Home to both modern-day commuters and the namesake of one of the greatest inventors in U.S. history, Edison, New Jersey is a growing mini-city a stone's throw of both Manhattan's gilded skyscrapers and the rural areas of the Garden State.
With access to nearly every major highway in central New Jersey, the township of Edison is one of the state's most populous and thriving municipalities. Although the 2000 census reports a population of 98,000, officials now estimate it at about 100,000, and growing. The town is located in Middlesex County, along Highway 27 on the banks of the Raritan River near Raritan Bay. Formerly known as Raritan Township (one of several New Jersey towns named after the Raritan River), the area was first settled in the late 1600s, with its first families including the Dunhams, Martins, Bonhams, Hulls and FitzRandolphs, to whom land grants were bestowed. These names live on in the town in the form of street and section names. Edison came of age in the mid-to-late 1800s, as the attractiveness of the rural landscape became more accessible with the opening of the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Easton and Amboy line. To this day Edison is referred to as the "crossroads of New Jersey," with many of its residents commuting to work and recreation via rail and bus links to New York City, the New Jersey Turnpike, the Garden State Parkway, and I-287.
Off to See the Wizard
One of Edison's most famous commuters was the "Wizard of Menlo Park," Thomas Edison. Edison moved with his wife to the Menlo Park section of town in 1876 to take himself further away from New York, but not too far. He sought a work environment free from interruption, which the then small but bustling town provided.
Edison selected the Menlo Park area of town for his laboratories because it was the highest point along the Pennsylvania Railroad between New York and Philadelphia. According to biographers, he could see the skyline of Manhattan, which motivated him to create the "next big thing" to sell to businessmen in the city. While in Menlo Park, Edison invented more than 400 patented items, including the phonograph, the electric railway, and the incandescent lamp. The establishment of Edison's industrial research laboratory—he preferred to call it his "invention factory"—brought world fame to the township, as it became the site for some of the most innovative research and production of the 19th century. In 1954 the town was renamed to honor this great inventor.
From a rural-residential community in the 1920s, Edison has grown into a major population, commercial and industrial center, serving as a hub of air, rail and highway networks for the distribution of numerous goods and services. Raritan Center, located in the southeast section of Edison, is the largest industrial park east of the Mississippi River. The daytime population of Raritan Center is approximately 45,000, rivaling the population of many nearby towns. Among the notable companies with Edison campuses are Ford Motor Co., The New York Times and United Parcel Service, Wakefern Foods, Etienne Aigner shoes, and Revlon cosmetics.