What Does Thomas Edison Have to Do with Precast Concrete?

Thomas Edison is renowned for his scientific research and inventions of items such as the light bulb, the movie projector and the phonograph. But many people do not know that in addition to his technological obsessions, he also was quite smitten with concrete.

In the early 1900s, Edison filed a patent with the federal government for a method of constructing buildings using a single concrete placement. It ended up being a huge failure, but it did influence future concrete construction methods, including precast concrete in Tennessee, and you’re still able to see some of his concrete houses that remain standing.

Here’s an overview of Edison’s history with precast concrete.

Edison and concrete

Edison’s interest in concrete originated to the late 1800s, and led to him founding the Portland Cement Company in 1899. The company never really managed to find any success, even though it innovated some important improvements in the world of concrete. While it did act as the primary concrete supplier for the 1922 construction of Yankee Stadium, it went bankrupt just several years afterward.

However, it was during this time that Edison developed the idea for creating entire buildings out of precast concrete (also known as cast-in-place concrete). The idea was that the entire building would be a single mold, including all walls, roofs, floors and many fixtures. The benefits to this type of construction would be that it was extremely affordable, easy to clean and maintain and both fireproof and insect proof. Edison foresaw it as a potential solution for cities where there were issues with housing shortages, as it would allow people to get access to inexpensive homeownership.

In 1910, Edison experimented with this idea for the first time, building a small cottage and garage adjacent to his New Jersey mansion. Of course, his vision would involve performing this kind of work on a much grander scale, which would be significantly more complicated. The moldings would have between 2,000 and 25,000 pieces, and builders would have to purchase about $175,000 in equipment (a significant sum of money at the time) before being able to build any concrete houses.

There ended up not being much interest in these precast concrete homes, though several were constructed in New Jersey, and a few of them still exist. The company ultimately went out of business, but not before Edison also developed a new, lighter-weight form of concrete to use for home furnishings.

While these all-concrete homes never really took off and the company lost millions, Edison was quite ahead of his time in many ways. The precast concrete homes of the early 1900s are very much a precursor to the construction that’s being done with 3D printing and modeling in today’s world.

Now you know a bit about one of America’s most legendary inventors and his fascination with concrete. If you’re interested in learning more about some of the various benefits and uses for precast concrete in Tennessee, we encourage you to contact the team at Warrior Precast LLC with your questions.

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