Arts & Entertainment

Did Edison Also Invent Corporate Spying? New TENHP History Happy Hour Answers Some Questions

e0371a3de1dc176ea4ca_12410021.jpg
Which one is McCoy....Few Images exist, but he is here...on the left. Credits: Dept. of the Interior, National Park Service, Thomas Edison NHP
a26a572f963b4e57f4f8_McCoy_s_Questionaire_to_Learn_more_About_a_Company_s_Operations_1.jpg
McCoy's Questionaire to Learn more About a Company's Operations 1 Credits: Dept. of the Interior, National Park Service, Thomas Edison NHP
24e37c132f41279b5096_McCoy_s_Questionaire_to_Learn_more_About_a_Company_s_Operations_2.jpg
McCoy's Questionaire to Learn more About a Company's Operations 2 Credits: Dept. of the Interior, National Park Service, Thomas Edison NHP
476c9154e83811f2db80_Centennial_calendar_.jpg
Thomas Edison NHP Calendar Page 1 Credits: Thomas Edison NHP
ab9b49a2dad3bf3e2f97_Centennial_calendar_2.jpg
Thomas Edison NHP Calendar Page 2 Credits: Thomas Edison NHP
e0371a3de1dc176ea4ca_12410021.jpg

WEST ORANGE, NJ -- He's known for the light bulb, recordings, motions pictures and discoveries too numerous to mention. But did Thomas Edison also condone corporate spying on his enemies? Did he help create corporate espionage?

While he may not have invented it, the First History Happy Hour, conducted April 21 by the Thomas Edison National Historical Park, made a great case for at least one of Edison's employees being an exceptional corporate spy. Held at Thom's Saloon on Harrison Avenue, the informal presentation by Karen Sloat-Olsen, Chief of Interpretation and Education for the park, said while there was no direct reference by Edison to anything of the sort, information from one of his employees can certainly be interpreted that way.

That employee was Joseph F. McCoy, who was hired at 20 years of age to work for the Edison Company. Not much is known about him except some basic details, but as Sloat-Olsen told the story of his jobs over the years, McCoy emerges as a shadowy figure, but influential in numerous ways.

Sign Up for E-News

"If you were going to make a movie about his life, it might be called 'The Schmoozer,' " said Sloat-Olsen. "Every company he went to, or dealt with, he got to know people who provided him with the information he needed to find out."

During his career, McCoy worked for or had detailed contact with a string of companies, and the list includes many which were competing with, threatening to compete with or had potential lawsuits with Edison....were just an interesting company to acquire by Edison.

In electric light dealings, companies like American Electric, U.S. Electric Company and Westinghouse were all on Edison's radar, so Sloat-Olsen says McCoy was sent to work at each of those companies, without their knowing he was an Edison employee, to find out about their plans or if they could be bought out.

He helped facilitate lawsuits against companies trying to use or cash in on the Edison name, or were selling inferior products similar to Edison's. He even infiltrated the motion picture business in England to find out their plans. Back home in this area, he helped stop towns from having a negative impact on Edison's public reputation or finances through excessive taxation.

Sloat-Olsen says two men Edison ask McCoy to stay in touch with were two of his own sons. Thomas Jr. and William Leslie.  Thomas, Jr. tried making a name for himself in lamp production and chemicals using the Edison name against his father’s wishes.  William tried many different ventures, but frequently failed and often had to be bailed out. Sloat-Olsen says there's evidence in one case that a deal the with Thomas Edison Jr. had with a company fell apart after McCoy went to the company's legal department and essentially stole the contract from them, so there was no evidence of the deal. 

Sloat-Olsen says a lot more will not be learned about McCoy directly because he left little more than some personal notes behind. He admitted in a letter, "I had some peculiar assignments from Mr. Edison regarding personal matters and company work." And on that same note, she says McCoy made it clear that he kept track of anything he did for future reference, but "the above notes are all I recalled from my memory, as I put all my diaries in the furnace."

Members of the audience told Sloat-Olsen they never knew about this intriguing story, which uncovers another facet of the complex man Edison was. 

The Next History happy Hour will be in June. Sloat-Olsen says it will be a live vintage phonograph music show and that music will be played on an antique phonograph.

The Edison complex is one of 411 National Parks. To find out more about it, go to:www.nps.gov/edis

The Laboratory Complex is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 am - 4 pm.   

Glenmont, Edison's home, is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Tickets and a special car pass must be obtained at the Laboratory Complex visitor center prior to going to Glenmont. Tickets are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

West Orange

Local Children Invited to Register for Essex County Summer Camps

February 19, 2018

WEST ORANGE, NJ – Children of all ages are invited to participate in spring and summer camp opportunities at the Essex County Turtle Back Zoo, Essex County Codey Arena and the Essex County Environmental Center.

The zoo has several weeklong camp adventures that will introduce children to the extraordinary world of animals, nature and science. Campers and their parents/guardians are ...

Game of Thrones: A Definitive Ranking of Seasons 1-7

Groundhog Day. The day a tiny mammal’s shadow tells us when winter will come to an end. Me? I prefer my weather forecast in the form of a white raven (the telltale changing of seasons in Westeros).

For a few days, rumors spread that Game of Thrones will not return for its final season until April 2019, and while it was clarified that the April return date was likely a false rumor, HBO ...

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_ebeb90e00b2da8ed5088_capture

Thu, February 22, 12:00 PM

Marriot Courtyard, West Orange

BIZ 2.0 WORKSHOPS - Lunch & Learn | Presented by ...

Business & Finance Food & Drink

Carousel_image_f1e8b21af9d26c31d2e7_unnamed__8_

Sun, February 25, 10:00 AM

West Orange High School (Tarnoff Cafeteria), West Orange

44th Annual Orange West Orange UNICO Sports ...

Arts & Entertainment Education

Carousel_image_f7d9574673b2c2041627_unnamed__4_

Sun, February 25, 12:00 PM

AMC Essex Green, West Orange

The 2018 West Orange Classic Film Festival

Arts & Entertainment

Brrr, It’s Old! Come Inside the West Essex YMCA to Explore Summer Camp Fun

February 7, 2018

LIVINGSTON, NJ — While the thermometer may not budge above 40 degrees, the summer planning season is here. Families are invited to a summer camp information session at the West Essex YMCA from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 13.

Throughout the summer, the West Essex YMCA runs five development-appropriate programs for children ages 3 1/2 to 15, building self-esteem, confidence ...

Paterson Firefighter Opens Up About Struggles, Urges Others not to Suffer in Silence

February 8, 2018

ATLANTIC CITY, NJ - Not a week goes by when a tale of heroism and bravery on the part of firefighters is not told. For them, running into a burning building is as natural as running out of one is for the rest of us.

That became apparent again on Monday when members of the Paterson Fire Department responded to a fire at 268 Main Street, which led to the eventual total collapse of ...

Let the Games Begin

I am truly awed by the Olympics.  Watching these superb young athletes on TV inspires me to renew my membership to the gym and pursue my lifelong dream of taking home the gold.  

 

The problem is that in my deluded head, I can see actually see myself standing atop the podium.  I am wrapped in a puffy designer ski coat with a huge piece of bling slung around my neck ...

In the Driver's Seat

Honey, I am going to take the Roadster out for a quick spin around the sun. I’ll be back in a few million years.

 

That’s nice dear. While you are out, could you pick up a gallon of milk?

 

In what has to be the greatest road trip of all time and space, Elon Musk, the visionary inventor, engineer, and billionaire investor loaded his very own red Tesla ...

'What Stays' exposes family secrets and lies

‘What Stays’ exposes family secrets, resentment and lies

By Liz Keill

SUMMIT, NJ – In an original play by Laura Ekstrand and Jason Szamreta, the Dreamcatcher Repertory Theatre has provided an enlightening, funny and heart-felt view of family foibles.

Ekstrand has said that the germ of the play came from conversations with the ensemble members of the troupe, based on ...