Skip to content

That famous Mexican inventor, Tomás Alva Edison… ¿QUÉ?

12 November 2013

Birther conspiracies are nothing new.  The gringos have been covering up… so it is claimed… the Mexican heritage of the inventor of the light bulb, the phonograph, the motion picture camera, the voting machine, the electric chair, etc. … since at least the 1870s.


¿Soy mexicano?

Thomas Alva Edison we’re led to believe, the son of Nova Scotian Samuel Ogden Edison and his wife, the former Nancy Matthews Elliott of Chenango, New York, was born in Milan Ohio 11 February 1847.  Or was he?

According to an article in the October 1956 “The Theosophist” by Alberto de la Peña Gil, the inventor was the son of not Samuel Edison, but of Samuel Alva Iztlixochitl.  We do know that “Alva” is not a name one would expect Canadian or western New Yorkers with family names like Edison or Elliott (and middle names that also indicated Anglo-Saxon heritage) to give a child.  However, English names aren’t uncommon in the mining regions of Mexico, and in the mid-nineteenth century there was an Alva Edison family in Sombrete, where there is (or was) a plaque on the house claiming to be the birthplace of  “Tómas Alva Edison” on 18 February 1848.

A variation on the Edison birther story has Thomas Alva Edison having been born inLagos de Moreno, Jalisco and adopted by Samuel Ogden Edison.  Who probably was never in Mexico, it more likely he just slipped into the United States after he fled Canada in 1837, following a failed uprising against the Crown .. . but then how much do we know about Samuel Ogden Edison?  Maybe he was in Mexico, or maybe some of his relations were also involved in the McKenzie Revolt, and had fled to Mexico… and perhaps  Tomas Alva was a nephew… or for that matter, was — as  variations on the Edison birther story has it … born in Lagos de Morelos, Jalisco or even Pachuca, Hidalgo as Tomas Alva.

Why, if his parents were the Anglo-Saxons that have always been claimed, did Thomas Alva Edison claim his ancestry was Dutch?  Why did Edison tell people he learned Spanish in preparation for a (never undertaken) trip to Portuguese-speaking Brazil , and who was Edison sending telegrams to in what was then a backwater town, San Martín de los Pyramides, receipts for which were among his papers?  And why among Edison’s papers ar there no  baptismal  or school records and certainly no birth certificate … long-form or otherwise?

It would be irresponsible not to speculate, ¿verdad?


Tomás Alva Edison ¿Mexicano?  (Mitó

Thomas Alva Edison (The First Electronic Church of America)

Thomas Alva Edison (Eddie Martinez)

de la Peña Gil, Alberto: “Edison Was Born in Mexico” (The Theosophist, October 1956, reprinted by Eddie Martinez)

18 Comments leave one →
  1. israel e.alva jr permalink
    2 June 2014 10:01 pm

    I like to know the real story of Thomas Alva Edison.

    • Darryl permalink
      31 March 2016 9:55 pm

      Check out the PBS special on Thomas Edison to really learn the truth about his background and life. Darryl

  2. 22 April 2015 6:17 pm

    Utter nonsense. Edison appears in the 1850 US Census in Milan OH at the age of 3, and 1860 in Port Huron MI at the age of 13. Captain Alva Bradley was a real person and perctly logical for a middle name choice. Oliver Berliner has been trying to spread this lie for years.

    • 23 April 2015 1:07 pm

      No doubt… but then, its amusing that “birther conspiracies” aren’t just for USAnians of a certain political stripe.

  3. Hector Manuel permalink
    9 November 2015 4:03 pm

    His ancestry was not Mexican but of Spanish Royalty and translated from Alba to Alva in Dutch.

  4. Darryl permalink
    31 March 2016 9:49 pm

    Did you also know that Henry Ford was really Chinese, Charles Lindbergh was from Africa, Paul Revere was born in Calcutta India, John D Rockefeller was from Istanbul Turkey, and George Washington was a Russian.
    Actualy, Alexander Hamilton who was a signatory for the Declaration of Independence and founder of the Bank of America was from Trinidad, he was never officially sworn in as an American citizen, he also came very close to becomming president of the United States, and his picture is still on our $20 Bill over 200 yrs later, but as of yet I haven’t heard of any Trinadians claiming their place in our countries heritage.
    We are so pre occupied today in America today with race, ethenticity, religion, gender, sexual preferrence, and political affiliations that personal accomplishments and hard work ethics that made our county what it is today are being overlooked in favor of cultural heritage education and preservation, regardless of who may have put in the time, money, and sweat equity for the beterment of all UScitizens to enjoy.
    If Thomas Edison was Mexican because his middle name was Alva does that mean FDR was Italian because his middle name was Delano? Darryl

    • Sebastián Medina permalink
      25 October 2016 11:10 am

      He used to send telegraphs to San Martin de las Pirámides (to whom he sent it is a mystery, some believe that to his supposed father who was born there). Where he supposedly lived as a kid there was a plaque stating “This is where Tomás Alva Edison was born”. Also, when investigators asked for his papers at the church Alva’s page was torn.
      Add that to the fact that there is no birth certificate and the claims that he could speak Spanish better than English and you got yourself a conspiracy theory.

      • 30 October 2016 1:27 pm

        Of course… and a fun one at that!

    • Rick Martinez permalink
      25 May 2018 6:19 pm

      Being from Mexico does not necessarily mean you have to have a Spanish surname. It is totally irrelevant. Mexican is a nationality not a race. Europeans, Middle Easterners, Asians and people from may places around the world have migrated to Mexico.

    • Alex permalink
      7 February 2021 1:07 pm

      All the names you mentioned were born in the United States I do not know what you mean by the middle name of FDR

    • 8 February 2021 12:25 am

      Henry ford and others that you said were born in usa go to google and search there names
      altough i dont know you What did you mean by that middle name being Italian? Are you born in the United States?

  5. Tuna from the nopal permalink
    16 August 2016 2:33 am

    That would make our boy Thomas having Acolhua lineage.

  6. eliseo t. sierra permalink
    6 May 2017 12:11 pm


  7. 23 January 2018 10:52 am

    Really interesting, thank you.


  1. Benedettis Pizza Neza | ABC Pizza Cooking
  2. Benedettis Pizza Coyoacan | ABC Pizza Cooking
  3. Benedettis Pizza Neza | ABC Pizza Cooking

Leave a reply, but please stick to the topic

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: