Mexican historians say inventor Thomas Alva Edison was born in Zacatecas


Luis Vanegas Rocha, a late member of AFEHYAC (Fresnillo Association for Historical Studies and Cultural Activities) provided interesting data in this regard.

The birth place of Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931) remains an enigma.

His ancestors came from Amsterdam and settled in New Jersey, his grandfather John Edison, enlisted on the side of the British during the War of Independence and, at the end of it, had to take refuge in Nova Scotia and after a time he moved to Canada.

In 1837, when the Canadian rebellion broke out, his father Samuel Edison joined the insurgents, so when the rebellion failed, the family was forced to flee to the United States, settling in Milan, Ohio in 1840, where on the 11th of February 1847 Thomas Alva Edison was born

That is version one. However, Mexican historians say inventor Thomas Alva Edison was born in Zacatecas.

It is enough to take a look at the luminosity that our planet gives off at night, to recognize the visionary mind of this “man who illuminated the world” with his incandescent bulbs that in 2012 were transformed into their new energy-saving version.

Although it is said that he was born in Ohio on February 11, 1847, the year that Democratic President James K. Polk ordered the invasion of Mexico, surveys and documents place his birth on February 18, 1848, in the municipality of Sombrerete, Zacatecas.

According to these versions, Thomas Alva, the inventor who revolutionized humanity’s lifestyle, with 1,193 patents, took the name Edison when he emigrated to the neighboring country.

According to this theory, he would have been the son of Samuel Alva Ixtlixóchitl, a mining engineer from Pachuca, who came to Sombrerete to seek employment.

The truth is that there is no record in the Civil Registry that proves this assumption because at that time it was not common to register children, the usual thing was to baptize them in the Catholic Church. However, these records no longer exist. In 1911, the revolutionaries passed through Sombrerete and burned all the archives of that municipality.

The myth is supported by some letters that are supposedly in the General Archive of the Nation, where the inventor told his family what he was inventing.

It is believed that he went to live in the United States before he was 20 years old. This is how a book written by Fray Ángel de Los Dolores Tiscareño narrates it in 1909: “he was born in Zacatecas but was taken as a young man to the United States, his adopted homeland.”

Sombrerete, Zacatecas (Archive)


Samuel Ogden Edison, Jr

Nancy Matthews Elliott


Thomas Alva Edison

Died October 18, 1931 (age 84) West Orange, New Jersey, United States

Cause of death Diabetes mellitus

West Orange Sepulture

American nationality

Thomas Alva Edison


Patents are attributed to him that gave rise to automatic telegraphy, the kinetoscope to record moving images, the phonograph, the first sound recorders and reproducers, a system to produce better quality cement that he used for the construction of the emblematic stadium of the New York Yankees, demolished in 2008.

As well as in the long-lasting batteries for electric cars that are now fashionable, but that Edison helped create more than a century ago, as evidenced by a 1902 photograph that froze the moment when he was driving his electric Studebaker, accompanied by his son Chase.

Because Edison was the quintessential inventor of the automotive industry that in 1909 produced the Baker Electric, an electric vehicle that was sold to women for its easy handling, since it was silent, did not give off the smell of gasoline and had a small case for cosmetics on the back seat.

Distant times that Jay Leno, owner of a Baker Electric Car (1909), recalled in an article for Popular Mechanics in which he related that the tenors Enrico Caruso and John McCormack drove the Owen Magnetic, another electric car.

“Between 1903 and 1910, Thomas Edison spent more than three million dollars, equivalent to 71 million today, to perfect his nickel-iron battery. He said they weighed half the weight of lead-acid and had twice the energy density, so their electric cars were superior to those of the competition that were powered by what we know today as Exide batteries, controlled by a group of cartels, “wrote Bill Moore for EV World.

But it turned out, according to Moore in his article titled A ‘Black’ History of Our Oil Addiction, that those cartels sought to monopolize forms of automotive transportation from bicycles to automobiles.

“Just as Edison and Ford were about to go into business together to offer a low-cost electric car that was comparable to the Model T, a fire destroyed almost all of their West Orange, NJ, research facility, which strangely did not touch the batteries. areas where the most flammable chemicals were stored, ” Bill Moore says.

In light of the marginalization of electric cars that gave way to fossil fuels a century later, Moore says that when comparing the quiet, clean, and reliable electric cars of the day with gasoline models, the latter were dirty, noisy, and difficult to start, in addition to “fueling a certain machismo in the minds of the drivers.”

Of that debate that is still alive between the supporters of electricity and those who remain loyal to cars that are fueled by gasoline, the photo recorded by EV World of Fred Allison, Henry Ford’s engineer, at a time when he was driving remains a testimony. The second experimental car powered by the nickel-iron battery that Edison had invented.

With 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration

But the subject that most attracts scholars of his biography, such as William S. Pretzer, author of Working at Inventing: Thomas A. Edison and the Menlo Park Experience, is Edison’s groundbreaking activity in Menlo Park, New Jersey, where he installed the workshops for his experiments.

“In the context of his tireless workdays and sleepless nights, Thomas Edison emerges less as a superhuman genius and more as a person with extraordinary talents. Only these talents are defined as his ability to visualize concepts, to think processes different with analogous terms, “says Pretzer.

But also to organize men and work, being able to inspire their optimism, their loyalty, and their dedication. Something that Edison himself defined when he stated that his way of doing thins was “1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration”, and also widely demonstrated throughout more than a thousand attempts to create, on October 21, 1879, the first Incandescent filament bulb that stayed on for 48 hours straight.

His death occurred in West Orange, New Jersey.


According to the history that considers him Mexican, he must have been baptized on February 18 of that year in the Parish of San Juan Bautista de Real de Minas in the town of Sombrerete, Zacatecas.  

Luis Vanegas Rocha, a late member of AFEHYAC (Fresnillo Association for Historical Studies and Cultural Activities), published his book “100 years of Electric Light in Fresnillo”, and mentions:

“Our character, to whom I dedicate these lines, was the son of immigrants from Canada to the United States of America, whose father was named Samuel Edison, and his mother, Mrs. Doña Mariquita Alva (of Mexican origin, Born in a community of the municipality of Sombrerete, Zacatecas, Mexico).

The  historian Fray Ángel de los Dolores Tiscareño in his book “Nuestra Señora del Refugio”, narrates:

“Tomás Edison is Mexican.- From“ El Diario ”, August 5, 1908.- Our colleague“ El Comercio ”, which is published in Hermosillo, has made the discovery that the famous Tomas Edison, the genius of electricity, is not American by birth, but by adoption; because he saw the first light in the State of Zacatecas.
Here is what the aforementioned newspaper said back then in this regard:

“The great Edison is not an American. Mr. Corral explained to us, when he came from Saint Louis Mo., that Edison was Mexican, born in Zacatecas, of a Mexican mother and an American father. His name is Tomás Alva Edison. As a child, he was taken to the United States, today his adopted homeland. “

His Official biography in the United States says:

“The son of Samuel Ogden Edison, Jr. (1804–1896) and Nancy Matthews Elliott (1810–1871), his relatives emigrated from Amsterdam in the 1830s and settled on the Passaic River in New Jersey. John Edison, the inventor’s grandfather, enlisted with the British during the War of Independence and, at the end of it, had to take refuge in Nova Scotia. After a time he moved to Canada to reside in Bangham, in the Lake Erie area. When the Canadian rebellion broke out in 1837, Samuel Edison (father of the inventor) joined the insurgents. Once again the family was forced to flee to the United States. “

But in the information about a census in the United States in 1860, in Lavier Tp. Preble Ohio, United States. Tomás’s father said that his son is approximately 10 years old. Or it places him in 1850, so I suppose he did not have to present his birth certificate to be able to nationalize him as an American.

In other information about the birth of one of his children, he said: that he was born in Ohio and that he was 83 years old (in 1930), demonstrating that he was born in 1847. That his father was born in Nova Scotia and his mother in New York. And in another record, it says that his mother is Mina M. Edison.

Apparently, Don Tomas Edison Alva married Mary Stilwell and their children were: Mina Edison, Marion Estelle Edison, Thomas Alva Edison Jr., Willian Leslie Edison, Madeleine Edison, Charles, and Theodore Miller Edison. As you can see, his children had the last name Edison, except for Tomás.

In the book “Who is who in the Nomenclature of Mexico City”, he says: “Edison (Tomás Alva) Illustrious Mexican physicist and extraordinary contemporary inventor who, because he had been transferred to the United States at a young age, has been erroneously considered as born in that country.

Indeed, all the encyclopedias and all the biographical dictionaries, including this one of ours in its first edition (we honestly acknowledge it and confess it), say, without further foundation, that Tomás Alva Edison was born on February 11, 1847, in Milan, Ohio, USA but this data has not been verified. We, on the other hand, recently had knowledge of the survey provoked by an article published in Durango’s “Sol”, in its corresponding number on February 1, 1952, entitled “More on the origin of Tomás Alva Edison” and having found out of the compilation and reliable photographs contained in the “Bulletin of the Mexican Section of the Theosophical Society”, relative to the two-month period March-April 1957, No. 14, Vol.VI, editor A. de la Peña Gil, México, DF,

1. Tomás Alva Edison was born in the town of Sombrerete, district of the same name, Zacatecas State of the Mexican Republic, on February 18, 1848, and not in Milan, Ohio, USA, on February 11, 1847, as usual, it is stated.

2. His father’s name was Samuel Alva Ixtlixóchitl (this second, distinctly Aztec surname). At that time there were three families with the surname Alva; the Alva-Edison (that of the inventor), the Alva-Arias, and the Alva-Santini, among whose descendants (of the latter), there was a poet.

3. All the data collected both from the local tradition and from letters from his countrymen, as well as from other letters from individuals who knew his relatives, are consistent with the fact that Edison was born in Sombrerete.

4. When he reached the peak of his fame as an inventor, his countrymen from Sombrerete, in testimony of admiration for him, as well as explainable civic pride, placed a metal plate, with bronze letters, on the margin of the door of the house where Edison was born, located on Calle Hidalgo No. 19 next to one of the local temples and whose wording says: “In this house, TOMAS ALVA EDISON was born on February 18, 1848.” The photographs of both the house and the plate just cited appear in a photogravure attached to the aforementioned Bulletin.

5. In one of the letters that were also reviewed as evidence, the sender tells the addressee: In 1899, while I was a student at the Normal School for Teachers of Zacatecas, one of my great teachers, Mr. José Guadalupe Ponce told us: “In this room, Edison came to class, which at that time was only known by Tomás Alva ”. His father was a mining engineer, he came from Pachuca, Hidalgo and his name was not only Alva but Alva Ixtlixóchitl. And in another letter, the same sender says to the same recipient: Alva Edison was not an American and solely for convenience (by naturalization we say) he posed as such and left this country for the north when he was about to turn 20 years old.

6. Finally, other letters that appear in the repeated Bulletin say: “As I once explained to you, there is no birth certificate, because at that time there was no Civil Registry and only births were recorded in the parish books which do not exist because the parochial books were burned on the 10th of May 1911, when the revolutionaries entered Sombrerete and burned all the archives of the Municipal Presidency.”

Thomas Alva Edison (Archve)

Mexican historian Alberto Pérez Santos tells us that:

“The theory that we find maintains that Tomás Alva Edison was born in Santa María Palapa, municipality of San Martín de las Pirámides in the State of Mexico in 1847 and even some experts have dared to affirm that he is a direct descendant of ancient Aztec kings, among them Axayacatl. But well this theory has been discarded.

In the year 1892, an anonymous telegram arrived in San Martín de las Pirámides from the United States in which information was requested about the records of someone named Tomás Alva in the town of Santa María Palapa, the message was ignored by the parish priest who received the letter, and it was until 1935 when three sketches of inventions were found sent to this community by someone named Tomás Alva, it is worth mentioning that these records are now protected in the Historical Archive of the Nation. The theory mentions that the first telegram was sent by Edison himself who was in search of his family, which he had left when he went to the United States and the sketches of the inventions were sent as a sample of the achievements he had achieved in the neighboring country.

So I suppose that Tomás Alva Edison’s grandfather, Mr. John Edison, married Mrs. Mariquita de Alva Ixtlixochitl, originally from San Martin de las Pirámides, and Mr. Samuel Alva-Edison and his son were born in Sombrerete, Zacatecas,
Guadalupe, Zac. April 1, 2014.

Source: Excelsior

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