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Edison: His Life and Inventions By Frank Lewis Dyer Characters: 39819

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

"THE letters and figures used in the language of the tape," said a well-known Boston stock speculator, "are very few, but they spell ruin in ninety-nine million ways." It is not to be inferred, however, that the modern stock ticker has anything to do with the making or losing of fortunes. There were regular daily stock-market reports in London newspapers in 1825, and New York soon followed the example. As far back as 1692, Houghton issued in London a weekly review of financial and commercial transactions, upon which Macaulay based the lively narrative of stock speculation in the seventeenth century, given in his famous history. That which the ubiquitous stock ticker has done is to give instantaneity to the news of what the stock market is doing, so that at every minute, thousands of miles apart, brokers, investors, and gamblers may learn the exact conditions. The existence of such facilities is to be admired rather than deplored. News is vital to Wall Street, and there is no living man on whom the doings in Wall Street are without effect. The financial history of the United States and of the world, as shown by the prices of government bonds and general securities, has been told daily for forty years on these narrow strips of paper tape, of which thousands of miles are run yearly through the "tickers" of New York alone. It is true that the record of the chattering little machine, made in cabalistic abbreviations on the tape, can drive a man suddenly to the very verge of insanity with joy or despair; but if there be blame for that, it attaches to the American spirit of speculation and not to the ingenious mechanism which reads and registers the beating of the financial pulse.

Edison came first to New York in 1868, with his early stock printer, which he tried unsuccessfully to sell. He went back to Boston, and quite undismayed got up a duplex telegraph. "Toward the end of my stay in Boston," he says, "I obtained a loan of money, amounting to $800, to build a peculiar kind of duplex telegraph for sending two messages over a single wire simultaneously. The apparatus was built, and I left the Western Union employ and went to Rochester, New York, to test the apparatus on the lines of the Atlantic & Pacific Telegraph between that city and New York. But the assistant at the other end could not be made to understand anything, notwithstanding I had written out a very minute description of just what to do. After trying for a week I gave it up and returned to New York with but a few cents in my pocket." Thus he who has never speculated in a stock in his life was destined to make the beginnings of his own fortune by providing for others the apparatus that should bring to the eye, all over a great city, the momentary fluctuations of stocks and bonds. No one could have been in direr poverty than he when the steamboat landed him in New York in 1869. He was in debt, and his few belongings in books and instruments had to be left behind. He was not far from starving. Mr. W. S. Mallory, an associate of many years, quotes directly from him on this point: "Some years ago we had a business negotiation in New York which made it necessary for Mr. Edison and me to visit the city five or six times within a comparatively short period. It was our custom to leave Orange about 11 A.M., and on arrival in New York to get our lunch before keeping the appointments, which were usually made for two o'clock. Several of these lunches were had at Delmonico's, Sherry's, and other places of similar character, but one day, while en route, Mr. Edison said: 'I have been to lunch with you several times; now to-day I am going to take you to lunch with me, and give you the finest lunch you ever had.' When we arrived in Hoboken, we took the downtown ferry across the Hudson, and when we arrived on the Manhattan side Mr. Edison led the way to Smith & McNell's, opposite Washington Market, and well known to old New Yorkers. We went inside and as soon as the waiter appeared Mr. Edison ordered apple dumplings and a cup of coffee for himself. He consumed his share of the lunch with the greatest possible pleasure. Then, as soon as he had finished, he went to the cigar counter and purchased cigars. As we walked to keep the appointment he gave me the following reminiscence: When he left Boston and decided to come to New York he had only money enough for the trip. After leaving the boat his first thought was of breakfast; but he was without money to obtain it. However, in passing a wholesale tea-house he saw a man tasting tea, so he went in and asked the 'taster' if he might have some of the tea. This the man gave him, and thus he obtained his first breakfast in New York. He knew a telegraph operator here, and on him he depended for a loan to tide him over until such time as he should secure a position. During the day he succeeded in locating this operator, but found that he also was out of a job, and that the best he could do was to loan him one dollar, which he did. This small sum of money represented both food and lodging until such time as work could be obtained. Edison said that as the result of the time consumed and the exercise in walking while he found his friend, he was extremely hungry, and that he gave most serious consideration as to what he should buy in the way of food, and what particular kind of food would be most satisfying and filling. The result was that at Smith & McNell's he decided on apple dumplings and a cup of coffee, than which he never ate anything more appetizing. It was not long before he was at work and was able to live in a normal manner."

During the Civil War, with its enormous increase in the national debt and the volume of paper money, gold had gone to a high premium; and, as ever, by its fluctuations in price the value of all other commodities was determined. This led to the creation of a "Gold Room" in Wall Street, where the precious metal could be dealt in; while for dealings in stocks there also existed the "Regular Board," the "Open Board," and the "Long Room." Devoted to one, but the leading object of speculation, the "Gold Room" was the very focus of all the financial and gambling activity of the time, and its quotations governed trade and commerce. At first notations in chalk on a blackboard sufficed, but seeing their inadequacy, Dr. S. S. Laws, vice-president and actual presiding officer of the Gold Exchange, devised and introduced what was popularly known as the "gold indicator." This exhibited merely the prevailing price of gold; but as its quotations changed from instant to instant, it was in a most literal sense "the cynosure of neighboring eyes." One indicator looked upon the Gold Room; the other opened toward the street. Within the exchange the face could easily be seen high up on the west wall of the room, and the machine was operated by Mr. Mersereau, the official registrar of the Gold Board.

Doctor Laws, who afterward became President of the State University of Missouri, was an inventor of unusual ability and attainments. In his early youth he had earned his livelihood in a tool factory; and, apparently with his savings, he went to Princeton, where he studied electricity under no less a teacher than the famous Joseph Henry. At the outbreak of the war in 1861 he was president of one of the Presbyterian synodical colleges in the South, whose buildings passed into the hands of the Government. Going to Europe, he returned to New York in 1863, and, becoming interested with a relative in financial matters, his connection with the Gold Exchange soon followed, when it was organized. The indicating mechanism he now devised was electrical, controlled at central by two circuit-closing keys, and was a prototype of all the later and modern step-by-step printing telegraphs, upon which the distribution of financial news depends. The "fraction" drum of the indicator could be driven in either direction, known as the advance and retrograde movements, and was divided and marked in eighths. It geared into a "unit" drum, just as do speed-indicators and cyclometers. Four electrical pulsations were required to move the drum the distance between the fractions. The general operation was simple, and in normally active times the mechanism and the registrar were equal to all emergencies. But it is obvious that the record had to be carried away to the brokers' offices and other places by messengers; and the delay, confusion, and mistakes soon suggested to Doctor Laws the desirability of having a number of indicators at such scattered points, operated by a master transmitter, and dispensing with the regiments of noisy boys. He secured this privilege of distribution, and, resigning from the exchange, devoted his exclusive attention to the "Gold Reporting Telegraph," which he patented, and for which, at the end of 1866, he had secured fifty subscribers. His indicators were small oblong boxes, in the front of which was a long slot, allowing the dials as they travelled past, inside, to show the numerals constituting the quotation; the dials or wheels being arranged in a row horizontally, overlapping each other, as in modern fare registers which are now seen on most trolley cars. It was not long before there were three hundred subscribers; but the very success of this device brought competition and improvement. Mr. E. A. Callahan, an ingenious printing-telegraph operator, saw that there were unexhausted possibilities in the idea, and his foresight and inventiveness made him the father of the "ticker," in connection with which he was thus, like Laws, one of the first to grasp and exploit the underlying principle of the "central station" as a universal source of supply. The genesis of his invention Mr. Callahan has told in an interesting way: "In 1867, on the site of the present Mills Building on Broad Street, opposite the Stock Exchange of today, was an old building which had been cut up to subserve the necessities of its occupants, all engaged in dealing in gold and stocks. It had one main entrance from the street to a hallway, from which entrance to the offices of two prominent broker firms was obtained. Each firm had its own army of boys, numbering from twelve to fifteen, whose duties were to ascertain the latest quotations from the different exchanges. Each boy devoted his attention to some particularly active stock. Pushing each other to get into these narrow quarters, yelling out the prices at the door, and pushing back for later ones, the hustle made this doorway to me a most undesirable refuge from an April shower. I was simply whirled into the street. I naturally thought that much of this noise and confusion might be dispensed with, and that the prices might be furnished through some system of telegraphy which would not require the employment of skilled operators. The conception of the stock ticker dates from this incident."

Mr. Callahan's first idea was to distribute gold quotations, and to this end he devised an "indicator." It consisted of two dials mounted separately, each revolved by an electromagnet, so that the desired figures were brought to an aperture in the case enclosing the apparatus, as in the Laws system. Each shaft with its dial was provided with two ratchet wheels, one the reverse of the other. One was used in connection with the propelling lever, which was provided with a pawl to fit into the teeth of the reversed ratchet wheel on its forward movement. It was thus made impossible for either dial to go by momentum beyond its limit. Learning that Doctor Laws, with the skilful aid of F. L. Pope, was already active in the same direction, Mr. Callahan, with ready wit, transformed his indicator into a "ticker" that would make a printed record. The name of the "ticker" came through the casual remark of an observer to whom the noise was the most striking feature of the mechanism. Mr. Callahan removed the two dials, and, substituting type wheels, turned the movements face to face, so that each type wheel could imprint its characters upon a paper tape in two lines. Three wires stranded together ran from the central office to each instrument. Of these one furnished the current for the alphabet wheel, one for the figure wheel, and one for the mechanism that took care of the inking and printing on the tape. Callahan made the further innovation of insulating his circuit wires, although the cost was then forty times as great as that of bare wire. It will be understood that electromagnets were the ticker's actuating agency. The ticker apparatus was placed under a neat glass shade and mounted on a shelf. Twenty-five instruments were energized from one circuit, and the quotations were supplied from a "central" at 18 New Street. The Gold & Stock Telegraph Company was promptly organized to supply to brokers the system, which was very rapidly adopted throughout the financial district of New York, at the southern tip of Manhattan Island. Quotations were transmitted by the Morse telegraph from the floor of the Stock Exchange to the "central," and thence distributed to the subscribers. Success with the "stock" news system was instantaneous.

It was at this juncture that Edison reached New York, and according to his own statement found shelter at night in the battery-room of the Gold Indicator Company, having meantime applied for a position as operator with the Western Union. He had to wait a few days, and during this time he seized the opportunity to study the indicators and the complicated general transmitter in the office, controlled from the keyboard of the operator on the floor of the Gold Exchange. What happened next has been the basis of many inaccurate stories, but is dramatic enough as told in Mr. Edison's own version: "On the third day of my arrival and while sitting in the office, the complicated general instrument for sending on all the lines, and which made a very great noise, suddenly came to a stop with a crash. Within two minutes over three hundred boys-a boy from every broker in the street-rushed up-stairs and crowded the long aisle and office, that hardly had room for one hundred, all yelling that such and such a broker's wire was out of order and to fix it at once. It was pandemonium, and the man in charge became so excited that he lost control of all the knowledge he ever had. I went to the indicator, and, having studied it thoroughly, knew where the trouble ought to be, and found it. One of the innumerable contact springs had broken off and had fallen down between the two gear wheels and stopped the instrument; but it was not very noticeable. As I went out to tell the man in charge what the matter was, Doctor Laws appeared on the scene, the most excited person I had seen. He demanded of the man the cause of the trouble, but the man was speechless. I ventured to say that I knew what the trouble was, and he said, 'Fix it! Fix it! Be quick!' I removed the spring and set the contact wheels at zero; and the line, battery, and inspecting men all scattered through the financial district to set the instruments. In about two hours things were working again. Doctor Laws came in to ask my name and what I was doing. I told him, and he asked me to come to his private office the following day. His office was filled with stacks of books all relating to metaphysics and kindred matters. He asked me a great many questions about the instruments and his system, and I showed him how he could simplify things generally. He then requested that I should call next day. On arrival, he stated at once that he had decided to put me in charge of the whole plant, and that my salary would be $300 per month! This was such a violent jump from anything I had ever seen before, that it rather paralyzed me for a while, I thought it was too much to be lasting, but I determined to try and live up to that salary if twenty hours a day of hard work would do it. I kept this position, made many improvements, devised several stock tickers, until the Gold & Stock Telegraph Company consolidated with the Gold Indicator Company." Certainly few changes in fortune have been more sudden and dramatic in any notable career than this which thus placed an ill-clad, unkempt, half-starved, eager lad in a position of such responsibility in days when the fluctuations in the price of gold at every instant meant fortune or ruin to thousands.

Edison, barely twenty-one years old, was a keen observer of the stirring events around him. "Wall Street" is at any time an interesting study, but it was never at a more agitated and sensational period of its history than at this time. Edison's arrival in New York coincided with an active speculation in gold which may, indeed, be said to have provided him with occupation; and was soon followed by the attempt of Mr. Jay Gould and his associates to corner the gold market, precipitating the panic of Black Friday, September 24, 1869. Securing its import duties in the precious metal and thus assisting to create an artificial stringency in the gold market, the Government had made it a practice to relieve the situation by selling a million of gold each month. The metal was thus restored to circulation. In some manner, President Grant was persuaded that general conditions and the movement of the crops would be helped if the sale of gold were suspended for a time; and, this put into effect, he went to visit an old friend in Pennsylvania remote from railroads and telegraphs. The Gould pool had acquired control of $10,000,000 in gold, and drove the price upward rapidly from 144 toward their goal of 200. On Black Friday they purchased another $28,000,000 at 160, and still the price went up. The financial and commercial interests of the country were in panic; but the pool persevered in its effort to corner gold, with a profit of many millions contingent on success. Yielding to frantic requests, President Grant, who returned to Washington, caused Secretary Boutwell, of the Treasury, to throw $4,000,000 of gold into the market. Relief was instantaneous, the corner was broken, but the harm had been done. Edison's remarks shed a vivid side-light on this extraordinary episode: "On Black Friday," he says, "we had a very exciting time with the indicators. The Gould and Fisk crowd had cornered gold, and had run the quotations up faster than the indicator could follow. The indicator was composed of several wheels; on the circumference of each wheel were the numerals; and one wheel had fractions. It worked in the same way as an ordinary counter; one wheel made ten revolutions, and at the tenth it advanced the adjacent wheel; and this in its turn having gone ten revolutions, advanced the next wheel, and so on. On the morning of Black Friday the indicator was quoting 150 premium, whereas the bids by Gould's agents in the Gold Room were 165 for five millions or any part. We had a paper-weight at the transmitter (to speed it up), and by one o'clock reached the right quotation. The excitement was prodigious. New Street, as well as Broad Street, was jammed with excited people. I sat on the top of the Western Union telegraph booth to watch the surging, crazy crowd. One man came to the booth, grabbed a pencil, and attempted to write a message to Boston. The first stroke went clear off the blank; he was so excited that he had the operator write the message for him. Amid great excitement Speyer, the banker, went crazy and it took five men to hold him; and everybody lost their head. The Western Union operator came to me and said: 'Shake, Edison, we are O. K. We haven't got a cent.' I felt very happy because we were poor. These occasions are very enjoyable to a poor man; but they occur rarely."

There is a calm sense of detachment about this description that has been possessed by the narrator even in the most anxious moments of his career. He was determined to see all that could be seen,

and, quitting his perch on the telegraph booth, sought the more secluded headquarters of the pool forces. "A friend of mine was an operator who worked in the office of Belden & Company, 60 Broadway, which were headquarters for Fisk. Mr. Gould was up-town in the Erie offices in the Grand Opera House. The firm on Broad Street, Smith, Gould & Martin, was the other branch. All were connected with wires. Gould seemed to be in charge, Fisk being the executive down-town. Fisk wore a velvet corduroy coat and a very peculiar vest. He was very chipper, and seemed to be light-hearted and happy. Sitting around the room were about a dozen fine-looking men. All had the complexion of cadavers. There was a basket of champagne. Hundreds of boys were rushing in paying checks, all checks being payable to Belden & Company. When James Brown, of Brown Brothers & Company, broke the corner by selling five million gold, all payments were repudiated by Smith, Gould & Martin; but they continued to receive checks at Belden & Company's for some time, until the Street got wind of the game. There was some kind of conspiracy with the Government people which I could not make out, but I heard messages that opened my eyes as to the ramifications of Wall Street. Gold fell to 132, and it took us all night to get the indicator back to that quotation. All night long the streets were full of people. Every broker's office was brilliantly lighted all night, and all hands were at work. The clearing-house for gold had been swamped, and all was mixed up. No one knew if he was bankrupt or not."

Edison in those days rather liked the modest coffee-shops, and mentions visiting one. "When on the New York No. 1 wire, that I worked in Boston, there was an operator named Jerry Borst at the other end. He was a first-class receiver and rapid sender. We made up a scheme to hold this wire, so he changed one letter of the alphabet and I soon got used to it; and finally we changed three letters. If any operator tried to receive from Borst, he couldn't do it, so Borst and I always worked together. Borst did less talking than any operator I ever knew. Never having seen him, I went while in New York to call upon him. I did all the talking. He would listen, stroke his beard, and say nothing. In the evening I went over to an all-night lunch-house in Printing House Square in a basement-Oliver's. Night editors, including Horace Greeley, and Henry Raymond, of the New York Times, took their midnight lunch there. When I went with Borst and another operator, they pointed out two or three men who were then celebrated in the newspaper world. The night was intensely hot and close. After getting our lunch and upon reaching the sidewalk, Borst opened his mouth, and said: 'That's a great place; a plate of cakes, a cup of coffee, and a Russian bath, for ten cents.' This was about fifty per cent. of his conversation for two days."

The work of Edison on the gold-indicator had thrown him into close relationship with Mr. Franklin L. Pope, the young telegraph engineer then associated with Doctor Laws, and afterward a distinguished expert and technical writer, who became President of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers in 1886. Each recognized the special ability of the other, and barely a week after the famous events of Black Friday the announcement of their partnership appeared in the Telegrapher of October 1, 1869. This was the first "professional card," if it may be so described, ever issued in America by a firm of electrical engineers, and is here reproduced. It is probable that the advertisement, one of the largest in the Telegrapher, and appearing frequently, was not paid for at full rates, as the publisher, Mr. J. N. Ashley, became a partner in the firm, and not altogether a "sleeping one" when it came to a division of profits, which at times were considerable. In order to be nearer his new friend Edison boarded with Pope at Elizabeth, New Jersey, for some time, living "the strenuous life" in the performance of his duties. Associated with Pope and Ashley, he followed up his work on telegraph printers with marked success. "While with them I devised a printer to print gold quotations instead of indicating them. The lines were started, and the whole was sold out to the Gold & Stock Telegraph Company. My experimenting was all done in the small shop of a Doctor Bradley, located near the station of the Pennsylvania Railroad in Jersey City. Every night I left for Elizabeth on the 1 A.M. train, then walked half a mile to Mr. Pope's house and up at 6 A.M. for breakfast to catch the 7 A.M. train. This continued all winter, and many were the occasions when I was nearly frozen in the Elizabeth walk." This Doctor Bradley appears to have been the first in this country to make electrical measurements of precision with the galvanometer, but was an old-school experimenter who would work for years on an instrument without commercial value. He was also extremely irascible, and when on one occasion the connecting wire would not come out of one of the binding posts of a new and costly galvanometer, he jerked the instrument to the floor and then jumped on it. He must have been, however, a man of originality, as evidenced by his attempt to age whiskey by electricity, an attempt that has often since been made. "The hobby he had at the time I was there," says Edison, "was the aging of raw whiskey by passing strong electric currents through it. He had arranged twenty jars with platinum electrodes held in place by hard rubber. When all was ready, he filled the cells with whiskey, connected the battery, locked the door of the small room in which they were placed, and gave positive orders that no one should enter. He then disappeared for three days. On the second day we noticed a terrible smell in the shop, as if from some dead animal. The next day the doctor arrived and, noticing the smell, asked what was dead. We all thought something had got into his whiskey-room and died. He opened it and was nearly overcome. The hard rubber he used was, of course, full of sulphur, and this being attacked by the nascent hydrogen, had produced sulphuretted hydrogen gas in torrents, displacing all of the air in the room. Sulphuretted hydrogen is, as is well known, the gas given off by rotten eggs."

Another glimpse of this period of development is afforded by an interesting article on the stock-reporting telegraph in the Electrical World of March 4, 1899, by Mr. Ralph W. Pope, the well-known Secretary of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, who had as a youth an active and intimate connection with that branch of electrical industry. In the course of his article he mentions the curious fact that Doctor Laws at first, in receiving quotations from the Exchanges, was so distrustful of the Morse system that he installed long lines of speaking-tube as a more satisfactory and safe device than a telegraph wire. As to the relations of that time Mr. Pope remarks: "The rivalry between the two concerns resulted in consolidation, Doctor Laws's enterprise being absorbed by the Gold & Stock Telegraph Company, while the Laws stock printer was relegated to the scrap-heap and the museum. Competition in the field did not, however, cease. Messrs. Pope and Edison invented a one-wire printer, and started a system of 'gold printers' devoted to the recording of gold quotations and sterling exchange only. It was intended more especially for importers and exchange brokers, and was furnished at a lower price than the indicator service.... The building and equipment of private telegraph lines was also entered upon. This business was also subsequently absorbed by the Gold & Stock Telegraph Company, which was probably at this time at the height of its prosperity. The financial organization of the company was peculiar and worthy of attention. Each subscriber for a machine paid in $100 for the privilege of securing an instrument. For the service he paid $25 weekly. In case he retired or failed, he could transfer his 'right,' and employees were constantly on the alert for purchasable rights, which could be disposed of at a profit. It was occasionally worth the profit to convince a man that he did not actually own the machine which had been placed in his office.... The Western Union Telegraph Company secured a majority of its stock, and Gen. Marshall Lefferts was elected president. A private-line department was established, and the business taken over from Pope, Edison, and Ashley was rapidly enlarged."

At this juncture General Lefferts, as President of the Gold & Stock Telegraph Company, requested Edison to go to work on improving the stock ticker, furnishing the money; and the well-known "Universal" ticker, in wide-spread use in its day, was one result. Mr. Edison gives a graphic picture of the startling effect on his fortunes: "I made a great many inventions; one was the special ticker used for many years outside of New York in the large cities. This was made exceedingly simple, as they did not have the experts we had in New York to handle anything complicated. The same ticker was used on the London Stock Exchange. After I had made a great number of inventions and obtained patents, the General seemed anxious that the matter should be closed up. One day I exhibited and worked a successful device whereby if a ticker should get out of unison in a broker's office and commence to print wild figures, it could be brought to unison from the central station, which saved the labor of many men and much trouble to the broker. He called me into his office, and said: 'Now, young man, I want to close up the matter of your inventions. How much do you think you should receive?' I had made up my mind that, taking into consideration the time and killing pace I was working at, I should be entitled to $5000, but could get along with $3000. When the psychological moment arrived, I hadn't the nerve to name such a large sum, so I said: 'Well, General, suppose you make me an offer.' Then he said: 'How would $40,000 strike you?' This caused me to come as near fainting as I ever got. I was afraid he would hear my heart beat. I managed to say that I thought it was fair. 'All right, I will have a contract drawn; come around in three days and sign it, and I will give you the money.' I arrived on time, but had been doing some considerable thinking on the subject. The sum seemed to be very large for the amount of work, for at that time I determined the value by the time and trouble, and not by what the invention was worth to others. I thought there was something unreal about it. However, the contract was handed to me. I signed without reading it." Edison was then handed the first check he had ever received, one for $40,000 drawn on the Bank of New York, at the corner of William and Wall Streets. On going to the bank and passing in the check at the wicket of the paying teller, some brief remarks were made to him, which in his deafness he did not understand. The check was handed back to him, and Edison, fancying for a moment that in some way he had been cheated, went outside "to the large steps to let the cold sweat evaporate." He then went back to the General, who, with his secretary, had a good laugh over the matter, told him the check must be endorsed, and sent with him a young man to identify him. The ceremony of identification performed with the paying teller, who was quite merry over the incident, Edison was given the amount in bundles of small bills "until there certainly seemed to be one cubic foot." Unaware that he was the victim of a practical joke, Edison proceeded gravely to stow away the money in his overcoat pockets and all his other pockets. He then went to Newark and sat up all night with the money for fear it might be stolen. Once more he sought help next morning, when the General laughed heartily, and, telling the clerk that the joke must not be carried any further, enabled him to deposit the currency in the bank and open an account.

Thus in an inconceivably brief time had Edison passed from poverty to independence; made a deep impression as to his originality and ability on important people, and brought out valuable inventions; lifting himself at one bound out of the ruck of mediocrity, and away from the deadening drudgery of the key. Best of all he was enterprising, one of the leaders and pioneers for whom the world is always looking; and, to use his own criticism of himself, he had "too sanguine a temperament to keep money in solitary confinement." With quiet self-possession he seized his opportunity, began to buy machinery, rented a shop and got work for it. Moving quickly into a larger shop, Nos. 10 and 12 Ward Street, Newark, New Jersey, he secured large orders from General Lefferts to build stock tickers, and employed fifty men. As business increased he put on a night force, and was his own foreman on both shifts. Half an hour of sleep three or four times in the twenty-four hours was all he needed in those days, when one invention succeeded another with dazzling rapidity, and when he worked with the fierce, eruptive energy of a great volcano, throwing out new ideas incessantly with spectacular effect on the arts to which they related. It has always been a theory with Edison that we sleep altogether too much; but on the other hand he never, until long past fifty, knew or practiced the slightest moderation in work or in the use of strong coffee and black cigars. He has, moreover, while of tender and kindly disposition, never hesitated to use men up as freely as a Napoleon or Grant; seeing only the goal of a complete invention or perfected device, to attain which all else must become subsidiary. He gives a graphic picture of his first methods as a manufacturer: "Nearly all my men were on piece work, and I allowed them to make good wages, and never cut until the pay became absurdly high as they got more expert. I kept no books. I had two hooks. All the bills and accounts I owed I jabbed on one hook; and memoranda of all owed to myself I put on the other. When some of the bills fell due, and I couldn't deliver tickers to get a supply of money, I gave a note. When the notes were due, a messenger came around from the bank with the note and a protest pinned to it for $1.25. Then I would go to New York and get an advance, or pay the note if I had the money. This method of giving notes for my accounts and having all notes protested I kept up over two years, yet my credit was fine. Every store I traded with was always glad to furnish goods, perhaps in amazed admiration of my system of doing business, which was certainly new." After a while Edison got a bookkeeper, whose vagaries made him look back with regret on the earlier, primitive method. "The first three months I had him go over the books to find out how much we had made. He reported $3000. I gave a supper to some of my men to celebrate this, only to be told two days afterward that he had made a mistake, and that we had lost $500; and then a few days after that he came to me again and said he was all mixed up, and now found that we had made over $7000." Edison changed bookkeepers, but never thereafter counted anything real profit until he had paid all his debts and had the profits in the bank.

The factory work at this time related chiefly to stock tickers, principally the "Universal," of which at one time twelve hundred were in use. Edison's connection with this particular device was very close while it lasted. In a review of the ticker art, Mr. Callahan stated, with rather grudging praise, that "a ticker at the present time (1901) would be considered as impracticable and unsalable if it were not provided with a unison device," and he goes on to remark: "The first unison on stock tickers was one used on the Laws printer. [2] It was a crude and unsatisfactory piece of mechanism and necessitated doubling of the battery in order to bring it into action. It was short-lived. The Edison unison comprised a lever with a free end travelling in a spiral or worm on the type-wheel shaft until it met a pin at the end of the worm, thus obstructing the shaft and leaving the type-wheels at the zero-point until released by the printing lever. This device is too well known to require a further description. It is not applicable to any instrument using two independently moving type-wheels; but on nearly if not all other instruments will be found in use." The stock ticker has enjoyed the devotion of many brilliant inventors-G. M. Phelps, H. Van Hoevenbergh, A. A. Knudson, G. B. Scott, S. D. Field, John Burry-and remains in extensive use as an appliance for which no substitute or competitor has been found. In New York the two great stock exchanges have deemed it necessary to own and operate a stock-ticker service for the sole benefit of their members; and down to the present moment the process of improvement has gone on, impelled by the increasing volume of business to be reported. It is significant of Edison's work, now dimmed and overlaid by later advances, that at the very outset he recognized the vital importance of interchangeability in the construction of this delicate and sensitive apparatus. But the difficulties of these early days were almost insurmountable. Mr. R. W. Pope says of the "Universal" machines that they were simple and substantial and generally satisfactory, but adds: "These instruments were supposed to have been made with interchangeable parts; but as a matter of fact the instances in which these parts would fit were very few. The instruction-book prepared for the use of inspectors stated that 'The parts should not be tinkered nor bent, as they are accurately made and interchangeable.' The difficulties encountered in fitting them properly doubtless gave rise to a story that Mr. Edison had stated that there were three degrees of interchangeability. This was interpreted to mean: First, the parts will fit; second, they will almost fit; third, they do not fit, and can't be made to fit."

[Footnote 2: This I invented as well.-T. A. E.]

This early shop affords an illustration of the manner in which Edison has made a deep impression on the personnel of the electrical arts. At a single bench there worked three men since rich or prominent. One was Sigmund Bergmann, for a time partner with Edison in his lighting developments in the United States, and now head and principal owner of electrical works in Berlin employing ten thousand men. The next man adjacent was John Kruesi, afterward engineer of the great General Electric Works at Schenectady. A third was Schuckert, who left the bench to settle up his father's little estate at Nuremberg, stayed there and founded electrical factories, which became the third largest in Germany, their proprietor dying very wealthy. "I gave them a good training as to working hours and hustling," says their quondam master; and this is equally true as applied to many scores of others working in companies bearing the Edison name or organized under Edison patents. It is curiously significant in this connection that of the twenty-one presidents of the national society, the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, founded in 1884, eight have been intimately associated with Edison-namely, Norvin Green and F. L. Pope, as business colleagues of the days of which we now write; while Messrs. Frank J. Sprague, T. C. Martin, A. E. Kennelly, S. S. Wheeler, John W. Lieb, Jr., and Louis A. Ferguson have all been at one time or another in the Edison employ. The remark was once made that if a famous American teacher sat at one end of a log and a student at the other end, the elements of a successful university were present. It is equally true that in Edison and the many men who have graduated from his stern school of endeavor, America has had its foremost seat of electrical engineering.

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