Thomas Edison Net Worth At Death – How Did He Get Rich?

Thomas Edison Net Worth At Death

Thomas Edison has an estimated net worth of $170 Million. He is credited with inventions such as the phonograph and the first practical incandescent light bulb. He was the owner of over 1,000 patents for his inventions. The majority of his income came from his career as an inventor, entrepreneur, scientist, film producer and film director.

Thomas Edison was an American inventor who was regarded as one of the country’s most successful businessmen and innovators. Edison rose from humble beginnings to become a major technology inventor, including the first commercially viable incandescent light bulb. Today, he is credited with helping to build the American economy during the Industrial Revolution.

To calculate the net worth of Thomas Edison, subtract all his liabilities from his total assets. Investments, savings, cash deposits, and any equity he has in a house, car, or other similar asset are included in the total assets. All debts, such as loans and personal debt, are included in total liabilities.

Here’s the breakdown of his net worth:

Name: Thomas Edison
Net Worth: $170 Million
Monthly Salary: $1 Million+
Annual Income: $15 Million+
Source of Wealth: Inventor, Entrepreneur, Scientist, Businessperson, Film Producer, Film director

Early Life and Education

Edison was born in Milan, Ohio, on February 11, 1847. He was the youngest of Samuel and Nancy Edison’s seven children. His father was an exiled Canadian political activist, and his mother was an accomplished school teacher and a significant influence in Edison’s early life. Edison’s childhood scarlet fever and ear infections left him with hearing difficulties in both ears and nearly deaf as an adult.

Edison would later recount, with variations, how he lost his hearing as a result of a train accident in which his ears were injured. Others, however, have dismissed this as the sole cause of his hearing loss.

Edison’s family relocated to Port Huron, Michigan, in 1854, where he attended public school for 12 weeks. His teacher labeled him as “difficult” because he was hyperactive and easily distracted.

His mother quickly removed him from school and began teaching him at home. At the age of 11, he demonstrated a voracious appetite for knowledge, devouring books on a wide range of topics. Edison developed a process for self-education and independent learning in this broad curriculum that would serve him for the rest of his life.

Edison persuaded his parents to let him sell newspapers to passengers on the Grand Trunk Railroad line when he was 12 years old. Edison began publishing his own small newspaper, the Grand Trunk Herald, using his access to the daily news bulletins teletyped to the station office.

The current articles were well received by passengers. This was the first of many entrepreneurial ventures in which he saw a need and capitalized on the opportunity.

Edison also took advantage of his railroad connections to conduct chemical experiments in a small laboratory he set up in a train baggage car. A chemical fire started during one of his experiments, and the car caught fire.

The conductor rushed in and struck Edison on the side of the head, most likely exacerbating his hearing loss. He was thrown off the train and forced to sell his papers at various stations along the way.

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Edison the Telegrapher

While Edison was working for the railroad, a near-tragic event turned out to be fortuitous for him. After Edison saved a three-year-old boy from being run over by a careless train, the boy’s grateful father rewarded him by teaching him how to use a telegraph. By the age of 15, he had learned enough to work as a telegraph operator.

Edison worked as an itinerant telegrapher throughout the Midwest for the next five years, filling in for those who had gone to the Civil War. He read widely in his spare time, studied and experimented with telegraph technology, and became acquainted with electrical science.

Edison moved to Louisville, Kentucky, at the age of 19, to work for The Associated Press. He could spend most of his time reading and experimenting because he worked the night shift. He developed an uninhibited mode of thought and inquiry, proving things to himself through objective examination and experimentation.

Edison excelled at his telegraph job at first because early Morse code was written on a piece of paper, so Edison’s partial deafness was not a hindrance. However, as technology advanced, receivers began to include a sounding key, allowing telegraphers to “read” messages by the sound of the clicks. Edison was disadvantaged as a result, with fewer and fewer employment opportunities.

When Edison returned home in 1868, he discovered that his beloved mother was suffering from mental illness and that his father was out of work. The family was nearly impoverished. Edison realized he needed to take charge of his own destiny.

He went to Boston on the advice of a friend and landed a job with the Western Union Company. Boston was America’s center for science and culture at the time, and Edison reveled in it. He designed and patented an electronic voting recorder for quickly tallying votes in the legislature in his spare time.

Massachusetts lawmakers, on the other hand, were uninterested. Most legislators, they explained, did not want votes tallied quickly. They desired more time to persuade their colleagues to change their minds.


Edison married Mary Stilwell, a 16-year-old employee at one of his businesses, in 1871. They had three children during their 13-year marriage: Marion, Thomas, and William, who became an inventor himself.

Mary died at the age of 29 in 1884 from a suspected brain tumor. Edison married Mina Miller, who was 19 years his junior, two years later.

Thomas Edison: Inventions

At the age of 22, Edison moved to New York City and created his first invention, an improved stock ticker called the Universal Stock Printer, which synchronized the transactions of several stock tickers.

The Gold and Stock Telegraph Company was so taken with him that they offered him $40,000 for the rights. With this success, he was able to leave his job as a telegrapher and devote himself full-time to inventing.

By the early 1870s, Edison had established himself as a great inventor. He established his first small laboratory and manufacturing facility in Newark, New Jersey, in 1870, and hired several machinists.

As a sole proprietor, Edison formed numerous partnerships and created products for the highest bidder. It was frequently Western Union Telegraph Company, the industry leader, but it was just as frequently one of Western Union’s competitors.

Quadruplex Telegraph

In one such case, Edison invented the quadruplex telegraph for Western Union, which was capable of transmitting two signals in opposite directions on the same wire, but railroad tycoon Jay Gould stole the invention from Western Union, paying Edison more than $100,000 in cash, bonds, and stock and causing years of litigation.

Edison relocated his expanding operations to Menlo Park, New Jersey, in 1876, and established an independent industrial research facility complete with machine shops and laboratories.

Western Union encouraged him to develop a communication device to compete with Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone that same year. He never followed through.


Edison invented the phonograph in December 1877 as a method of recording sound. His invention used tin-coated cylinders with two needles: one for recording and one for playback.

“Mary had a little lamb,” he said into the mouthpiece of the phonograph. Though it would not be commercially viable for another decade, the phonograph brought him worldwide fame, particularly when it was used by the United States Army to bring music to troops overseas during World War I.

Light Bulb

While Edison did not invent the first light bulb, he did develop the technology that enabled it to reach the masses. Following the invention of the first early electric arc lamp in the early 1800s by English inventor Humphry Davy, Edison was driven to perfect a commercially practical, efficient incandescent light bulb.

Scientists such as Warren de la Rue, Joseph Wilson Swan, Henry Woodward, and Mathew Evans worked for decades after Davy’s invention to perfect electric light bulbs or tubes using a vacuum, but were unsuccessful.

Edison was granted a patent for his own improved light bulb in 1879 after purchasing Woodward and Evans’ patent and making improvements to his design. He began producing and marketing it for widespread use. In January 1880, Edison set out to establish a company that would provide electricity to power and illuminate the world’s cities.

The Edison Illuminating Company, the first investor-owned electric utility, was founded the same year as General Electric.

He left Menlo Park in 1881 to establish facilities in various cities where electrical systems were being installed. The Pearl Street generating station supplied 110 volts of electricity to 59 customers in lower Manhattan in 1882.

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Later Inventions & Business

Edison built an industrial research laboratory in West Orange, New Jersey, in 1887, which served as the Edison lighting companies’ primary research laboratory.

He spent the majority of his time there, supervising the advancement of lighting and power systems. He also invented the phonograph and the motion picture camera, as well as the alkaline storage battery.

Over the next few decades, Edison’s role as an inventor evolved into one of industrialist and business manager. The West Orange laboratory was too large and complex for any single man to manage completely, and Edison discovered that he was not as successful in his new role as he had been in his previous one.

Edison also discovered that university-trained mathematicians and scientists were doing much of the future development and perfection of his inventions. He thrived in small, unstructured groups with a few assistants and was open about his dislike for academia and corporate operations.

Edison built a magnetic iron-ore processing plant in northern New Jersey during the 1890s, but it was a commercial failure. Later, he was able to transform the process into a more efficient method of producing cement.

Motion Picture

Edison became the first person to project a motion picture on April 23, 1896, when he held the world’s first motion picture screening at Koster & Bial’s Music Hall in New York City.

Years before, he and an associate named W. K. L. Dickson developed a Kinetoscope, a peephole viewing device. Edison’s West Orange laboratory was soon producing Edison Films. The Great Train Robbery, released in 1903, was one of the first.

As the automobile industry grew, Edison worked on developing a suitable storage battery capable of powering an electric vehicle. Though the gasoline-powered engine eventually won out, Edison designed a battery for the Model T’s self-starter for friend and admirer Henry Ford in 1912. For decades, the system was widely used in the automotive industry.

During World War I, the United States government appointed Edison to chair the Naval Consulting Board, which reviewed inventions submitted for military use. Edison worked on a variety of projects, including submarine detectors and gun-location methods.

However, due to his moral aversion to violence, he stated that he would only work on defensive weapons, later stating, “I am proud of the fact that I never invented weapons to kill.”

Edison was in his 80s by the end of the 1920s. He and his second wife, Mina, spent part of their time at their winter retreat in Fort Myers, Florida, where his friendship with automobile tycoon Henry Ford flourished and he worked on several projects ranging from electric trains to finding a domestic source for natural rubber.


Edison received 1,093 U.S. patents during his lifetime and filed 500 to 600 more that were unsuccessful or abandoned.

On October 13, 1868, at the age of 21, he received his first patent for his Electrographic Vote-Recorder. His most recent patent was for a device for holding objects during the electroplating process.

Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla

Edison developed a long-standing rivalry with Nikola Tesla, an engineering visionary with academic training who briefly worked for Edison’s company.

After splitting up in 1885, the two would publicly clash in the “War of the Currents” over the use of direct current electricity, which Edison preferred, versus alternating currents, which Tesla advocated. Tesla then formed a partnership with an Edison competitor, George Westinghouse, resulting in a major business feud over electrical power.

Elephant Killing

Edison used unusual – and cruel – methods to convince people of the dangers of alternating current, including public demonstrations in which animals were electrocuted.

The electrocution of a circus elephant named Topsy on New York’s Coney Island in 1903 was one of the most infamous of these shows.


Edison died on October 18, 1931, in his home in West Orange, New Jersey, of diabetes complications. He was 84 years old at the time.

To commemorate his death, many communities and corporations around the world dimmed their lights or briefly turned off their power.


Edison’s career was the archetypal rags-to-riches success story, and he became a folk hero in America.

He could be a tyrant to employees and ruthless to competitors as an uninhibited egoist. He was a publicity seeker, but he didn’t socialize well and frequently neglected his family.

But by the time he died, Edison had become one of the world’s most well-known and respected Americans. He was at the forefront of America’s first technological revolution, laying the groundwork for the modern electric world.

Favorite Thomas Edison Quotes

What you are will show in what you do.


Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.


The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are: Hard work, Stick-to-itiveness, and Common sense.


Maturity is often more absurd than youth and very frequently is most unjust to youth.


Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. 


I never did a day’s work in my life. It was all fun.


Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing.

View our larger collection of the best Thomas Edison quotes.

Further Reading

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How To Become Rich Like Thomas Edison?

Thomas Edison did not become rich by luck. To become as rich as Thomas Edison, you have to work smart.

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Thanks to the Internet, the world has changed massively in recent years. Nowadays it has become much easier to make money online.

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