Thomas Edison’s Concrete Houses

Thomas Edison had notoriously bad judgment about the viability of his many inventions. He once embarked on an expensive scheme to construct entire houses, including furniture, out of cast concrete. This via IEEE Global History Network:

Edison’s concrete housing effort began around 1908. Portland cement (which Edison did not invent) was coming into fashion as a construction material. Edison and his team worked on perfecting a formula for mixing concrete (a mixture of cement and filler materials such as sand or gravel) and building re-usable steel molds to cast the walls of houses. By 1910, he had cast two experimental buildings — a gardener’s cottage and a garage — at his New Jersey mansion Glenmont. He announced in the press that he did not intend to profit from the venture, but would instead give away the patented information to qualified builders.

The publicity generated by this announcement attracted the attention of philanthropist Henry Phipps who proposed using the concrete houses to solve New York City’s housing problems. At that time large influxes of immigrants created a severe housing shortage in New York. Housing conditions were often congested, unsafe, and unhealthy. Reform-minded Phipps declared that he would build a whole city of the houses, which would be rented to working class families for $7.50 per month.

Edison suggested that along with the concrete walls, the houses should have cast-concrete furniture, pianos, refrigerators, and even phonographs. However, Edison had difficulties making the molds for the houses, never mind the accoutrements. One problem was the sheer number of pieces needed. Edison estimated that it would require mold composed of 2300 pieces to make just the house. This meant that any builder who wanted to get into the business would have to invest about $175,000 — a huge amount of money in that day. Gradually, it became clear that the concrete housing would take much more effort to develop than Edison was willing to invest. When he got involved in a project to make a new kind of disc phonograph, he dropped the concrete housing project entirely.

[Full Article at IEEE Global History Network]

, , , , , ,

  • justagirl

    thomas edison was a bad man.

  • justagirl

    thomas edison was a bad man.

  • Hadrian999
  • rtb61

    It is obvious that Edison never really understood construction and like so many other rich and greedy types (past and present), he thought his wealth driven by greed made him a genius at everything, rather than the reality of just being a manipulative, scheming, greedy type.
    For concrete homes it makes more sense to produce standard wall panels, height, length and width and then cut out the openings then using the waste material to be cut into blocks for more custom shapes, all glued together with an appropriate adhesive.
    The greatest problem with concrete is it’s lack of tensile strength, so the more logical pursuit would have been research into creating better long carbon and or calcium chains in the setting cement to substantively improve tensile strength.
    So the real goal for construction is a low cost, high compression and tensile strength, composite wall panel with good sound and temperature insulatiion properties.

  • Anonymous

    It is obvious that Edison never really understood construction and like so many other rich and greedy types (past and present), he thought his wealth driven by greed made him a genius at everything, rather than the reality of just being a manipulative, scheming, greedy type.
    For concrete homes it makes more sense to produce standard wall panels, height, length and width and then cut out the openings then using the waste material to be cut into blocks for more custom shapes, all glued together with an appropriate adhesive.
    The greatest problem with concrete is it’s lack of tensile strength, so the more logical pursuit would have been research into creating better long carbon and or calcium chains in the setting cement to substantively improve tensile strength.
    So the real goal for construction is a low cost, high compression and tensile strength, composite wall panel with good sound and temperature insulatiion properties.

  • JODYENISE

    EVEN THE MOST BRILLIANT MINDS OF OUR HISTORY HAVE SOME STUPID IDEAS….

  • JODYENISE

    EVEN THE MOST BRILLIANT MINDS OF OUR HISTORY HAVE SOME STUPID IDEAS….

  • David Zwarych

    Since then, new developments in building construction methods such as Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF) allow cast in place concrete buildings to be cost effective and energy efficient. Placing the insulation on the OUTSIDE of the concrete wall moves the warm thermal mass to the inside – moderating temperature swings that increases comfort. A ICF concrete wall also increases sound absorption, eliminates air infiltration, and increases fire protection. Decorative exterior wall treatments eliminate the ugly gray mass of typical concrete buildings. New techniques in reducing carbon dioxide emissions during cement production and helping to capture and sequester carbon for carbon negative buildings may a concrete building a sound concept.

  • David Zwarych

    Since then, new developments in building construction methods such as Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF) allow cast in place concrete buildings to be cost effective and energy efficient. Placing the insulation on the OUTSIDE of the concrete wall moves the warm thermal mass to the inside – moderating temperature swings that increases comfort. A ICF concrete wall also increases sound absorption, eliminates air infiltration, and increases fire protection. Decorative exterior wall treatments eliminate the ugly gray mass of typical concrete buildings. New techniques in reducing carbon dioxide emissions during cement production and helping to capture and sequester carbon for carbon negative buildings may a concrete building a sound concept.

  • justagirl

    funnies. i like crispin glover.

  • moladi

    What Thomas Edison and Henry Phipps saw as a solution in 1910 to address the backlog of homes is today a reality – have a look at what a company moladi has achieved in the last 24 years – http://www.moladi.net

  • http://www.concretestained.net Concrete Floor Polishing

    Housing conditions were often congested, unsafe, and unhealthy.

  • http://www.colonialstoneandfloorcare.com Concrete Polishing

    You made some good points there. I looked on the internet for the subject matter and found most individuals will consent with your blog.

  • http://www.moldremoval.com Mold in Homes

    Thanks very much for your interesting article. I have been looking for such post for a really long time.

  • http://www.colonialstoneandfloorcare.com Polished Concrete

    Thanks for this informational material . I cerebrate it because it could be truly usable to everyone who is interested in the option of learning from this.

  • http://url.org/bookmarks/bmargaret Mary Pettit

    Thanks very much to your interesting article. I’ve been looking for such post for a really reasonable length of time.

21
More in Bizarre, Engineering, History, Society, Technology, Thomas Edison
Bill Hicks on Marketers: ‘Kill Yourself’ (Video)

Happy 49th birthday, Bill Hicks, wherever you are.

Close