Even in 1878, readers of The New York Graphic should have known better than to trust a fantastical-sounding article published on April Fool’s Day. The paper had a scoop: Noted inventor Thomas Edison had accomplished a task straight out of a fairy tale. He had invented a machine that could turn dirt from his basement into meat, fruit, and even wine.
The device “Would Feed The Human Race,” the breathless headline declared. The raw materials were simply air, water, and dirt. Reporter William Croffut described a lunch at Edison’s Menlo Park headquarters. What unfolded could have been a scene from a Jules Verne novel. Croffut had never tasted anything like the mysterious dishes: headcheese (a type of cold cut) that tasted like woodcock (a type of game bird), a coffee-like beverage “different from anything I had ever seen,” and sweet gelatin covered in cream and jelly (yum!).
When Edison came to the table, he revealed that the Graphic was his favorite paper, and that he had invented a machine that could feed the world, freeing animals from slaughter and farmers from drudgery. When the stunned reporter asked why such a…
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