Cartoonist Crusader Launches Fundraiser for Nikola Tesla Museum

Inventor Nikola Tesla may finally get the recognition he deserves if cartoonist Matthew Inman has his way. In a bid to buy the land on which Tesla’s former Shoreham, New York laboratory sits, the creator of The Oatmeal has launched an IndieGoGo fundraising campaign to come up with $850,000 in 45 days.

Inman’s efforts seem likely to be successful: in less than 48 hours, the fundraiser has already pulled in more half a million dollars!

Welcome to Wardenclyffe

The $850K goal is half of the $1.6 million needed to buy the land on which Tesla’s Wardenclyffe laboratory sits. A non-profit is seeking to purchase the land, which still has the old laboratory as well as the foundation for an experimental tower Tesla built to attempt to deliver wireless energy. The State of New York will provide a matching $850,000 grant, if the non-profit can come up with the rest.

The money raised in Operation Let’s Build a Goddamn Tesla Museum will go towards the land itself… Inman’s launch of the Operation details that there will still need to be money raised to actually put together a museum once the land is purchased. So Inman has also called for corporate sponsorship for the project, such as J.P. Morgan, whose founder supported Tesla during his lifetime; Tesla Motors (obviously); and as atonement for Thomas Edison’s alleged crimes against Tesla, from General Electric - the company Edison founded.

“The Internet will love you forever, I promise,” Inman wrote to GE.

Big Name Donors

Beyond the strong success of the general fundraising campaign, Inman is getting some of the big-name love he seeks. Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk didn’t put company money into the project, but did pledge some of his own cash to the cause. Publisher Tim O'Reilly and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales have also made the call for donations.

There is still an “if” here. Another purchaser is interested in buying the land and converting it to retail/commercial use. Inman outlined that his effort could still be outbid.

Tesla is a particular cause for Inman, who made the case for “Why Nikola Tesla was the greatest geek who ever lived” in his typically cutting style earlier this year. That particular cartoon stirred up some controversy, particularly with its raw criticism of Edison, who got a lot of the credit that Inman and many others feel should have gone to Tesla.

“…The only thing Edison truly pioneered was douchebaggery,” Inman’s stated in the comic.

Inman's Earlier Tesla Dust-Up

Inman’s passion on the topic of Tesla is almost legendary in the geek community. Forbes social media editor Alex Knapp took exception to Inman’s original Tesla comic and was blasted by Inman for his troubles.

Inman’s gift for fundraising is also legendary. When he accused the site of stealing content from The Oatmeal site in 2011, he was threatened with a defamation lawsuit by FunnyJunk lawyer Charles Carreon unless Inman paid the owners $20,000 in damages. Incensed, Inman’s response was unique: he would raise $20,000 in donations, take a photo of the money raised, and mail the attorney for FunnyJunk that photo along with a drawing of Carreon’s mom seducing a Kodiak bear. The money would be donated to the National Wildlife Foundation and the American Cancer Society.

This led to Carreon personally suing Inman, the National Wildlife Foundation and the American Cancer Society (a suit that would later be dropped). And the fundraiser? That would raise a staggering $211,223.04, which Inman photographed, as promised.

Given Inman’s enthusiasm for Tesla, and the past responsiveness of his fan base for his causes, Inman may indeed get the Goddamn Tesla Museum project on track: land, museum and all.


Tesla picture by Napoleon Sarony (1821-1896) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons