Lawmakers unveil Edison statue

September 22, 2016
In The News

Tom Jackson -- Sandusky Register

WASHINGTON — A decade-long effort to bring a new statue to the U.S. Capitol to represent Ohio ended Wednesday when lawmakers unveiled a statue of Thomas Edison at the U.S. Capitol Building Wednesday.

Top members of Congress, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi vied with Ohio lawmakers to give the best speeches honoring Edison, inventor of the light bulb, the phonograph record and many other staples of modern life.

The lawmakers got off some good lines, but they also all succeeded in being succinct. Despite the fact that there were remarks from nine people (Ryan spoke twice), the performance of the National Anthem and a song about Edison and two prayers from a Congressional chaplain, the ceremony took only about an hour.

U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, noted that Edison had 1,093 patents and founded 14 companies, including General Electric. His inventions included the light bulb, electrical power utilities, sound recording, motion pictures, a stock ticker and a magnetic iron ore separator, among many others, Kaptur observed.

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, noted that many other famous Ohioans could have been honored, including Neil Armstrong, eight U.S. presidents who were Ohio natives, and the Wright brothers.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said Ohio is a state of inventors and pioneers.

"Thomas Edison, America's great inventor, is not frozen in bronze," Brown said. "He lives on in the soul of the people of this state."

Other speakers at the ceremony included Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, former state Sen. Mark Wagoner of Toledo, a member of the Ohio Statuary Hall Commission, and the commission's president, Douglass W. McDonald.

After most of the speeches, Ryan, Pelosi, McConnell and Rosenberger pulled off a red cloth covering the statue, revealing it for the audience.

Robert Wheeler, president of the Edison Birthplace Association in Milan, said about 90 people from the Milan area travelled to Washington for the ceremony. He said 44 boarded a bus early Wednesday, while others flew in to see the ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda.

“It was just beautiful. The military bands,the red velvet,the marble and the bronze. It’s pretty overwhelming,” he said.

Wheeler, a musician and a member of the band Pere Ubu, identified the song that was performed at the ceremony as “Thomas Edison, Miracle Man,” written by George M. Cohen in 1929.

The statue of Edison, who holds a light bulb aloft, was made by Zanesville, Ohio, sculptor Alan Cottrill. The statue was exhibited in the state capitol building in Columbus and then at Milan's public library before being hauled to Washington, D.C., for its final location.

The statue replaces one of former Ohio Gov. William Allen. It was shipped back to Chillicothe to be exhibited in an historical society museum.

Each state is allotted two statues in the U.S. Capitol complex. Ohio also is represented by a statue of President James Garfield.

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