It was a cold December night in West Orange, New Jersey. Thomas Edison’s factory was humming with activity. Work was proceeding on a variety of fronts as the great inventor was trying to turn more of his dreams into practical realities. Edison’s plant, made of concrete and steel, was deemed “fireproof.” As you may have already guessed, it wasn’t!
On that frigid night in 1914, the sky was lit up by a sensational blaze that had burst through the plant roof. Edison’s 24-year-old son, Charles, made a frenzied search for his famous inventor-father. When he finally found him, he was watching the fire. His white hair was blowing in the wind. His face was illuminated by the leaping flames. “My heart ached for him,” said Charles. “Here he was, 67 years old, and everything he had worked for was going up in flames. When he saw me, he shouted, ‘Charles! Where’s your mother?’ When I told him I didn’t know, he said, ‘Find her! Bring her here! She’ll never see anything like this as long as she lives.’”
Next morning, Mr. Edison looked at the ruins of his factory and said this of his loss: “There’s value in disaster. All our mistakes are burned up. Thank God, we can start anew.”