Admission is free on Feb. 22 for George Washington’s birthday. Admission tickets will be distributed on-site upon arrival.

Thomas A. Edison

Tuesday, September 19, 1916

Thomas Edison visited Mount Vernon on September 19, 1916. Edison’s visit coincided with a debate among the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association about installing electricity in the Mansion; some members of the Association thought electricity would ruin the authenticity of Washington’s home and all they were trying to accomplish with its preservation, while others considered it too dangerous to continue using kerosene lighting in the home. As described by the organization’s 1916 annual report, “The proposed installation of electricity at Mount Vernon came as a shock to some of the Vice Regents, seeming to be most incongruous in this antique home where everything in the way of colonial customs is preserved as far as possible.”

After coming to a consensus to install electricity, the Ladies would only allow the most prestigious electricians to be in charge of the project, so they hired the Edison Storage Battery Company to advise on the right system and process to bring electricity into the Mansion. Edison offered to build a system powered by generator-fed storage batteries with a “guarantee of absolute safety.”

Taking his advice, the Ladies Association installed a direct current electrical system, meaning the energy for the electricity was supplied through batteries stored on-site rather than the alternating current system, which would have required them to connect to the Alexandria power grid. However, by 1935, they decided the alternating current system was more practical.

Learn more about Edison's proposal

 

During Edison’s trip to the estate in 1916, he did inspect the Mansion in order to make recommendations to the Ladies, but his visit was also one of personal interest. He was photographed at the Tomb, and after hearing about previous tree plantings on the estate, he asked if he could plant a tree as well. The staff quickly located an elm for Edison to plant near the Tomb.

Read More About Historic Trees at Mount Vernon

(MVLA)(MVLA)Thomas Edison plants an elm tree in the edge of the woods near the tomb during his visit to Mount Vernon on September 19, 1916. Assisting Edison are Tom Quander (foreground) and an unidentified male. (MVLA)Records from the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association note that the elm tree grew too large for its location and died in 1971.

 

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