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Program 1006

1. Thomas Edison House
2. Louisville Extreme Park
3. Wrather West Kentucky Museum
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Jefferson County

For more information:
Thomas Edison House, 729-31 E. Washington St., Louisville, KY 40202, (502) 585-5247

Producer, videographer, editor: Ernie Lee Martin

The Wizard Slept Here

Thomas Edison House

Inventor Thomas Edison may be the “Wizard of Menlo Park,” but he was a Louisvillian for a time as a young man. When he arrived in the spring of 1866, he was a 19-year-old telegraph operator who’d just been fired in Memphis for inventing a machine to automate his main task. (Edison later speculated that his supervisor had been working on a similar idea and resented losing out to his teenage employee.) But skilled operators were in short supply, and he quickly found work with Western Union in Louisville, getting out Associated Press copy for newspapers around the country.

On his new job, Edison continued his inveterate tinkering and experimenting, and eventually it got him into trouble again. While trying to fill a new battery he had built, he spilled some acid, and it leaked down onto his boss’s desk on the floor below. Young Thomas was out of work again the next morning.

Though he spent only about two years in Louisville, Edison lived in several different places. One of them, a shotgun duplex in the historic Butchertown neighborhood, is now the Thomas Edison House, a museum dedicated to Edison and his inventions. Open to the public every Tuesday through Saturday, it offers a timeline of his life and early examples of such devices as the phonograph and the “kinetoscope”—a forerunner of the home movie projector.

Edison did make some valuable contacts during his time in Louisville. Local doctor and telegraph entrepreneur Norvin Green, who had helped form Western Union, became a financial backer of the young inventor, helping to fund the work that led to Edison’s most famous invention: the incandescent light bulb. And just a few years later, in August 1883, Louisville’s Southern Exposition became the first such major exhibition to be lighted electrically, with 4,600 Edison lights illuminating its acres of displays of manufacturing and agricultural equipment.

Jefferson County

For more information:
Louisville Extreme Park, c/o Metro Parks, P.O. Box 37280, Louisville, KY 40233, (502) 456-8100

Producer, editor: Cheryl Beckley
Videographers: Cheryl Beckley, Tony Noel, Josh Niedwick

Going to Extremes

Louisville Extreme Park

A few years ago, some contemporary young Louisvillians got to do a little inventing, too. At a public meeting sponsored by the Metro Parks Department, they used clay to show the planners of a new skate park just what sorts of features they’d like to see.

The result is Louisville Extreme Park, a 40,000-square-foot mecca for skateboarders, rollerbladers, and bikers that is rapidly gaining a reputation as one of the country’s best skate parks. The landscape includes seven different bowls, a 24-foot full-pipe, a wooden vert ramp, and a “streetscape” section simulating city curbs and ledges.

The skate park is located on the Louisville riverfront, next to Slugger Field and close to Waterfront Park. On our visit, Metro Parks landscape architect Martha Brener explains the planning and construction, and some young skateboarders put the finished product to the test.

Calloway County

For more information:
Wrather West Kentucky Museum, (270) 762-4771

Producer, videographer: Dave Shuffett
Editor: Jay Akers

Can You Hear Me Now?

Wrather West Kentucky Museum

Continuing the “inventive” theme of this episode, host Dave Shuffett visits a Western Kentucky museum where the displays include a tribute to the local man who, some say, invented the radio.

Nathan Stubblefield, born in Murray in 1860, dropped out of school at 15 but continued his education on his own with voracious reading. Beginning in his 20s, he patented several improvements to the telephone, a new type of battery, a lamp-lighting device—and a “wireless telephone,” a mobile radio transmitter-receiver. A crowd of about 1,000 gathered in Murray on New Year’s Day 1902 to witness a demonstration in which Stubblefield transmitted his son’s voice from their house to a shed and then on to a receiver about a mile away.

That demonstration made Stubblefield the first to actually transmit and receive radio waves, though his device had a range of only about eight miles. But his attempt to develop the invention through his own Wireless Telephone Company failed miserably, and fellow inventors Marconi and Tesla ended up wrangling for the title of inventor of radio in a bitter patent dispute. But some of Stubblefield’s concepts underlie today’s cutting-edge communication technology. And in his patent documents, the visionary Murray man imagined something very like today’s Internet: a worldwide network of information carried by wires, but accessed by individuals from wherever they happen to be with wireless devices.

Stubblefield is just one of the Kentuckians you can learn about at the Wrather West Kentucky Museum. Located in a National Register of Historic Places building on the campus of Murray State University, the Wrather has three floors of exhibits reaching back to the area’s prehistoric inhabitants. Other major collections include frontier, Civil War, and World War II artifacts; keepsakes of two governors from Western Kentucky; and an entire barbershop, featuring equipment from a Mayfield shop that closed in 1980.

The museum is at North 16th Street and University Drive in Murray. It is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm CT and Saturdays from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm.

SEASON 10 PROGRAMS: 1001100210031004100510061007
100810091010: Kentucky’s Last Great Places1011101210131014

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