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Wayne Township's Very Own Inventor

By Paul Maloney, Museum Attendant at the Wayne Museum and staff member of the Passaic County Department of Cultural & Historic Affairs

The Wayne Museum is celebrating “National Inventors Day” this month! The day takes place each year on February 11th- Thomas Edison’s Birthday. For our celebration, special emphasis will be focused on the township’s own “celebrity inventor”, LeGrand Parish, who lived a good portion of his life on Lower Preakness Avenue, which is now known as Parish Drive. Today, we’ll be focusing on Parish’s inventing and connection with Thomas Edison- to learn more about Parish’s life and involvement in the Passaic County Parks Commission, check out our blog post, “Getting to Know LeGrand Parish.”

Figure 1- A photograph of LeGrand Parish. From the Wayne Museum.

LeGrand Parish was born in Friendship, New York in 1866 to Photographer Julius Parish and his wife Sally Parish. LeGrand means “The Great” in his French ancestor’s language. According to Under the Sign of the Eagle, by William Berce, Parish set up a very profitable newspaper route in Friendship. In an account given in 1963, Dr. Robert Brubaker shared an interview he had with George Morgan, Parish’s executive secretary and neighbor. From this interview, it was learned that Parish graduated from high school but couldn’t afford college. He came to New Jersey and worked for Edison Laboratories in the 1880’s while going to college at night.

During this time, Edison was moving his world-renowned laboratory from Menlo Park to West Orange, New Jersey, and also obtained land in Fort Myers, Florida. From correspondence found in the Rutgers University Thomas A. Edison Digital Collection, Parish corresponded by letters to Edison from Fort Myers and Menlo Park. Two of the letters in this collection show Parish addressing Edison with the words “Dear Cousin”. From this “cousin” reference, Parish and Edison could possibly be family related but no other source can be found to confirm a connection. The Fort Myers correspondence with Parish and Edison includes information about sending palmetto and cabbage palm roots, and dealing with local tax matters. From Menlo Park, the correspondence is mostly about “tissues” for “machine works'' and discussion of “Mr. Tait” who was taking over work from Parish. (In later years before World War I, the Dayton Daily News reported that Parish and Edison continued their friendship and relationship with a joint contribution to the National Aero Club of America for the formation of the Air National Guard.)