Most of what we learn in high school history about Thomas Edison is all about his successful inventions.
Thomas Edison electricity, the phonograph, and on and on.
We know that Thomas Edison held over 1,093 patents for a number of different types of inventions.
What we don't know or we very seldom hear is about his failures.
One of the most noted failures was his inability to find an effective way to mine iron ore.
Iron is the cheapest and most common metal available for mining.
Iron is used for making steel.
Steel, at the time that Edison was working on his invention, was very expensive.
The world now and during the life of Edison is very dependent on steel.
If Edison was successful in creating the extraction process he would have earned billions of dollars in income, The possibilities that would extend from that success would also create millions of jobs, and spur other inventions.
Iron is useless in its pure form.
Iron is brittle and cannot be used to manufacture any products because of this and other characteristics.
Iron in its pure form is a silver color.
The gray that we see in iron comes from combining iron with oxygen.
But iron is not adaptable to any practical applications on its own.
That is why the discovery of an effective extraction process was important.
Edison worked on this extraction process from 1880 to 1890.
For over ten years, he performed experiments, hired scientist, and other experts to perfect his extraction process.
The impetus was to provide iron ore to the Pennsylvania steel mills.
Edison moved his office from a comfortable building to actually work in the old iron mines to find an economical process to satisfy the insatiable demands for steel .
The testing and processing of his experiments was veryexpensive.
To finance his invention Edison sold all his stock in General Electric.
His heirs still regret that to this day.
Edison was never able to find a way to extract the iron from unusable, low grade ores.
Edison eventually abandoned the project.
He never recouped his money that he had invested.
Fortunately for Edison, he continued his work on the phonograph and motion pictures, and remained financially intact.
Finding a cheaper way to produce steel was not only important to the financial enhancement of Edison but important to the American economy.
After 1840 the American iron industry was experiencing a revitalization but American was not the major steel producer in the world.
In 1844, government surveyors found a large iron ore deposit of anthracite in the Great Lakes area.
Pennsylvania became the nation's leading supplier of iron and steel.
With the discovery of the rich iron ore around Lake Superior and the ability to transport the bounty the mine produce by water, Pennsylvania became the center of American iron and steel production.
British engineer Henry Bessemer perfected a steel extraction process.
He completed the work that Thomas Edison had started.
Bessemer developed an iron smelting process that made it possible to produce large quantities of steel.
Some manufacturers of steel use his process to this day.
The invention was an economical and an efficient process to make steel from iron ore.
But a better process was introduced By Abram S.
Hewitt who became a steel magnate that rivaled Andrew Carnegie was the first American to try the Bessemer process.
He then improved on the process to develop the the open-hearth converter.
American steel makers preferred the process of Hewitt to that of Bessemer.
The low cost of steel production after this discovery changed the balance for American industries.
American Industry could now lead the world in steel production.
In 1873 the United States, produced nearly 115,000 tons of steel.
As the price of steel continued to drop, It waspossible to use steel in several industries.
Over 70% of the finished steel that is produced in the United states goes to automotive industry.