Wm. H. (William Henry) Meadowcroft.

The boy's life of Edison online

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Passing out of the building, we come to the
four smaller buildings, which are known as
Numbers One, Two, Three, and Four. The
building Number One is called the galvano-
meter room. Edison originally planned that
this should be used for the most delicate and
minute electrical measurements. He went to
great expense in fitting it up and in providing
a large number of costly instruments, but the
coming of the trolley near by a few years
afterward rendered the room utterly useless
for this purpose. It is now used as an experi-
mental room, chiefly for motion-picture ex-


Building Number Two is quite an important
one. As the visitor arrives at the door he is
quite conscious that it is a chemical-room.
Here a corps of chemists is constantly kept
busy in carrying out the various experiments
Mr. Edison has given them to perform. This
room is also one of his special haunts. He
may be seen here very frequently experiment-
ing in person, or seated at a plain little table
figuring out some new combination that he
has in mind.

A chemical store-room and a pattern-
maker's shop occupy building Number Three,
while Number Four, which was formerly used
for ore concentrating experiments, is now
used as a general stock-room.

We have only attempted to afford the
reader a passing glance of this interesting
laboratory, which for many years has been
the headquarters of Edison and the central
source of inspiration for the great industries
he has established at Orange. Around it are
grouped a number of immense concrete build-
ings in which the manufacture of phono-
graphs, motion - pictures, and storage bat-
teries is carried on, giving employment to as


many as four thousand people during busy

Needless to say, the laboratory has many
visitors. Celebrities of all kinds and dis-
tinguished foreigners are numerous, coming
from all parts of the world to see the great
inventor and the scene of his activities.



TET us turn from what Edison has done
* ' to what Edison is. It is worth while to
know " the man behind the guns. " Who and
what is the personal Edison?
(Certainly there must be tremendous force
in a personality which has been one of the
most potent factors in bringing into existence
new industries now capitalized at about seven
billion dollars, earning annually over one
billion dollars, and giving employment to an
army of more than six hundred thousand

It must not be thought that there is any
intention to give entire credit to Edison for
the present magnificent proportions of these
industries. The labors of many other inven-
tors and the confidence of capitalists and in-
vestors have added greatly to their growth.
But Edison is the father of some of these arts



and industries, and as to some of the others it
was the magic of his touch that helped make
them practicable.

How then does Edison differ from most
other men? Is it that he combines with a
vigorous body a mind capable of clear and
logical thinking, and an imagination of un-
usual activity? No, for there are others of
equal bodily and mental vigor who have not
accomplished a tithe of his achievements.

We must answer then, first, that his whole
life is concentrated upon his work. When
he conceives a broad idea of a new invention
he gives no thought to the limitations of time,
or man, or effort. Having his body and mind
in complete subjection through iron nerves,
he settles down to experiment with ceaseless,
tireless, unwavering patience, never swerving
to the right or left nor losing sight of his pur-
pose. Years may come and go, but nothing
short of success is accepted.

A good example of this can be found in the
development of the nickel pocket for the
storage battery, an element the size of a short
lead-pencil. More than five years were spent
in experiments costing upward of a million
21 3*9


dollars to perfect it. Day after day was spent
on this investigation, tens of thousands of
tubes and an endless variety of chemicals were
made, but at the end of five years Edison was
as much interested in these small tubes as
when the work was first begun.

So far as work is concerned, all times are
alike to Edison, whether it be day or night.
He carries no watch, and, indeed, has but little
use for watches or clocks except as they may
be useful in connection with an experiment in
which time is a factor. The one idea in mind
is to go on with the work incessantly, always
pushing steadily onward toward the purpose
in view, with a relentless disregard of effort or
the passage of time.

A second and very marked characteristic
of Edison's personality is an intense and
courageous hopefulness and self-confidence,
into which no thought of failure can enter.
The doubts and fears of others have absolutely
no weight with him. Discouragements and
disappointments find no abiding place in his
mind. Indeed, he has the happy faculty of
beginning the day as open-minded as a child,
yesterday's discouragements and disappoint-



ments discarded, or, at any rate, remembered
only as useful knowledge gained and serving to
point out the fact that he had been tempo-
rarily following the wrong road.

Difficulties seem to have a fascination for
him. To advance along smooth paths, meet-
ing no obstacles or hardships, has no charm for
Edison. To wrestle with difficulties, to meet
obstructions, to attempt the impossible
these are the things that appear to give him
a high form of intellectual pleasure. He
meets them with the keen delight of a strong
man battling with the waves and opposing
them in sheer enjoyment.

Another marked characteristic of Edison is
the fact that his happiness is not bound up in
the making of money. While he appreciates
a good balance at his banker's, the keenness of
his pleasure is in overcoming difficulties rather
than the mere piling up of a bank account.
Had his nature been otherwise, it is doubtful
if his life would have been filled with the great
achievements that it has been our pleasure to

In a life filled with tremendous purpose and
brilliant achievement there must be expected



more or less of troubles and loss. Edison's
life has been no exception, but, with the true
philosophy that might be expected of such a
nature, he remarked recently: " Spilled milk
doesn't interest me. I have spilled lots of it,
and, while I have always felt it for a few days,
it is quickly forgotten, and I turn again to the

Edison at sixty-four has a fine physique,
and, being free from serious ailments, should
live to a vigorous old age. His hair has whit-
ened, but it is still abundant, and though he
uses glasses for reading, his gray-blue eyes
are as keen and bright and deeply lustrous as
ever, with the direct, searching look in them
that they have ever worn.

He stands five feet nine and one-half inches
high, weighs one hundred and seventy-five
pounds, and has not varied as to weight in a
quarter of a century, although as a young man
he was quite slender. He is very abstemious,
hardly ever touching alcohol, caring little for
meat, but fond of fruit and pie, and never
averse to a strong cup of coffee or a good

He believes that people eat too much, and


governs himself accordingly. His meals are
simple, small in quantity, and take but little
of his time at table. If he finds himself vary-
ing in weight he will eat a little more or a little
less in order to keep his weight constant.

As to clothes, Edison is simplicity itself.
Indeed, it is one of the subjects in which he
takes no interest. He says : "I get a suit that
fits me, then I compel the tailors to use that as
a jig, or pattern, or blue-print, to make others
by. For many years a suit was used as a
measurement; once or twice they took fresh
measurements, but these didn't fit, and they
had to go back. I eat to keep my weight
constant, hence I never need changed meas-

This will explain why a certain tailor had
made Edison's clothes for twenty years and
had never seen him.

In 1873 Mr. Edison was married to Miss
Mary Stilwell, who died in 1884, leaving three
children Thomas Alva, William Leslie, and
Marion Estelle.

Mr. Edison was married again in 1886 to
Miss Mina Miller, daughter of Mr. Lewis Miller,
a distinguished pioneer inventor and manu-



facturer in the field of agricultural machinery,
and equally entitled to fame as the father of
the " Chautauqua idea/' and the founder with
Bishop Vincent of the original Chautauqua,
which now has so many replicas all over the
country. By this marriage there are three
children Charles, Madeline, and Theodore.

For over twenty years Edison's happy and
perfect domestic life has been spent at Glen-
mont, a beautiful property in Llewellyn
Park, on the Orange Mountain, New Jersey.
Here, amid the comforts of a beautifully ap-
pointed home, in which may be seen the many
decorations and medals awarded to him, to-
gether with the numerous souvenirs sent to
him by foreign potentates and others, Edison
spends the hours that he is away from the
laboratory. They are far from being idle
hours, for it is here that he may pursue his
reading free from interruption.

His hours of sleep are few, not more than
six in the twenty-four, and not as much as
that when working nights at the laboratory.
In a recent conversation a friend expressed
surprise that he could stand the constant
strain, to which Edison replied that he stood



it easily, because he was interested in every-
thing. He further said: "I don't live with
the past; I am living for to-day and to-
morrow. I am interested in every depart-
ment of science, art, and manufacture. I
read all the time on astronomy, chemistry,
biology, physics, music, metaphysics, me-
chanics, and other branches political econ-
omy, electricity, and, in fact, all things that
are making for progress in the world. I get
all the proceedings of the scientific societies,
the principal scientific and trade journals, and
read them. I also read some theatrical and
sporting papers and a lot of similar publica-
tions, for I like to know what is going on. In
this way I keep up to date, and live in a great,
moving world of my own, and, what's more, I
enioy every minute of it."
. (In conversation Edison is direct, courteous,
ready to discuss a topic with anybody worth
talking to, and, in spite of his deafness, an
excellent listener. No one ever goes away
from him in doubt as to what he thinks or
means, but, with characteristic modesty, he
is ever shy and diffident to a degree if the
talk turns on himself rather than on his work.



He is a normal, fun-loving, typical Amer-
ican, ever ready to listen to a new story, with
a smile all the while, and a hearty, boyish
laugh at the end. He has a keen sense of
humor/which manifests itself in witty repartee
and in various ways.

In his association with his staff of experi-
menters the " old man," as he is affectionately
called, is considerate and patient, although
always insisting on absolute accuracy and ex-
actness in carrying out his ideas. He makes
liberal allowance for errors arising through
human weakness of one kind or another, but
a stupid mistake or an inexcusable oversight
on the part of an assistant will call forth a
storm of contemptuous expression that is
calculated to make the offender feel cheap.
The incident, however, is quickly a thing of
the past, as a general rule. )

If there is anything in heredity, Edison has
many years of vigor and activity yet before
him. What the future may have in store in
the way of further achievement cannot be fore-
shadowed, for he is still a mighty thinker and
a prodigy of industry and hard work.



Associates and helpers at Menlo Park, Edison's, 200.

Automatic telegraphy, 139.

Automatic telegraphy selling the invention, 152.

BAMBOO, exploration of the world for, 194.

Battery, Edison's new storage, 274.

Billy L. wrecks the office, 85.

Black Friday, 125.

Bookkeeping extraordinary, 134.

Boston Edison's work there, 102.

Boyhood of Edison, 19.

Brother and sister, Edison's, 12.

CARBON, Edison's invention involving the use of, 172.

Carnegie, Andrew, 4.

Cement, Portland, Edison's work in making, 253.

Cement, Portland Edison's long kiln, 257.

Central station, the first for electric lighting in New

York, 219.

Childhood of Edison, 15.

Circus at first central station, New York, 225.
Cockroaches, electrocuting, 108.

DEAFNESS, how acquired, 38.
Duplex, Edison's first, 119.
Dynamo, the "Jumbo," 216.

EDISON himself, 318.
Edison's family, 6.



Edison's grandfather, 8.

Edison's father, 9.

Edison's mother, 12.

Edison Electric Light Co., 209.

Edison starts for South America, 91.

Edison, Tannie, 12.

Edison, William Pitt, 12.

Edison's courage and optimism, 320.

Edison's clothing, 323.

Edison's desires for difficulties, 321.

Edison's diversions in his telegraph days, 72.

Edison's eating and drinking, 322.

Edison's home and family, 324.

Edison's method in inventing, 294.

Edison's night adventure with policeman, 90.

Edison's reading, 325.

Edison's sleep, 324.

Educated by mother, 19.

Electricity, Edison's first interest in, 34.

Electric introducing the system to the world, 208.

Electric light Edison organizes shops to manufacture
apparatus, 210.

Electric light, first exhibition of, 206.

Electric light, the, 183.

Electric light system, 208.

Electric light, the feeder and main system, 220.

Electric pen, Edison's, 158.

Electric railway, Edison's early roads, 229.

Electric railway, jumping the track, 233.

Electric railway, street cars operated by storage bat-
tery, 238.

Electromotograph, invention of, 166.

Empirical methods, 300.

Employment in New York, Edison's first, 124.

England, Edison's visit to, 141.

Escape, narrow, 109.

Experimenters at Menlo Park, Edison's, 200.



Experimenting the cause of Edison's discharge from
telegraph office, 76, 94.

FARADAY'S works, Edison buys, 104.
Fooling the soldiers, 51.

GENIUS, Edison's definition of, 299.
Giant rolls, 245.

Gold indicator, accident to, 121-122.
Gould, Jay, dealings with, 151.

HANDWRITING, specimen of Edison's, 83.

Hatching eggs, 15.

House, the poured concrete, 262.

INCANDESCENT LAMP artificial filaments, 195.
Incandescent lamp bamboo filaments discovered, 193.
Incandescent lamp experiments with carbon, metals,

and vacuum pumps, 188.

Incandescent lamp, the Edison's early work, 186.
Incandescent lamps, the manufacture of, 214.
Independence, 132.

Induction coil, Edison's adventure with, 117.
Insull, Samuel, 200.
Invention, Edison's first, 106.

Inventions, Edison sells his earlier, 130, 151, 164, 168.
Inventions, miscellaneous, 284.
Inventions, number of Edison's, 289.
Iron ore, separating magnetic, 242.

LABORATORY at Orange, 306.
Laboratory, Edison's first, 21.
Laboratory experimental rooms, 313.
Laboratory on train, 28.
Laboratory the library, 308.
Laboratory the stock room, 311.
Lecturer, Edison as a, in.
Locomotive, running a, 42.




Magnetic ore separation, 239.

Manufacturer, Edison as a young, 137.

Market gardening, 23.

Memory, an instance of Edison's remarkable, 260.

Menlo Park midnight suppers, 202.

Menlo Park reminiscences of Edison's staff and the

work, 199.

Menlo Park, the laboratory at, 197.
Messenger call, Edison invents, 156.
Method in inventing, Edison's, 294.
Microphone, the, 171.
Milan, removal to, 10.

Money Edison's first large earnings, 130, 151, 164, 168.
Morse, Samuel F. B., 2.
Motion-pictures, 264.

Motion-pictures, Edison's camera for, 268.
Motion-pictures kinetoscope, 2 70.
Motion-pictures making the pictures, 271.


Newspaper paragraph, comic, origin of, 89.

Newspaper published on train in motion, 29.

Newspapers, selling, by telegraphing news ahead, 30.

New York Edison lands in poverty, 120.

Night adventure in woods, 47.

Note-books, laboratory, 297.

OPERATOR, adventures of, 66.
Operator, an impecunious, 100.
Operator, bribing an, 79.
Operator, "salting" a new, 103.
Operator, the young, 55.
Orange, the laboratory at, 306.

PARAFFIN PAPER, Edison makes and introduces, 158.
Personality of Edison, 318.



Phonograph, improving the, 180.
Phonograph, inventing the, 176.
Phonograph making the records, 181.
Poured concrete house, 262.
Poverty, Edison, in, 120.

Press report taken by ingenious mechanism, 68.
Prince of Wales, visit to Canada, 48.
Publishing newspaper on train, 29.

QUADRUPLEX, exhibiting the, 149.
Quadruplex, germ of, 96.
Quadruplex, inventing the, 148.
Quadruplex, selling the, 151.


SAVING child from being struck by moving train, 36.

School days, 13.

Seidlitz-powder experiment, 20.

Shocking the boys, 95.

Signaling by locomotive whistle, 61.

Sleeping in roll-top desk, 278.

Sleeping on pile of iron pipes, 223.

Sleeping on table, 204.

Snowed under in a blizzard, 99.

Southern gentleman on train, story of, 45.

Stock ticker, Edison's first, 115.

Stock ticker, regular work on, 128.

Storage battery Edison's new type, 274.

Storage battery experimenters, 276.

Storage battery, nickel flake, 281.

Storage battery stories of experimenters, 277.

TAXIMETER, the, 174.

Telegraph, Edison's first experiments with, 35.
Telegraph, Edison invents sounder on a new prin-
ciple, 1 66.



Telegraph, first, 2.

Telegraph lines, private, 116.

Telegraph operator, Edison's first position at Stratford
Junction, 56.

Telegraph operator, Adrian, Michigan, 66.

Telegraph operator, Cincinnati, Ohio, 68.

Telegraph operator, Detroit, Michigan, 91.

Telegraph operator, Indianapolis, Indiana, 68.

Telegraph operator, Louisville, Kentucky, 77.

Telegraph operator, Memphis, Tennessee, 75.

Telegraph operator, Toledo, Ohio, 67.

Telegraph service, demoralization of, 77.

Telegraphy, automatic, 139.

Telegraphy, Edison's first lessons in, 37.

Telephone Edison invents carbon transmitter, etc., 162.

Telephone Edison invents many types of tele-
phones, 165.

Telephone Edison sells invention to Western Union, 164.

Telephone, loud-speaking, 168.

Thomas, General, cipher message for, 80.

Three-high rolls, 246.

Train, Edison put off on account of fire, 38.

Typewriter, Edison helps to complete the first, 155.

UNDERGROUND CONDUCTORS for electric light Edison
works in trenches, 223.




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Online LibraryWm. H. (William Henry) MeadowcroftThe boy's life of Edison → online text (page 15 of 15)