ambition, and possibility in which the greater forces of progress and change are made by one of our most humble and ubiquitous objects.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143124443
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/28/2014
Series: Penguin History of American Life Series
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 617,132
Product dimensions: 9.10(w) x 5.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Ernest Freeberg is the author of The Education of Laura Bridgman and Democracy’s Prisoner, which was a Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist. He is a distinguished professor of humanities at the University of Tennessee and lives in Knoxville, Tennessee.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Mr. Freeberg's broad research adds up to a vivid social history with parallels for today's technology innovators and for those who wish to increase their number. It underscores the point that the work of Edison and other pioneers of light took place in an unusual setting, a period in which American invention was remarkably active and fertile... The Age of Edison comes at a fitting time, the close of the era of the incandescent light. When the old stocks of incandescents run out, it may be the end of pleasant illumination at a cheap price—that is, until another Thomas Edison finds a way."
The Wall Street Journal

“Freeberg takes us on a captivating intellectual adventure that offers long-forgotten stories of the birth pangs of the electrical age that are amusing, surprising and tragic.”
—Washington Post

"One of the many pleasures of Age of Edison, Ernest Freeberg's engaging history of the spread of electricity throughout the United States, is that he captures the excitement and wonder of those early days, when 'a machine that could create enough cheap and powerful light to hold the night at bay' promised 'liberation from one of the primordial limits imposed by nature on the human will'... Freeberg's thoughtful and thought-provoking book quietly suggests that, to properly distribute and control such a powerful force, commercial initiative and a sense of civic responsibility were equally essential."
Los Angeles Times

"A dynamo of a book powered by an infectious enthusiasm for the can-do spirit of Edison and rival geniuses racing to turn night into day. Freeberg writes with verve and uncommon clarity, all the while deeply enriching our understanding of an age raring to embrace modernity."
—A. Roger Ekirch, author of At Day's Close: Night in Times Past

"Ernest Freeberg's fascinating account of the arrival and impact of electric lighting in America fills an important gap in the history of this subject. This well-written and insightful book should appeal both to scholars and lay readers, all of whom will learn much about the complex history of the adoption of this new technology."
—Paul Israel, author of Edison: A Life of Invention; General Editor, The Thomas Edison Papers

"Freeberg's deft social history explores a remarkable period in America's cultural and economic development. By understanding the post-Edison world we can see how nightlife really began; how our workdays grew considerably longer; and how the urban gloom was extinguished by the commerce of illumination."
—Jon Gertner, author of The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation

Outstanding Academic Title of 2014, Choice

Customer Reviews

The Age of Edison: Electric Light and the Invention of Modern America 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a very entertaining look at something we all take for granted...even though we haven't had it very long. Worth reading just to illuminate (pun intended) everything you will ever read or watch about the late 19th and early 20th Century.
Lufbra More than 1 year ago
Comprehensive social history the ubiquitous light bulb and how it impacted American life and society. The world of the rich man and the poor, the urbanite and the farmer are all explored in this book and the author paints a compelling picture of American life before and after the advent of artificial light. A wealth of people and institutions populate this book and they all have a part to play as the reader is lead along on this memorable journey. A joy to read for both history buffs and the everyman you won't feel your time is wasted.
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AnObjectivist More than 1 year ago
I did not finish the book. The author's leftist bias came out on nearly every page. This is not an objective history / biography, but a propaganda vehicle for the author.
guitaoist3 More than 1 year ago
He killed animals to show how dangerous (powerful) teslas energy was and now the man who invented free energy died penniless because of edison plus jp morgan had the stock on copper, which required nonfree methods in order for him to profit from the copper. Read the wizard about tesla, the true scientist revolutionary. Though im sure this book is full of fascinating bias information about how edison was "what it was all about"