Ever been to an eccentric inventor’s birthday party? The NYC press sure have, at least every July 10th for the first four decades of the 20th century, they did. Nikola Tesla — a guy who couldn’t eat dinner without 16 napkins, and developed an uncomfortable fondness for pigeons — sure knew how to throw a party. Okay, it was a press conference in his residence, on his birthday, to share his latest inventions. And to freak people out a little too.
This didn’t always go so well in his later years. For example the July 10th Tesla declared he’d created a “Death Ray.” His intention with this invention was to end all warfare by providing equal power to all nations, but his presentation of the idea mostly made for splashy headlines.
But on his 75th birthday in 1931, scientists from all over the world sent letters to congratulate Tesla on all his accomplishments and wish him well — including Albert Einstein (see the letter below). These letters were compiled in a scrapbook (with a neat cover page font), which can be seen at the Nikola Tesla Museum in Belgrade, Serbia.
Also that year, Time magazine featured him on the cover with a caption reading, “NIKOLA TESLA – All the world’s his power house”, courtesy of a portrait painted by Princess Lwoff-Parlaghy.
And in 1956 there was a celebration of the 100th anniversary of Tesla’s birth during which Nobel laureates gave speeches, and Yugoslavia put his face on their currency.
Sorry we’re not doing stuff that cool for your birthday this year, Dr Tesla, but these folks seem to have a lot of fun at their conference celebrating you and the notion of inventions in Philadelphia each year. This year Tesla — the band — is playing.