Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Edison, His Life and Inventions by Frank Lewis Dyer and Thomas Commerford Martin

Part 13 out of 17

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 1.8 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

and I ask you to read the testimony of Charles L. Clarke
along with that of Thomas A. Edison. He had rather a hard row
to hoe. He is a young gentleman; he is a very well-instructed
man in his profession; he is not what I have called in the argument
below an expert in the art of testifying, like some of the
others, he has not yet become expert; what he may descend to
later cannot be known; he entered upon his first experience, I
think, with my brother Duncan, who is no trifler when he comes
to deal with these questions, and for several months Mr. Clarke
was pursued up and down, over a range of suggestions of what he
would have thought if he had thought something else had been
said at some time when something else was not said."

Mr. Duncan--"I got three pages a day out of him, too."

Mr. Lowrey--"Well, it was a good result. It always recalled
to me what I venture now, since my friend breaks in upon me in
this rude manner, to tell the court as well illustrative of what
happened there. It is the story of the pickerel and the roach.
My friend, Professor Von Reisenberg, of the University of Ghent,
pursued a series of investigations into the capacity of various
animals to receive ideas. Among the rest he put a pickerel into
a tank containing water, and separated across its middle by a
transparent glass plate, and on the other side he put a red roach.
Now your Honors both know how a pickerel loves a red roach,
and I have no doubt you will remember that he is a fish of a very
low forehead and an unlimited appetite. When this pickerel saw
the red roach through the glass, he made one of those awful dashes
which is usually the ruin of whatever stands in its-way; but he
didn't reach the red roach. He received an impression, doubtless.
It was not sufficient, however, to discourage him, and he
immediately tried again, and he continued to try for three-
quarters of an hour. At the end of three-quarters of an hour he
seemed a little shaken and discouraged, and stopped, and the
red roach was taken out for that day and the pickerel left. On
the succeeding day the red roach was restored, and the pickerel
had forgotten the impressions of the first day, and he repeated
this again. At the end of the second day the roach was taken
out. This was continued, not through so long a period as the
effort to take my friend Clarke and devour him, but for a period
of about three weeks. At the end of the three weeks, the time
during which the pickerel persisted each day had been shortened
and shortened, until it was at last discovered that he didn't try
at all. The plate glass was then removed, and the pickerel and
the red roach sailed around together in perfect peace ever afterward.
The pickerel doubtless attributed to the roach all this
shaking, the rebuff which he had received. And that is about
the condition in which my brother Duncan and my friend Clarke
were at the end of this examination."

Mr. Duncan--"I notice on the redirect that Mr. Clarke changed
his color."

Mr. Lowrey--"Well, perhaps he was a different kind of a
roach then; but you didn't succeed in taking him.

"I beg your Honors to read the testimony of Mr. Clarke in the
light of the anecdote of the pickerel and the roach."

Owing to long-protracted delays incident to the
taking of testimony and preparation for trial, the
argument before the United States Circuit Court of
Appeals was not had until the late spring of 1892,
and its decision in favor of the Edison Lamp patent
was filed on October 4, 1892, MORE THAN TWELVE YEARS

As the term of the patent had been limited under
the law, because certain foreign patents had been
issued to Edison before that in this country, there
was now but a short time left for enjoyment of
the exclusive rights contemplated by the statute and
granted to Edison and his assigns by the terms of
the patent itself. A vigorous and aggressive legal
campaign was therefore inaugurated by the Edison
Electric Light Company against the numerous infringing
companies and individuals that had sprung
up while the main suit was pending. Old suits were
revived and new ones instituted. Injunctions were
obtained against many old offenders, and it seemed
as though the Edison interests were about to come
into their own for the brief unexpired term of the
fundamental patent, when a new bombshell was
dropped into the Edison camp in the shape of an
alleged anticipation of the invention forty years
previously by one Henry Goebel. Thus, in 1893,
the litigation was reopened, and a protracted series
of stubbornly contested conflicts was fought in the

Goebel's claims were not unknown to the Edison
Company, for as far back as 1882 they had been
officially brought to its notice coupled with an offer
of sale for a few thousand dollars. A very brief
examination into their merits, however, sufficed to
demonstrate most emphatically that Goebel had never
made a practical incandescent lamp, nor had he ever
contributed a single idea or device bearing, remotely
or directly, on the development of the art. Edison
and his company, therefore, rejected the offer unconditionally
and declined to enter into any arrangements
whatever with Goebel. During the prosecution
of the suits in 1893 it transpired that the Goebel
claims had also been investigated by the counsel of
the defendant company in the principal litigation already
related, but although every conceivable defence
and anticipation had been dragged into the case
during the many years of its progress, the alleged
Goebel anticipation was not even touched upon therein.
From this fact it is quite apparent that they placed
no credence on its bona fides.

But desperate cases call for desperate remedies.
Some of the infringing lamp-manufacturing concerns,
which during the long litigation had grown strong
and lusty, and thus far had not been enjoined by the
court, now saw injunctions staring them in the face,
and in desperation set up the Goebel so-called
anticipation as a defence in the suits brought against

This German watchmaker, Goebel, located in the
East Side of New York City, had undoubtedly been
interested, in a desultory kind of way, in simple
physical phenomena, and a few trifling experiments
made by him some forty or forty-five years previously
were magnified and distorted into brilliant and all-
comprehensive discoveries and inventions. Avalanches
of affidavits of himself, "his sisters and his
cousins and his aunts," practically all persons in
ordinary walks of life, and of old friends, contributed
a host of recollections that seemed little short of
miraculous in their detailed accounts of events of a
scientific nature that were said to have occurred so
many years before. According to affidavits of Goebel
himself and some of his family, nothing that would
anticipate Edison's claim had been omitted from his
work, for he (Goebel) claimed to have employed the
all-glass globe, into which were sealed platinum wires
carrying a tenuous carbon filament, from which the
occluded gases had been liberated during the process
of high exhaustion. He had even determined upon
bamboo as the best material for filaments. On the
face of it he was seemingly gifted with more than
human prescience, for in at least one of his exhibit
lamps, said to have been made twenty years previously,
he claimed to have employed processes which Edison
and his associates had only developed by several
years of experience in making thousands of lamps!

The Goebel story was told by the affidavits in an
ingenuous manner, with a wealth of simple homely
detail that carried on its face an appearance of truth
calculated to deceive the elect, had not the elect been
somewhat prepared by their investigation made some
eleven years before.

The story was met by the Edison interests with
counter-affidavits, showing its utter improbabilities
and absurdities from the standpoint of men of science
and others versed in the history and practice of the
art; also affidavits of other acquaintances and neighbors
of Goebel flatly denying the exhibitions he
claimed to have made. The issue thus being joined,
the legal battle raged over different sections of the
country. A number of contumeliously defiant infringers
in various cities based fond hopes of immunity
upon the success of this Goebel evidence, but
were defeated. The attitude of the courts is well
represented in the opinion of Judge Colt, rendered in
a motion for injunction against the Beacon Vacuum
Pump and Electrical Company. The defence alleged
the Goebel anticipation, in support of which it offered
in evidence four lamps, Nos. 1, 2, and 3 purporting
to have been made before 1854, and No. 4 before
1872. After a very full review of the facts in the
case, and a fair consideration of the defendants'
affidavits, Judge Colt in his opinion goes on to say:

"It is extremely improbable that Henry Goebel constructed
a practical incandescent lamp in 1854. This is
manifest from the history of the art for the past fifty
years, the electrical laws which since that time have been
discovered as applicable to the incandescent lamp, the
imperfect means which then existed for obtaining a
vacuum, the high degree of skill necessary in the construction
of all its parts, and the crude instruments with
which Goebel worked.

"Whether Goebel made the fiddle-bow lamps, 1, 2,
and 3, is not necessary to determine. The weight of
evidence on this motion is in the direction that he made
these lamp or lamps similar in general appearance, though
it is manifest that few, if any, of the many witnesses who
saw the Goebel lamp could form an accurate judgment of
the size of the filament or burner. But assuming they
were made, they do not anticipate the invention of Edison.
At most they were experimental toys used to advertise
his telescope, or to flash a light upon his clock,
or to attract customers to his shop. They were crudely
constructed, and their life was brief. They could not
be used for domestic purposes. They were in no proper
sense the practical commercial lamp of Edison. The
literature of the art is full of better lamps, all of which
are held not to anticipate the Edison patent.

"As for Lamp No. 4, I cannot but view it with
suspicion. It presents a new appearance. The reason
given for not introducing it before the hearing is
unsatisfactory. This lamp, to my mind, envelops with a cloud
of distrust the whole Goebel story. It is simply
impossible under the circumstances to believe that a lamp
so constructed could have been made by Goebel before
1872. Nothing in the evidence warrants such a sup-
position, and other things show it to be untrue. This
lamp has a carbon filament, platinum leading-in wires, a
good vacuum, and is well sealed and highly finished. It
is said that this lamp shows no traces of mercury in the
bulb because the mercury was distilled, but Goebel says
nothing about distilled mercury in his first affidavit, and
twice he speaks of the particles of mercury clinging to
the inside of the chamber, and for that reason he
constructed a Geissler pump after he moved to 468 Grand
Street, which was in 1877. Again, if this lamp has been
in his possession since before 1872, as he and his son swear,
why was it not shown to Mr. Crosby, of the American
Company, when he visited his shop in 1881 and was
much interested in his lamps? Why was it not shown
to Mr. Curtis, the leading counsel for the defendants in
the New York cases, when he was asked to produce a
lamp and promised to do so? Why did not his son take
this lamp to Mr. Bull's office in 1892, when he took the
old fiddle-bow lamps, 1, 2, and 3? Why did not his son
take this lamp to Mr. Eaton's office in 1882, when he tried
to negotiate the sale of his father's inventions to the
Edison Company? A lamp so constructed and made before
1872 was worth a large sum of money to those interested
in defeating the Edison patent like the American
Company, and Goebel was not a rich man. Both he and
one of his sons were employed in 1881 by the American
Company. Why did he not show this lamp to McMahon
when he called in the interest of the American Company
and talked over the electrical matters? When Mr.
Dreyer tried to organize a company in 1882, and procured
an option from him of all his inventions relating
to electric lighting for which $925 was paid, and when
an old lamp of this kind was of vital consequence and
would have insured a fortune, why was it not
forthcoming? Mr. Dreyer asked Goebel to produce an old
lamp, and was especially anxious to find one pending
his negotiations with the Edison Company for the sale
of Goebel's inventions. Why did he not produce this
lamp in his interviews with Bohm, of the American Company,
or Moses, of the Edison Company, when it was for
his interest to do so? The value of such an anticipation
of the Edison lamp was made known to him. He was
desirous of realizing upon his inventions. He was proud
of his incandescent lamps, and was pleased to talk about
them with anybody who would listen. Is it conceivable
under all these circumstances, that he should have had
this all-important lamp in his possession from 1872 to
1893, and yet no one have heard of it or seen it except
his son? It cannot be said that ignorance of the English
language offers an excuse. He knew English very well
although Bohm and Dreyer conversed with him in German.
His children spoke English. Neither his ignorance
nor his simplicity prevented him from taking out
three patents: the first in 1865 for a sewing-machine
hemmer, and the last in 1882 for an improvement in
incandescent lamps. If he made Lamp No. 4 previous to
1872, why was it not also patented?

"There are other circumstances which throw doubt
on this alleged Goebel anticipation. The suit against the
United States Electric Lighting Company was brought
in the Southern District of New York in 1885. Large
interests were at stake, and the main defence to the
Edison patent was based on prior inventions. This
Goebel claim was then investigated by the leading counsel
for the defence, Mr. Curtis. It was further inquired into
in 1892, in the case against the Sawyer-Man Company.
It was brought to the attention and considered by the
Edison Company in 1882. It was at that time known to
the American Company, who hoped by this means to
defeat the monopoly under the Edison patent. Dreyer
tried to organize a company for its purchase. Young
Goebel tried to sell it. It must have been known to
hundreds of people. And now when the Edison Company
after years of litigation, leaving but a short time for the
patent to run, have obtained a final adjudication establishing
its validity, this claim is again resurrected to defeat
the operation of the judgment so obtained. A court
in equity should not look with favor on such a defence.
Upon the evidence here presented, I agree with the first
impression of Mr. Curtis and with the opinion of Mr.
Dickerson that whatever Goebel did must be considered
as an abandoned experiment.

"It has often been laid down that a meritorious invention
is not to be defeated by something which rests
in speculation or experiment, or which is rudimentary or

"The law requires not conjecture, but certainty. It
is easy after an important invention has gone into public
use for persons to come forward with claims that they
invented the same thing years before, and to endeavor
to establish this by the recollection of witnesses as to
events long past. Such evidence is to be received with
great caution, and the presumption of novelty arising
from the grant of the patent is not to be overcome except
upon clear and convincing proof.

"When the defendant company entered upon the
manufacture of incandescent lamps in May, 1891, it well
knew the consequences which must follow a favorable
decision for the Edison Company in the New York case."

The injunction was granted.

Other courts took practically the same view of the
Goebel story as was taken by Judge Colt, and the
injunctions asked in behalf of the Edison interests
were granted on all applications except one in St.
Louis, Missouri, in proceedings instituted against a
strong local concern of that city.

Thus, at the eleventh hour in the life of this important
patent, after a long period of costly litigation,
Edison and his associates were compelled to assume
the defensive against a claimant whose utterly baseless
pretensions had already been thoroughly investigated
and rejected years before by every interested
party, and ultimately, on examination by the
courts, pronounced legally untenable, if not indeed
actually fraudulent. Irritating as it was to be forced
into the position of combating a proposition so well
known to be preposterous and insincere, there was
nothing else to do but to fight this fabrication with
all the strenuous and deadly earnestness that would
have been brought to bear on a really meritorious
defence. Not only did this Goebel episode divert
for a long time the energies of the Edison interests
from activities in other directions, but the cost of
overcoming the extravagantly absurd claims ran up
into hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Another quotation from Major Eaton is of interest
in this connection:

"Now a word about the Goebel case. I took personal
charge of running down this man and his pretensions
in the section of the city where he lived and
among his old neighbors. They were a typical East
Side lot--ignorant, generally stupid, incapable of
long memory, but ready to oblige a neighbor and to
turn an easy dollar by putting a cross-mark at the
bottom of a forthcoming friendly affidavit. I can
say in all truth and justice that their testimony
was utterly false, and that the lawyers who took it
must have known it.

"The Goebel case emphasizes two defects in the
court procedure in patent cases. One is that they
may be spun out almost interminably, even, possibly,
to the end of the life of the patent; the other is that
the judge who decides the case does not see the witnesses.
That adverse decision at St. Louis would
never have been made if the court could have seen
the men who swore for Goebel. When I met Mr. F.
P. Fish on his return from St. Louis, after he had
argued the Edison side, he felt keenly that disadvantage,
to say nothing of the hopeless difficulty of educating
the court."

In the earliest days of the art, when it was apparent
that incandescent lighting had come to stay, the
Edison Company was a shining mark at which the
shafts of the dishonest were aimed. Many there were
who stood ready to furnish affidavits that they or
some one else whom they controlled had really invented
the lamp, but would obligingly withdraw and
leave Edison in possession of the field on payment of
money. Investigation of these cases, however, revealed
invariably the purely fraudulent nature of all
such offers, which were uniformly declined.

As the incandescent light began to advance rapidly
in public favor, the immense proportions of the future
market became sufficiently obvious to tempt
unauthorized persons to enter the field and become
manufacturers. When the lamp became a thoroughly
established article it was not a difficult matter to
copy it, especially when there were employees to be
hired away at increased pay, and their knowledge
utilized by the more unscrupulous of these new
competitors. This is not conjecture but known to be a
fact, and the practice continued many years, during
which new lamp companies sprang up on every side.
Hence, it is not surprising that, on the whole, the
Edison lamp litigation was not less remarkable for
quantity than quality. Between eighty and ninety
separate suits upon Edison's fundamental lamp and
detail patents were brought in the courts of the
United States and prosecuted to completion.

In passing it may be mentioned that in England
France, and Germany also the Edison fundamental
lamp patent was stubbornly fought in the judicial
arena, and his claim to be the first inventor of
practical incandescent lighting was uniformly sustained
in all those countries.

Infringement was not, however, confined to the
lamp alone, but, in America, extended all along the
line of Edison's patents relating to the production
and distribution of electric light, including those on
dynamos, motors, distributing systems, sockets,
switches, and other details which he had from time
to time invented. Consequently, in order to protect
its interests at all points, the Edison Company had
found it necessary to pursue a vigorous policy of
instituting legal proceedings against the infringers of
these various patents, and, in addition to the large
number of suits on the lamp alone, not less than one
hundred and twenty-five other separate actions,
involving some fifty or more of Edison's principal
electric-lighting patents, were brought against concerns
which were wrongfully appropriating his ideas
and actively competing with his companies in the

The ramifications of this litigation became so
extensive and complex as to render it necessary to
institute a special bureau, or department, through
which the immense detail could be systematically
sifted, analyzed, and arranged in collaboration with
the numerous experts and counsel responsible for the
conduct of the various cases. This department was
organized in 1889 by Major Eaton, who was at this
time and for some years afterward its general counsel.

In the selection of the head of this department a
man of methodical and analytical habit of mind was
necessary, capable of clear reasoning, and at the same
time one who had gained a thoroughly practical
experience in electric light and power fields, and the
choice fell upon Mr. W. J. Jenks, the manager of the
Edison central station at Brockton, Massachusetts.
He had resigned that position in 1885, and had spent
the intervening period in exploiting the Edison
municipal system of lighting, as well as taking an
active part in various other branches of the Edison

Thus, throughout the life of Edison's patents on
electric light, power, and distribution, the interminable
legal strife has continued from day to day, from
year to year. Other inventors, some of them great
and notable, have been coming into the field since
the foundation of the art, patents have multiplied
exceedingly, improvement has succeeded improvement,
great companies have grown greater, new concerns
have come into existence, coalitions and mergers
have taken place, all tending to produce changes in
methods, but not much in diminution of patent
litigation. While Edison has not for a long time
past interested himself particularly in electric light
and power inventions, the bureau which was initiated
under the old regime in 1889 still continues, enlarged
in scope, directed by its original chief, but now conducted
under the auspices of several allied companies
whose great volumes of combined patents (including
those of Edison) cover a very wide range of the
electrical field.

As the general conception and theory of a lawsuit
is the recovery of some material benefit, the lay mind
is apt to conceive of great sums of money being
awarded to a complainant by way of damages upon
a favorable decision in an important patent case. It
might, therefore, be natural to ask how far Edison
or his companies have benefited pecuniarily by reason
of the many belated victories they have scored
in the courts. To this question a strict regard for
truth compels the answer that they have not been
benefited at all, not to the extent of a single dollar,
so far as cash damages are concerned.

It is not to be denied, however, that substantial
advantages have accrued to them more or less directly
through the numerous favorable decisions obtained
by them as a result of the enormous amount
of litigation, in the prosecution of which so great a
sum of money has been spent and so concentrated an
amount of effort and time lavished. Indeed, it would
be strange and unaccountable were the results otherwise.
While the benefits derived were not directly
pecuniary in their nature, they were such as tended
to strengthen commercially the position of the rightful
owners of the patents. Many irresponsible and
purely piratical concerns were closed altogether;
others were compelled to take out royalty licenses;
consolidations of large interests were brought about;
the public was gradually educated to a more correct
view of the true merits of conflicting claims, and,
generally speaking, the business has been greatly
unified and brought within well-defined and controllable

Not only in relation to his electric light and power
inventions has the progress of Edison and his associates
been attended by legal controversy all through
the years of their exploitation, but also in respect to
other inventions, notably those relating to the phonograph
and to motion pictures.

The increasing endeavors of infringers to divert into
their own pockets some of the proceeds arising from
the marketing of the devices covered by Edison's inventions
on these latter lines, necessitated the institution
by him, some years ago, of a legal department which,
as in the case of the light inventions, was designed to
consolidate all law and expert work and place it under
the management of a general counsel. The department
is of considerable extent, including a number of
resident and other associate counsel, and a general
office staff, all of whom are constantly engaged from
day to day in patent litigation and other legal work
necessary to protect the Edison interests. Through
their labors the old story is reiterated in the contesting
of approximate but conflicting claims, the never-
ending effort to suppress infringement, and the
destruction as far as possible of the commercial pirates
who set sail upon the seas of all successful enterprises.
The details, circumstances, and technical
questions are, of course, different from those relating
to other classes of inventions, and although there has
been no cause celebre concerning the phonograph and
motion-picture patents, the contention is as sharp and
strenuous as it was in the cases relating to electric
lighting and heavy current technics.

Mr. Edison's storage battery and the poured cement
house have not yet reached the stage of great commercial
enterprises, and therefore have not yet risen
to the dignity of patent litigation. If, however, the
experience of past years is any criterion, there will
probably come a time in the future when, despite
present widely expressed incredulity and contemptuous
sniffs of unbelief in the practicability of his ideas
in these directions, ultimate success will give rise to
a series of hotly contested legal conflicts such as have
signalized the practical outcome of his past efforts
in other lines.

When it is considered what Edison has done, what
the sum and substance of his contributions to human
comfort and happiness have been, the results, as
measured by legal success, have been pitiable. With
the exception of the favorable decision on the incandescent
lamp filament patent, coming so late, however,
that but little practical good was accomplished,
the reader may search the law-books in vain for a
single decision squarely and fairly sustaining a single
patent of first order. There never was a monopoly in
incandescent electric lighting, and even from the
earliest days competitors and infringers were in the
field reaping the benefits, and though defeated in the
end, paying not a cent of tribute. The market was
practically as free and open as if no patent existed.
There never was a monopoly in the phonograph;
practically all of the vital inventions were deliberately
appropriated by others, and the inventor was
laughed at for his pains. Even so beautiful a process
as that for the duplication of phonograph records was
solemnly held by a Federal judge as lacking invention
--as being obvious to any one. The mere fact
that Edison spent years of his life in developing that
process counted for nothing.

The invention of the three-wire system, which, when
it was first announced as saving over 60 per cent. of
copper in the circuits, was regarded as an utter
impossibility--this patent was likewise held by a Federal
judge to be lacking in invention. In the motion-
picture art, infringements began with its very
birth, and before the inevitable litigation could be
terminated no less than ten competitors were in the
field, with whom compromises had to be made.

In a foreign country, Edison would have undoubtedly
received signal honors; in his own country he
has won the respect and admiration of millions; but
in his chosen field as an inventor and as a patentee
his reward has been empty. The courts abroad have
considered his patents in a liberal spirit and given him
his due; the decisions in this country have fallen wide
of the mark. We make no criticism of our Federal
judges; as a body they are fair, able, and hard-
working; but they operate under a system of procedure
that stifles absolutely the development of inventive

Until that system is changed and an opportunity
offered for a final, swift, and economical adjudication
of patent rights, American inventors may well hesitate
before openly disclosing their inventions to the
public, and may seriously consider the advisability
of retaining them as "trade secrets."



THE title of this chapter might imply that there
is an unsocial side to Edison. In a sense this is
true, for no one is more impatient or intolerant of
interruption when deeply engaged in some line of
experiment. Then the caller, no matter how important
or what his mission, is likely to realize his utter
insignificance and be sent away without accomplishing
his object. But, generally speaking, Edison is easy
tolerance itself, with a peculiar weakness toward those
who have the least right to make any demands on his
time. Man is a social animal, and that describes
Edison; but it does not describe accurately the inventor
asking to be let alone.

Edison never sought Society; but "Society" has
never ceased to seek him, and to-day, as ever, the pressure
upon him to give up his work and receive honors,
meet distinguished people, or attend public functions,
is intense. Only two or three years ago, a flattering
invitation came from one of the great English universities
to receive a degree, but at that moment he was
deep in experiments on his new storage battery, and
nothing could budge him. He would not drop the
work, and while highly appreciative of the proposed
honor, let it go by rather than quit for a week or two
the stern drudgery of probing for the fact and the
truth. Whether one approves or not, it is at least
admirable stoicism, of which the world has too little.
A similar instance is that of a visit paid to the laboratory
by some one bringing a gold medal from a foreign
society. It was a very hot day in summer, the visitor
was in full social regalia of silk hat and frock-coat, and
insisted that he could deliver the medal only into
Edison's hands. At that moment Edison, stripped
pretty nearly down to the buff, was at the very crisis
of an important experiment, and refused absolutely
to be interrupted. He had neither sought nor
expected the medal; and if the delegate didn't care to
leave it he could take it away. At last Edison was
overpersuaded, and, all dirty and perspiring as he was,
received the medal rather than cause the visitor to
come again. On one occasion, receiving a medal in
New York, Edison forgot it on the ferry-boat and left
it behind him. A few years ago, when Edison had
received the Albert medal of the Royal Society of
Arts, one of the present authors called at the laboratory
to see it. Nobody knew where it was; hours
passed before it could be found; and when at last the
accompanying letter was produced, it had an office
date stamp right over the signature of the royal president.
A visitor to the laboratory with one of these
medallic awards asked Edison if he had any others.
"Oh yes," he said, "I have a couple of quarts more
up at the house!" All this sounds like lack of
appreciation, but it is anything else than that. While in
Paris, in 1889, he wore the decoration of the Legion of
Honor whenever occasion required, but at all other
times turned the badge under his lapel "because he
hated to have fellow-Americans think he was showing
off." And any one who knows Edison will bear testimony
to his utter absence of ostentation. It may be
added that, in addition to the two quarts of medals
up at the house, there will be found at Glenmont
many other signal tokens of esteem and good-will--a
beautiful cigar-case from the late Tsar of Russia,
bronzes from the Government of Japan, steel trophies
from Krupp, and a host of other mementos, to one of
which he thus refers: "When the experiments with
the light were going on at Menlo Park, Sarah
Bernhardt came to America. One evening, Robert L.
Cutting, of New York, brought her out to see the light.
She was a terrific `rubberneck.' She jumped all over
the machinery, and I had one man especially to guard
her dress. She wanted to know everything. She
would speak in French, and Cutting would translate
into English. She stayed there about an hour and a
half. Bernhardt gave me two pictures, painted by
herself, which she sent me from Paris."

Reference has already been made to the callers upon
Edison; and to give simply the names of persons of
distinction would fill many pages of this record. Some
were mere consumers of time; others were gladly
welcomed, like Lord Kelvin, the greatest physicist of
the last century, with whom Edison was always in
friendly communication. "The first time I saw Lord
Kelvin, he came to my laboratory at Menlo Park in
1876." (He reported most favorably on Edison's
automatic telegraph system at the Philadelphia
Exposition of 1876.) "I was then experimenting with
sending eight messages simultaneously over a wire by
means of synchronizing tuning-forks. I would take a
wire with similar apparatus at both ends, and would
throw it over on one set of instruments, take it away,
and get it back so quickly that you would not miss it,
thereby taking advantage of the rapidity of electricity
to perform operations. On my local wire I got it to
work very nicely. When Sir William Thomson (Kelvin)
came in the room, he was introduced to me, and
had a number of friends with him. He said: `What
have you here?' I told him briefly what it was. He
then turned around, and to my great surprise explained
the whole thing to his friends. Quite a different
exhibition was given two weeks later by another
well-known Englishman, also an electrician, who came
in with his friends, and I was trying for two hours to
explain it to him and failed."

After the introduction of the electric light, Edison
was more than ever in demand socially, but he shunned
functions like the plague, not only because of the
serious interference with work, but because of his deafness.
Some dinners he had to attend, but a man who
ate little and heard less could derive practically no
pleasure from them. "George Washington Childs was
very anxious I should go down to Philadelphia to dine
with him. I seldom went to dinners. He insisted I
should go--that a special car would leave New York.
It was for me to meet Mr. Joseph Chamberlain. We
had the private car of Mr. Roberts, President of the
Pennsylvania Railroad. We had one of those celebrated
dinners that only Mr. Childs could give, and
I heard speeches from Charles Francis Adams and dif-
ferent people. When I came back to the depot, Mr.
Roberts was there, and insisted on carrying my satchel
for me. I never could understand that."

Among the more distinguished visitors of the electric-
lighting period was President Diaz, with whom
Edison became quite intimate. "President Diaz, of
Mexico, visited this country with Mrs. Diaz, a highly
educated and beautiful woman. She spoke very good
English. They both took a deep interest in all they
saw. I don't know how it ever came about, as it is
not in my line, but I seemed to be delegated to show
them around. I took them to railroad buildings,
electric-light plants, fire departments, and showed
them a great variety of things. It lasted two days."
Of another visit Edison says: "Sitting Bull and fifteen
Sioux Indians came to Washington to see the
Great Father, and then to New York, and went to the
Goerck Street works. We could make some very
good pyrotechnics there, so we determined to give the
Indians a scare. But it didn't work. We had an arc
there of a most terrifying character, but they never
moved a muscle." Another episode at Goerck Street
did not find the visitors quite so stoical. "In testing
dynamos at Goerck Street we had a long flat belt running
parallel with the floor, about four inches above
it, and travelling four thousand feet a minute. One
day one of the directors brought in three or four ladies
to the works to see the new electric-light system. One
of the ladies had a little poodle led by a string. The
belt was running so smoothly and evenly, the poodle
did not notice the difference between it and the floor,
and got into the belt before we could do anything.
The dog was whirled around forty or fifty times, and
a little flat piece of leather came out--and the ladies

A very interesting period, on the social side, was the
visit paid by Edison and his family to Europe in 1889,
when he had made a splendid exhibit of his inventions
and apparatus at the great Paris Centennial Exposition
of that year, to the extreme delight of the French,
who welcomed him with open arms. The political
sentiments that the Exposition celebrated were not
such as to find general sympathy in monarchical
Europe, so that the "crowned heads" were conspicuous
by their absence. It was not, of course, by
way of theatrical antithesis that Edison appeared in
Paris at such a time. But the contrast was none the
less striking and effective. It was felt that, after all,
that which the great exposition exemplified at its best
--the triumph of genius over matter, over ignorance,
over superstition--met with its due recognition when
Edison came to participate, and to felicitate a noble
nation that could show so much in the victories of
civilization and the arts, despite its long trials and
its long struggle for liberty. It is no exaggeration to
say that Edison was greeted with the enthusiastic
homage of the whole French people. They could find
no praise warm enough for the man who had "organized
the echoes" and "tamed the lightning," and
whose career was so picturesque with eventful and
romantic development. In fact, for weeks together
it seemed as though no Parisian paper was considered
complete and up to date without an article on Edison.
The exuberant wit and fancy of the feuilletonists
seized upon his various inventions evolving from
them others of the most extraordinary nature with
which to bedazzle and bewilder the reader. At the
close of the Exposition Edison was created a Commander
of the Legion of Honor. His own exhibit,
made at a personal expense of over $100,000, covered
several thousand square feet in the vast Machinery
Hall, and was centred around a huge Edison lamp
built of myriads of smaller lamps of the ordinary size.
The great attraction, however, was the display of
the perfected phonograph. Several instruments were
provided, and every day, all day long, while the Exposition
lasted, queues of eager visitors from every
quarter of the globe were waiting to hear the little
machine talk and sing and reproduce their own voices.
Never before was such a collection of the languages
of the world made. It was the first linguistic
concourse since Babel times. We must let Edison tell
the story of some of his experiences:

"At the Universal Exposition at Paris, in 1889, I
made a personal exhibit covering about an acre. As
I had no intention of offering to sell anything I was
showing, and was pushing no companies, the whole
exhibition was made for honor, and without any hope
of profit. But the Paris newspapers came around and
wanted pay for notices of it, which we promptly refused;
whereupon there was rather a stormy time for
a while, but nothing was published about it.

"While at the Exposition I visited the Opera-House.
The President of France lent me his private box. The
Opera-House was one of the first to be lighted by
the incandescent lamp, and the managers took great
pleasure in showing me down through the labyrinth
containing the wiring, dynamos, etc. When I came
into the box, the orchestra played the `Star-Spangled
Banner,' and all the people in the house arose; whereupon
I was very much embarrassed. After I had been
an hour at the play, the manager came around and
asked me to go underneath the stage, as they were
putting on a ballet of 300 girls, the finest ballet in
Europe. It seems there is a little hole on the stage
with a hood over it, in which the prompter sits when
opera is given. In this instance it was not occupied,
and I was given the position in the prompter's seat,
and saw the whole ballet at close range.

"The city of Paris gave me a dinner at the new
Hotel de Ville, which was also lighted with the Edison
system. They had a very fine installation of machinery.
As I could not understand or speak a word
of French, I went to see our minister, Mr. Whitelaw
Reid, and got him to send a deputy to answer for me,
which he did, with my grateful thanks. Then the
telephone company gave me a dinner, and the engineers
of France; and I attended the dinner celebrating
the fiftieth anniversary of the discovery of photography.
Then they sent to Reid my decoration, and
they tried to put a sash on me, but I could not stand
for that. My wife had me wear the little red button,
but when I saw Americans coming I would slip it out
of my lapel, as I thought they would jolly me for wearing

Nor was this all. Edison naturally met many of
the celebrities of France: "I visited the Eiffel Tower
at the invitation of Eiffel. We went to the top, where
there was an extension and a small place in which
was Eiffel's private office. In this was a piano.
When my wife and I arrived at the top, we found that
Gounod, the composer, was there. We stayed a
couple of hours, and Gounod sang and played for us.
We spent a day at Meudon, an old palace given by the
government to Jansen, the astronomer. He occupied
three rooms, and there were 300. He had the grand
dining-room for his laboratory. He showed me a
gyroscope he had got up which made the incredible
number of 4000 revolutions in a second. A modification
of this was afterward used on the French Atlantic
lines for making an artificial horizon to take
observations for position at sea. In connection with
this a gentleman came to me a number of years afterward,
and I got out a part of some plans for him. He
wanted to make a gigantic gyroscope weighing several
tons, to be run by an electric motor and put on a sailing
ship. He wanted this gyroscope to keep a platform
perfectly horizontal, no matter how rough the sea was.
Upon this platform he was going to mount a telescope
to observe an eclipse off the Gold Coast of Africa. But
for some reason it was never completed.

"Pasteur invited me to come down to the Institute,
and I went and had quite a chat with him. I saw
a large number of persons being inoculated, and also
the whole modus operandi, which was very interesting.
I saw one beautiful boy about ten, the son of
an English lord. His father was with him. He had
been bitten in the face, and was taking the treatment.
I said to Pasteur, `Will he live?' `No,' said he, `the
boy will be dead in six days. He was bitten too
near the top of the spinal column, and came too
late!' "

Edison has no opinion to offer as an expert on art,
but has his own standard of taste: "Of course I
visited the Louvre and saw the Old Masters, which I
could not enjoy. And I attended the Luxembourg,
with modern masters, which I enjoyed greatly. To
my mind, the Old Masters are not art, and I suspect
that many others are of the same opinion; and that
their value is in their scarcity and in the variety of
men with lots of money." Somewhat akin to this is
a shrewd comment on one feature of the Exposition:
"I spent several days in the Exposition at Paris. I
remember going to the exhibit of the Kimberley diamond
mines, and they kindly permitted me to take
diamonds from some of the blue earth which they
were washing by machinery to exhibit the mine operations.
I found several beautiful diamonds, but they
seemed a little light weight to me when I was picking
them out. They were diamonds for exhibition purposes
--probably glass."

This did not altogether complete the European trip
of 1889, for Edison wished to see Helmholtz. "After
leaving Paris we went to Berlin. The French papers
then came out and attacked me because I went to
Germany; and said I was now going over to the enemy.
I visited all the things of interest in Berlin; and then
on my way home I went with Helmholtz and Siemens
in a private compartment to the meeting of the German
Association of Science at Heidelberg, and spent
two days there. When I started from Berlin on the
trip, I began to tell American stories. Siemens was
very fond of these stories and would laugh immensely
at them, and could see the points and the humor, by
his imagination; but Helmholtz could not see one of
them. Siemens would quickly, in German, explain
the point, but Helmholtz could not see it, although he
understood English, which Siemens could speak. Still
the explanations were made in German. I always
wished I could have understood Siemens's explanations
of the points of those stories. At Heidelberg, my
assistant, Mr. Wangemann, an accomplished German-
American, showed the phonograph before the Association."

Then came the trip from the Continent to England,
of which this will certainly pass as a graphic picture:
"When I crossed over to England I had heard a good
deal about the terrors of the English Channel as regards
seasickness. I had been over the ocean three
times and did not know what seasickness was, so far
as I was concerned myself. I was told that while a
man might not get seasick on the ocean, if he met a
good storm on the Channel it would do for him.
When we arrived at Calais to cross over, everybody
made for the restaurant. I did not care about eating,
and did not go to the restaurant, but my family did.
I walked out and tried to find the boat. Going along
the dock I saw two small smokestacks sticking up,
and looking down saw a little boat. `Where is the
steamer that goes across the Channel?' `This is the
boat.' There had been a storm in the North Sea that
had carried away some of the boats on the German
steamer, and it certainly looked awful tough outside.
I said to the man: `Will that boat live in that sea?'
`Oh yes,' he said, `but we've had a bad storm.' So I
made up my mind that perhaps I would get sick this
time. The managing director of the English railroad
owning this line was Forbes, who heard I was coming
over, and placed the private saloon at my disposal.
The moment my family got in the room with the
French lady's maid and the rest, they commenced to
get sick, so I felt pretty sure I was in for it. We
started out of the little inlet and got into the Channel,
and that boat went in seventeen directions simultaneously.
I waited awhile to see what was going to
occur, and then went into the smoking-compartment.
Nobody was there. By-and-by the fun began.
Sounds of all kinds and varieties were heard in every
direction. They were all sick. There must have
been 100 people aboard. I didn't see a single exception
except the waiters and myself. I asked one of
the waiters concerning the boat itself, and was taken
to see the engineer, and went down to look at the
engines, and saw the captain. But I kept mostly in
the smoking-room. I was smoking a big cigar, and
when a man looked in I would give a big puff, and
every time they saw that they would go away and
begin again. The English Channel is a holy terror,
all right, but it didn't affect me. I must be out of

While in Paris, Edison had met Sir John Pender,
the English "cable king," and had received an invitation
from him to make a visit to his country residence:
"Sir John Pender, the master of the cable system of
the world at that time, I met in Paris. I think he
must have lived among a lot of people who were very
solemn, because I went out riding with him in the Bois
de Boulogne and started in to tell him American
stories. Although he was a Scotchman he laughed
immoderately. He had the faculty of understanding
and quickly seeing the point of the stories; and for
three days after I could not get rid of him. Finally
I made him a promise that I would go to his country
house at Foot's Cray, near London. So I went there,
and spent two or three days telling him stories.

"While at Foot's Cray, I met some of the backers
of Ferranti, then putting up a gigantic alternating-
current dynamo near London to send ten or fifteen
thousand volts up into the main district of the city for
electric lighting. I think Pender was interested. At
any rate the people invited to dinner were very much
interested, and they questioned me as to what I
thought of the proposition. I said I hadn't any
thought about it, and could not give any opinion
until I saw it. So I was taken up to London to see
the dynamo in course of construction and the methods
employed; and they insisted I should give them some
expression of my views. While I gave them my
opinion, it was reluctantly; I did not want to do so.
I thought that commercially the thing was too ambitious,
that Ferranti's ideas were too big, just then;
that he ought to have started a little smaller until he
was sure. I understand that this installation was not
commercially successful, as there were a great many
troubles. But Ferranti had good ideas, and he was
no small man."

Incidentally it may be noted here that during the
same year (1889) the various manufacturing Edison
lighting interests in America were brought together,
under the leadership of Mr. Henry Villard, and
consolidated in the Edison General Electric Company
with a capital of no less than $12,000,000 on an eight-
per-cent.-dividend basis. The numerous Edison central
stations all over the country represented much
more than that sum, and made a splendid outlet for
the product of the factories. A few years later came
the consolidation with the Thomson-Houston interests
in the General Electric Company, which under the
brilliant and vigorous management of President C. A.
Coffin has become one of the greatest manufacturing
institutions of the country, with an output of apparatus
reaching toward $75,000,000 annually. The net result
of both financial operations was, however, to
detach Edison from the special field of invention to
which he had given so many of his most fruitful years;
and to close very definitely that chapter of his life,
leaving him free to develop other ideas and interests
as set forth in these volumes.

It might appear strange on the surface, but one of
the reasons that most influenced Edison to regrets in
connection with the "big trade" of 1889 was that it
separated him from his old friend and ally, Bergmann,
who, on selling out, saw a great future for himself in
Germany, went there, and realized it. Edison has
always had an amused admiration for Bergmann, and
his "social side" is often made evident by his love of
telling stories about those days of struggle. Some of
the stories were told for this volume. "Bergmann
came to work for me as a boy," says Edison. "He
started in on stock-quotation printers. As he was a
rapid workman and paid no attention to the clock, I
took a fancy to him, and gave him piece-work. He
contrived so many little tools to cheapen the work
that he made lots of money. I even helped him get
up tools until it occurred to me that this was too rapid
a process of getting rid of my money, as I hadn't the
heart to cut the price when it was originally fair.
After a year or so, Bergmann got enough money to
start a small shop in Wooster Street, New York, and
it was at this shop that the first phonographs were
made for sale. Then came the carbon telephone
transmitter, a large number of which were made by
Bergmann for the Western Union. Finally came the
electric light. A dynamo was installed in Bergmann's
shop to permit him to test the various small devices
which he was then making for the system. He rented
power from a Jew who owned the building. Power
was supplied from a fifty-horse-power engine to
other tenants on the several floors. Soon after the
introduction of the big dynamo machine, the landlord
appeared in the shop and insisted that Bergmann was
using more power than he was paying for, and said
that lately the belt on the engine was slipping and
squealing. Bergmann maintained that he must be
mistaken. The landlord kept going among his
tenants and finally discovered the dynamo. `Oh! Mr.
Bergmann, now I know where my power goes to,'
pointing to the dynamo. Bergmann gave him a
withering look of scorn, and said, `Come here and I
will show you.' Throwing off the belt and disconnecting
the wires, he spun the armature around by hand.
`There,' said Bergmann, `you see it's not here that
you must look for your loss.' This satisfied the landlord,
and he started off to his other tenants. He did
not know that that machine, when the wires were
connected, could stop his engine.

"Soon after, the business had grown so large that
E. H. Johnson and I went in as partners, and Bergmann
rented an immense factory building at the
corner of Avenue B and East Seventeenth Street,
New York, six stories high and covering a quarter of
a block. Here were made all the small things used on
the electric-lighting system, such as sockets, chandeliers,
switches, meters, etc. In addition, stock tickers,
telephones, telephone switchboards, and typewriters
were made the Hammond typewriters were perfected
and made there. Over 1500 men were finally
employed. This shop was very successful both
scientifically and financially. Bergmann was a man of
great executive ability and carried economy of
manufacture to the limit. Among all the men I have had
associated with me, he had the commercial instinct
most highly developed."

One need not wonder at Edison's reminiscent remark
that, "In any trade any of my `boys' made with
Bergmann he always got the best of them, no matter
what it was. One time there was to be a convention
of the managers of Edison illuminating companies at
Chicago. There were a lot of representatives from
the East, and a private car was hired. At Jersey City
a poker game was started by one of the delegates.
Bergmann was induced to enter the game. This was
played right through to Chicago without any sleep,
but the boys didn't mind that. I had gotten them
immune to it. Bergmann had won all the money, and
when the porter came in and said `Chicago,' Bergmann
jumped up and said: `What! Chicago! I thought it
was only Philadelphia!' "

But perhaps this further story is a better indication
of developed humor and shrewdness: "A man by the
name of Epstein had been in the habit of buying brass
chips and trimmings from the lathes, and in some way
Bergmann found out that he had been cheated. This
hurt his pride, and he determined to get even. One
day Epstein appeared and said: `Good-morning, Mr.
Bergmann, have you any chips to-day?' `No,' said
Bergmann, `I have none.' `That's strange, Mr.
Bergmann; won't you look?' No, he wouldn't look;
he knew he had none. Finally Epstein was so persistent
that Bergmann called an assistant and told
him to go and see if he had any chips. He returned
and said they had the largest and finest lot they ever
had. Epstein went up to several boxes piled full of
chips, and so heavy that he could not lift even one end
of a box. `Now, Mr. Bergmann,' said Epstein, `how
much for the lot?' `Epstein,' said Bergmann, `you
have cheated me, and I will no longer sell by the lot,
but will sell only by the pound.' No amount of argument
would apparently change Bergmann's determination
to sell by the pound, but finally Epstein got up
to $250 for the lot, and Bergmann, appearing as if
disgusted, accepted and made him count out the
money. Then he said: `Well, Epstein, good-bye,
I've got to go down to Wall Street.' Epstein and his
assistant then attempted to lift the boxes to carry
them out, but couldn't; and then discovered that cal-
culations as to quantity had been thrown out because
the boxes had all been screwed down to the floor and
mostly filled with boards with a veneer of brass chips.
He made such a scene that he had to be removed by
the police. I met him several days afterward and he
said he had forgiven Mr. Bergmann, as he was such a
smart business man, and the scheme was so ingenious.

"One day as a joke I filled three or four sheets of
foolscap paper with a jumble of figures and told
Bergmann they were calculations showing the great
loss of power from blowing the factory whistle.
Bergmann thought it real, and never after that would
he permit the whistle to blow."

Another glimpse of the "social side" is afforded in
the following little series of pen-pictures of the same
place and time: "I had my laboratory at the top of
the Bergmann works, after moving from Menlo Park.
The building was six stories high. My father came
there when he was eighty years of age. The old man
had powerful lungs. In fact, when I was examined
by the Mutual Life Insurance Company, in 1873, my
lung expansion was taken by the doctor, and the old
gentleman was there at the time. He said to the
doctor: `I wish you would take my lung expansion,
too.' The doctor took it, and his surprise was very
great, as it was one of the largest on record. I think
it was five and one-half inches. There were only
three or four could beat it. Little Bergmann hadn't
much lung power. The old man said to him, one day:
`Let's run up-stairs.' Bergmann agreed and ran up.
When they got there Bergmann was all done up, but
my father never showed a sign of it. There was an
elevator there, and each day while it was travelling up
I held the stem of my Waterbury watch up against
the column in the elevator shaft and it finished the
winding by the time I got up the six stories." This
original method of reducing the amount of physical
labor involved in watch-winding brings to mind another
instance of shrewdness mentioned by Edison,
with regard to his newsboy days. Being asked whether
he did not get imposed upon with bad bank-bills, he
replied that he subscribed to a bank-note detector and
consulted it closely whenever a note of any size fell
into his hands. He was then less than fourteen
years old.

The conversations with Edison that elicited these
stories brought out some details as to peril that
attends experimentation. He has confronted many a
serious physical risk, and counts himself lucky to have
come through without a scratch or scar. Four
instances of personal danger may be noted in his own
language: "When I started at Menlo, I had an electric
furnace for welding rare metals that I did not
know about very clearly. I was in the dark-room,
where I had a lot of chloride of sulphur, a very corrosive
liquid. I did not know that it would decompose
by water. I poured in a beakerful of water, and the
whole thing exploded and threw a lot of it into my
eyes. I ran to the hydrant, leaned over backward,
opened my eyes, and ran the hydrant water right
into them. But it was two weeks before I could see.

"The next time we just saved ourselves. I was
making some stuff to squirt into filaments for the
incandescent lamp. I made about a pound of it. I
had used ammonia and bromine. I did not know it
at the time, but I had made bromide of nitrogen. I
put the large bulk of it in three filters, and after it had
been washed and all the water had come through the
filter, I opened the three filters and laid them on a hot
steam plate to dry with the stuff. While I and Mr.
Sadler, one of my assistants, were working near it,
there was a sudden flash of light, and a very smart
explosion. I said to Sadler: `What is that?' `I
don't know,' he said, and we paid no attention. In
about half a minute there was a sharp concussion,
and Sadler said: `See, it is that stuff on the steam
plate.' I grabbed the whole thing and threw it in the
sink, and poured water on it. I saved a little of it
and found it was a terrific explosive. The reason why
those little preliminary explosions took place was that
a little had spattered out on the edge of the filter paper,
and had dried first and exploded. Had the main body
exploded there would have been nothing left of the
laboratory I was working in.

"At another time, I had a briquetting machine for
briquetting iron ore. I had a lever held down by a
powerful spring, and a rod one inch in diameter and
four feet long. While I was experimenting with it,
and standing beside it, a washer broke, and that
spring threw the rod right up to the ceiling with a
blast; and it came down again just within an inch
of my nose, and went clear through a two-inch
plank. That was `within an inch of your life,' as
they say.

"In my experimental plant for concentrating iron
ore in the northern part of New Jersey, we had a verti-
cal drier, a column about nine feet square and eighty
feet high. At the bottom there was a space where
two men could go through a hole; and then all the rest
of the column was filled with baffle plates. One day
this drier got blocked, and the ore would not run
down. So I and the vice-president of the company,
Mr. Mallory, crowded through the manhole to see why
the ore would not come down. After we got in, the
ore did come down and there were fourteen tons of it
above us. The men outside knew we were in there,
and they had a great time digging us out and getting
air to us."

Such incidents brought out in narration the fact
that many of the men working with him had been less
fortunate, particularly those who had experimented
with the Roentgen X-ray, whose ravages, like those of
leprosy, were responsible for the mutilation and death
of at least one expert assistant. In the early days of
work on the incandescent lamp, also, there was
considerable trouble with mercury. "I had a series of
vacuum-pumps worked by mercury and used for exhausting
experimental incandescent lamps. The main
pipe, which was full of mercury, was about seven and
one-half feet from the floor. Along the length of the
pipe were outlets to which thick rubber tubing was
connected, each tube to a pump. One day, while
experimenting with the mercury pump, my assistant,
an awkward country lad from a farm on Staten Island,
who had adenoids in his nose and breathed through
his mouth, which was always wide open, was looking
up at this pipe, at a small leak of mercury, when the
rubber tube came off and probably two pounds of
mercury went into his mouth and down his throat,
and got through his system somehow. In a short
time he became salivated, and his teeth got loose.
He went home, and shortly his mother appeared at
the laboratory with a horsewhip, which she proposed
to use on the proprietor. I was fortunately absent,
and she was mollified somehow by my other assistants.
I had given the boy considerable iodide of potassium
to prevent salivation, but it did no good in this case.

"When the first lamp-works were started at Menlo
Park, one of my experiments seemed to show that hot
mercury gave a better vacuum in the lamp than cold
mercury. I thereupon started to heat it. Soon all
the men got salivated, and things looked serious; but
I found that in the mirror factories, where mercury
was used extensively, the French Government made
the giving of iodide of potassium compulsory to prevent
salivation. I carried out this idea, and made
every man take a dose every day, but there was great
opposition, and hot mercury was finally abandoned."

It will have been gathered that Edison has owed his
special immunity from "occupational diseases" not
only to luck but to unusual powers of endurance, and
a strong physique, inherited, no doubt, from his father.
Mr. Mallory mentions a little fact that bears on this
exceptional quality of bodily powers. "I have often
been surprised at Edison's wonderful capacity for the
instant visual perception of differences in materials
that were invisible to others until he would patiently
point them out. This had puzzled me for years, but
one day I was unexpectedly let into part of the secret.
For some little time past Mr. Edison had noticed that
he was bothered somewhat in reading print, and I
asked him to have an oculist give him reading-glasses.
He partially promised, but never took time to attend
to it. One day he and I were in the city, and as Mrs.
Edison had spoken to me about it, and as we happened
to have an hour to spare, I persuaded him to go to
an oculist with me. Using no names, I asked the latter
to examine the gentleman's eyes. He did so very
conscientiously, and it was an interesting experience,
for he was kept busy answering Mr. Edison's numerous
questions. When the oculist finished, he turned to
me and said: "I have been many years in the business,
but have never seen an optic nerve like that of
this gentleman. An ordinary optic nerve is about
the thickness of a thread, but his is like a cord. He
must be a remarkable man in some walk of life.
Who is he?"

It has certainly required great bodily vigor and
physical capacity to sustain such fatigue as Edison
has all his life imposed upon himself, to the extent on
one occasion of going five days without sleep. In a
conversation during 1909, he remarked, as though it
were nothing out of the way, that up to seven years
previously his average of daily working hours was
nineteen and one-half, but that since then he figured
it at eighteen. He said he stood it easily, because he
was interested in everything, and was reading and
studying all the time. For instance, he had gone to
bed the night before exactly at twelve and had arisen
at 4.30 A. M. to read some New York law reports. It
was suggested that the secret of it might be that he
did not live in the past, but was always looking for-
ward to a greater future, to which he replied: "Yes,
that's it. I don't live with the past; I am living for
to-day and to-morrow. I am interested in every
department of science, arts, and manufacture. I read
all the time on astronomy, chemistry, biology, physics,
music, metaphysics, mechanics, and other branches--
political economy, 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 The Clipper, The Police Gazette, The Billboard,
The Dramatic Mirror, and a lot of similar publications,
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 enjoy every minute of it."
Referring to some event of the past, he said: "Spilt
milk doesn't interest me. I have spilt lots of it, and
while I have always felt it for a few days, it is quickly
forgotten, and I turn again to the future." During
another talk on kindred affairs it was suggested to
Edison that, as he had worked so hard all his life, it
was about time for him to think somewhat of the
pleasures of travel and the social side of life. To
which he replied laughingly: "I already have a schedule
worked out. From now until I am seventy-five
years of age, I expect to keep more or less busy with
my regular work, not, however, working as many
hours or as hard as I have in the past. At seventy
five I expect to wear loud waistcoats with fancy
buttons; also gaiter tops; at eighty I expect to learn how
to play bridge whist and talk foolishly to the ladies.
At eighty-five I expect to wear a full-dress suit every
evening at dinner, and at ninety--well, I never plan
more than thirty years ahead."

The reference to clothes is interesting, as it is one
of the few subjects in which Edison has no interest.
It rather bores him. His dress is always of the plainest;
in fact, so plain that, at the Bergmann shops in
New York, the children attending a parochial Catholic
school were wont to salute him with the finger to the
head, every time he went by. Upon inquiring, he
found that they took him for a priest, with his dark
garb, smooth-shaven face, and serious expression.
Edison 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
need never change measurements." In regard to
this, Mr. Mallory furnishes a bit of chat as follows:
"In a lawsuit in which I was a witness, I went out to
lunch with the lawyers on both sides, and the lawyer
who had been cross-examining me stated that he had
for a client a Fifth Avenue tailor, who had told him
that he had made all of Mr. Edison's clothes for the
last twenty years, and that he had never seen him.
He said that some twenty years ago a suit was sent
to him from Orange, and measurements were made
from it, and that every suit since had been made from
these measurements. I may add, from my own personal
observation, that in Mr. Edison's clothes there is
no evidence but that every new suit that he has worn
in that time looks as if he had been specially measured
for it, which shows how very little he has changed
physically in the last twenty years."

Edison has never had any taste for amusements,
although he will indulge in the game of "Parchesi"
and has a billiard-table in his house. The coming of
the automobile was a great boon to him, because it
gave him a form of outdoor sport in which he could
indulge in a spirit of observation, without the guilty
feeling that he was wasting valuable time. In his
automobile he has made long tours, and with his
family has particularly indulged his taste for botany.
That he has had the usual experience in running
machines will be evidenced by the following little
story from Mr. Mallory: "About three years ago I
had a motor-car of a make of which Mr. Edison had
already two cars; and when the car was received I made
inquiry as to whether any repair parts were carried
by any of the various garages in Easton, Pennsylvania,
near our cement works. I learned that this particular
car was the only one in Easton. Knowing that Mr.
Edison had had an experience lasting two or three
years with this particular make of car, I determined
to ask him for information relative to repair parts; so
the next time I was at the laboratory I told him I
was unable to get any repair parts in Easton, and that
I wished to order some of the most necessary, so that,
in case of breakdowns, I would not be compelled to
lose the use of the car for several days until the parts
came from the automobile factory. I asked his advice
as to what I should order, to which he replied:
`I don't think it will be necessary to order an extra
top.' " Since that episode, which will probably be
appreciated by most automobilists, Edison has taken
up the electric automobile, and is now using it as well
as developing it. One of the cars equipped with his
battery is the Bailey, and Mr. Bee tells the following
story in regard to it: "One day Colonel Bailey, of
Amesbury, Massachusetts, who was visiting the Automobile
Show in New York, came out to the laboratory
to see Mr. Edison, as the latter had expressed a desire
to talk with him on his next visit to the metropolis.
When he arrived at the laboratory, Mr. Edison, who
had been up all night experimenting, was asleep on the
cot in the library. As a rule we never wake Mr. Edison
from sleep, but as he wanted to see Colonel Bailey, who
had to go, I felt that an exception should be made, so
I went and tapped him on the shoulder. He awoke
at once, smiling, jumped up, was instantly himself as
usual, and advanced and greeted the visitor. His
very first question was: `Well, Colonel, how did you
come out on that experiment?'--referring to some
suggestions he had made at their last meeting a year
before. For a minute Colonel Bailey did not recall
what was referred to; but a few words from Mr. Edison
brought it back to his remembrance, and he reported
that the results had justified Mr. Edison's expectations."

It might be expected that Edison would have extreme
and even radical ideas on the subject of education--and
he has, as well as a perfect readiness to
express them, because he considers that time is wasted
on things that are not essential: "What we need,"
he has said, "are men capable of doing work. I
wouldn't give a penny for the ordinary college grad-
uate, except those from the institutes of technology.
Those coming up from the ranks are a darned sight
better than the others. They aren't filled up with
Latin, philosophy, and the rest of that ninny stuff."
A further remark of his is: "What the country needs
now is the practical skilled engineer, who is capable
of doing everything. In three or four centuries, when
the country is settled, and commercialism is diminished,
there will be time for the literary men. At
present we want engineers, industrial men, good
business-like managers, and railroad men." It is
hardly to be marvelled at that such views should
elicit warm protest, summed up in the comment:
"Mr. Edison and many like him see in reverse the
course of human progress. Invention does not
smooth the way for the practical men and make them
possible. There is always too much danger of neglecting
thoughts for things, ideas for machinery. No
theory of education that aggravates this danger is
consistent with national well-being."

Edison is slow to discuss the great mysteries of life,
but is of reverential attitude of mind, and ever tolerant
of others' beliefs. He is not a religious man in the
sense of turning to forms and creeds, but, as might be
expected, is inclined as an inventor and creator to
argue from the basis of "design" and thence to infer
a designer. "After years of watching the processes
of nature," he says, "I can no more doubt the existence
of an Intelligence that is running things than I
do of the existence of myself. Take, for example, the
substance water that forms the crystals known as ice.
Now, there are hundreds of combinations that form
crystals, and every one of them, save ice, sinks in
water. Ice, I say, doesn't, and it is rather lucky for
us mortals, for if it had done so, we would all be
dead. Why? Simply because if ice sank to the bottoms
of rivers, lakes, and oceans as fast as it froze,
those places would be frozen up and there would be
no water left. That is only one example out of thousands
that to me prove beyond the possibility of a
doubt that some vast Intelligence is governing this
and other planets."

A few words as to the domestic and personal side
of Edison's life, to which many incidental references
have already been made in these pages. He was
married in 1873 to Miss Mary Stillwell, 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 manufacturer 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, and which started in motion one of the
great modern educational and moral forces in America.
By this marriage there are three children--Charles,
Madeline, and Theodore.

For over a score of years, dating from his marriage
to Miss Miller, Edison's happy and perfect domestic
life has been spent at Glenmont, a beautiful property
acquired at that time in Llewellyn Park, on the higher
slopes of Orange Mountain, New Jersey, within easy
walking distance of the laboratory at the foot of the
hill in West Orange. As noted already, the latter
part of each winter is spent at Fort Myers, Florida,
where Edison has, on the banks of the Calahoutchie
River, a plantation home that is in many
ways a miniature copy of the home and laboratory
up North. Glenmont is a rather elaborate and
florid building in Queen Anne English style, of brick,
stone, and wooden beams showing on the exterior,
with an abundance of gables and balconies. It is
set in an environment of woods and sweeps of lawn,
flanked by unusually large conservatories, and
always bright in summer with glowing flower beds. It
would be difficult to imagine Edison in a stiffly formal
house, and this big, cozy, three-story, rambling mansion
has an easy freedom about it, without and within,
quite in keeping with the genius of the inventor, but
revealing at every turn traces of feminine taste and
culture. The ground floor, consisting chiefly of broad
drawing-rooms, parlors, and dining-hall, is chiefly
noteworthy for the "den," or lounging-room, at the
end of the main axis, where the family and friends
are likely to be found in the evening hours, unless
the party has withdrawn for more intimate social
intercourse to the interesting and fascinating private
library on the floor above. The lounging-room on
the ground floor is more or less of an Edison museum,
for it is littered with souvenirs from great people, and
with mementos of travel, all related to some event
or episode. A large cabinet contains awards,
decorations, and medals presented to Edison, accumulating
in the course of a long career, some of which
may be seen in the illustration opposite. Near by
may be noticed a bronze replica of the Edison gold
medal which was founded in the American Institute
of Electrical Engineers, the first award of which was
made to Elihu Thomson during the present year (1910).
There are statues of serpentine marble, gifts of the
late Tsar of Russia, whose admiration is also represented
by a gorgeous inlaid and enamelled cigar-case.

There are typical bronze vases from the Society of
Engineers of Japan, and a striking desk-set of writing
apparatus from Krupp, all the pieces being made out
of tiny but massive guns and shells of Krupp steel.
In addition to such bric-a-brac and bibelots of all
kinds are many pictures and photographs, including
the original sketches of the reception given to Edison
in 1889 by the Paris Figaro, and a letter from Madame
Carnot, placing the Presidential opera-box at the disposal
of Mr. and Mrs. Edison. One of the most conspicuous
features of the room is a phonograph equipment
on which the latest and best productions by
the greatest singers and musicians can always be
heard, but which Edison himself is everlastingly
experimenting with, under the incurable delusion that
this domestic retreat is but an extension of his

The big library--semi-boudoir--up-stairs is also
very expressive of the home life of Edison, but again
typical of his nature and disposition, for it is difficult
to overlay his many technical books and scientific
periodicals with a sufficiently thick crust of popular
magazines or current literature to prevent their
outcropping into evidence. In like manner the chat
and conversation here, however lightly it may begin,
turns invariably to large questions and deep problems,
especially in the fields of discovery and invention;
and Edison, in an easy-chair, will sit through
the long evenings till one or two in the morning,
pulling meditatively at his eyebrows, quoting something
he has just read pertinent to the discussion,
hearing and telling new stories with gusto, offering all
kinds of ingenious suggestions, and without fail
getting hold of pads and sheets of paper on which to
make illustrative sketches. He is wonderfully handy
with the pencil, and will sometimes amuse himself,
while chatting, with making all kinds of fancy bits
of penmanship, twisting his signature into circles and
squares, but always writing straight lines--so straight
they could not be ruled truer. Many a night it is a
question of getting Edison to bed, for he would much
rather probe a problem than eat or sleep; but at
whatever hour the visitor retires or gets up, he is sure
to find the master of the house on hand, serene and
reposeful, and just as brisk at dawn as when he
allowed the conversation to break up at midnight.
The ordinary routine of daily family life is of course
often interrupted by receptions and parties, visits to
the billiard-room, the entertainment of visitors, the
departure to and return from college, at vacation
periods, of the young people, and matters relating to
the many social and philanthropic causes in which
Mrs. Edison is actively interested; but, as a matter
of fact, Edison's round of toil and relaxation is singularly
uniform and free from agitation, and that is the
way he would rather have it.

Edison at sixty-three has a fine physique, and being
free from serious ailments of any kind, should carry
on the traditions of his long-lived ancestors as to a
vigorous old age. His hair has whitened, but is still
thick and abundant, and though he uses glasses for
certain work, 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 slim to
gauntness. He is very abstemious, hardly ever
touching alcohol, caring little for meat, but fond of
fruit, and never averse to a strong cup of coffee or
a good cigar. He takes extremely little exercise,
although his good color and quickness of step would
suggest to those who do not know better that he is in
the best of training, and one who lives in the open air.

His simplicity as to clothes has already been
described. One would be startled to see him with a
bright tie, a loud checked suit, or a fancy waistcoat,
and yet there is a curious sense of fastidiousness about
the plain things he delights in. Perhaps he is not
wholly responsible personally for this state of affairs.
In conversation Edison is direct, courteous, ready to
discuss a topic with anybody worth talking to, and,
in spite of his sore deafness, an excellent listener.
No one ever goes away from Edison in doubt as to
what he thinks or means, but he is ever shy and
diffident to a degree if the talk turns on himself
rather than on his work.

If the authors were asked, after having written the
foregoing pages, to explain here the reason for Edison's
success, based upon their observations so far made,
they would first answer that he combines with a vigorous
and normal physical structure a mind capable of
clear and logical thinking, and an imagination of
unusual activity. But this would by no means offer
a complete explanation. There are many men of
equal bodily and mental vigor who have not achieved
a tithe of his accomplishment. What other factors
are there to be taken into consideration to explain
this phenomenon? First, a stolid, almost phlegmatic,
nervous system which takes absolutely no notice of
ennui--a system like that of a Chinese ivory-carver who
works day after day and month after month on a piece
of material no larger than your hand. No better
illustration of this characteristic can be found than in
the development of the nickel pocket for the storage
battery, an element the size of a short lead-pencil, on
which upward of five years were spent in experiments,
costing over a million dollars, day after day,
always apparently with the same tubes but with
small variations carefully tabulated in the note-books.
To an ordinary person the mere sight of such a tube
would have been as distasteful, certainly after a week
or so, as the smell of a quail to a man striving to eat
one every day for a month, near the end of his gastronomic
ordeal. But to Edison these small perforated
steel tubes held out as much of a fascination at the
end of five years as when the search was first begun,
and every morning found him as eager to begin the
investigation anew as if the battery was an absolutely
novel problem to which his thoughts had just been

Another and second characteristic of Edison's personality
contributing so strongly to his achievements
is an intense, not to say courageous, optimism in
which no thought of failure can enter, an optimism
born of self-confidence, and becoming--after forty or
fifty years of experience more and more a sense of
certainty in the accomplishment of success. In the
overcoming of difficulties he has the same intellectual
pleasure as the chess-master when confronted with a
problem requiring all the efforts of his skill and
experience to solve. To advance along smooth and
pleasant paths, to encounter no obstacles, to wrestle
with no difficulties and hardships--such has absolutely
no fascination to him. He meets obstruction
with the keen delight of a strong man battling with the
waves and opposing them in sheer enjoyment, and the
greater and more apparently overwhelming the forces
that may tend to sweep him back, the more vigorous his
own efforts to forge through them. At the conclusion
of the ore-milling experiments, when practically his
entire fortune was sunk in an enterprise that had to
be considered an impossibility, when at the age of
fifty he looked back upon five or six years of intense
activity expended apparently for naught, when everything
seemed most black and the financial clouds were
quickly gathering on the horizon, not the slightest
idea of repining entered his mind. The main experiment
had succeeded--he had accomplished what he
sought for. Nature at another point had outstripped
him, yet he had broadened his own sum of knowledge
to a prodigious extent. It was only during the past
summer (1910) that one of the writers spent a Sunday
with him riding over the beautiful New Jersey roads
in an automobile, Edison in the highest spirits and
pointing out with the keenest enjoyment the many
beautiful views of valley and wood. The wanderings
led to the old ore-milling plant at Edison, now
practically a mass of deserted buildings all going to decay.
It was a depressing sight, marking such titanic but
futile struggles with nature. To Edison, however, no
trace of sentiment or regret occurred, and the whole
ruins were apparently as much a matter of unconcern
as if he were viewing the remains of Pompeii. Sitting
on the porch of the White House, where he lived during
that period, in the light of the setting sun, his fine face
in repose, he looked as placidly over the scene as a
happy farmer over a field of ripening corn. All that
he said was: "I never felt better in my life than during
the five years I worked here. Hard work, nothing to
divert my thought, clear air and simple food made my
life very pleasant. We learned a great deal. It will
be of benefit to some one some time." Similarly, in
connection with the storage battery, after having
experimented continuously for three years, it was found
to fall below his expectations, and its manufacture had
to be stopped. Hundreds of thousands of dollars had
been spent on the experiments, and, largely without
Edison's consent, the battery had been very generally
exploited in the press. To stop meant not only to
pocket a great loss already incurred, facing a dark and
uncertain future, but to most men animated by
ordinary human feelings, it meant more than anything
else, an injury to personal pride. Pride? Pooh!
that had nothing to do with the really serious practical
problem, and the writers can testify that at the
moment when his decision was reached, work stopped
and the long vista ahead was peered into, Edison was
as little concerned as if he had concluded that, after all,
perhaps peach-pie might be better for present diet
than apple-pie. He has often said that time meant
very little to him, that he had but a small realization
of its passage, and that ten or twenty years were as
nothing when considering the development of a vital

These references to personal pride recall another
characteristic of Edison wherein he differs from most
men. There are many individuals who derive an intense
and not improper pleasure in regalia or military
garments, with plenty of gold braid and brass buttons,
and thus arrayed, in appearing before their friends
and neighbors. Putting at the head of the procession
the man who makes his appeal to public attention
solely because of the brilliancy of his plumage, and
passing down the ranks through the multitudes having
a gradually decreasing sense of vanity in their personal
accomplishment, Edison would be placed at the
very end. Reference herein has been made to the
fact that one of the two great English universities
wished to confer a degree upon him, but that he was
unable to leave his work for the brief time necessary
to accept the honor. At that occasion it was pointed
out to him that he should make every possible sacrifice
to go, that the compliment was great, and that but
few Americans had been so recognized. It was hope-
less--an appeal based on sentiment. Before him was
something real--work to be accomplished--a problem
to be solved. Beyond, was a prize as intangible as
the button of the Legion of Honor, which he concealed
from his friends that they might not feel he was
"showing off." The fact is that Edison cares little
for the approval of the world, but that he cares everything
for the approval of himself. Difficult as it may
be--perhaps impossible--to trace its origin, Edison
possesses what he would probably call a well-developed
case of New England conscience, for whose approval
he is incessantly occupied.

These, then, may be taken as the characteristics of
Edison that have enabled him to accomplish more
than most men--a strong body, a clear and active
mind, a developed imagination, a capacity of great
mental and physical concentration, an iron-clad nervous
system that knows no ennui, intense optimism,
and courageous self-confidence. Any one having these
capacities developed to the same extent, with the
same opportunities for use, would probably accomplish
as much. And yet there is a peculiarity about
him that so far as is known has never been referred to
before in print. He seems to be conscientiously
afraid of appearing indolent, and in consequence
subjects himself regularly to unnecessary hardship.
Working all night is seldom necessary, or until two or
three o'clock in the morning, yet even now he persists
in such tests upon his strength. Recently one of the
writers had occasion to present to him a long type-
written document of upward of thirty pages for his
approval. It was taken home to Glenmont. Edison
had a few minor corrections to make, probably not
more than a dozen all told. They could have been
embodied by interlineations and marginal notes in the
ordinary way, and certainly would not have required
more than ten or fifteen minutes of his time. Yet
ENTIRE PAPER IN LONG HAND, embodying the corrections
as he went along, and presented the result of his work
the following morning. At the very least such a task
must have occupied several hours. How can such a
trait--and scores of similar experiences could be given
--be explained except by the fact that, evidently, he
felt the need of special schooling in industry--that
under no circumstances must he allow a thought of
indolence to enter his mind?

Undoubtedly in the days to come Edison will not
only be recognized as an intellectual prodigy, but as a
prodigy of industry--of hard work. In his field as
inventor and man of science he stands as clear-cut and
secure as the lighthouse on a rock, and as indifferent
to the tumult around. But as the "old man"--
and before he was thirty years old he was affectionately
so called by his laboratory associates--he is a
normal, fun-loving, typical American. His sense of
humor is intense, but not of the hothouse, over-
developed variety. One of his favorite jokes is to
enter the legal department with an air of great
humility and apply for a job as an inventor! Never is
he so preoccupied or fretted with cares as not to drop
all thought of his work for a few moments to listen to
a new story, with a ready smile all the while, and a
hearty, boyish laugh at the end. His laugh, in fact,
is sometimes almost aboriginal; slapping his hands
delightedly on his knees, he rocks back and forth and
fairly shouts his pleasure. Recently a daily report
of one of his companies that had just been started
contained a large order amounting to several thousand
dollars, and was returned by him with a miniature
sketch of a small individual viewing that particular
item through a telescope! His facility in making
hasty but intensely graphic sketches is proverbial.
He takes great delight in imitating the lingo of the
New York street gamin. A dignified person named
James may be greeted with: "Hully Gee! Chimmy,
when did youse blow in?" He likes to mimic and
imitate types, generally, that are distasteful to him.
The sanctimonious hypocrite, the sleek speculator,
and others whom he has probably encountered in life
are done "to the queen's taste."

One very cold winter's day he entered the laboratory
library in fine spirits, "doing" the decayed dandy,
with imaginary cane under his arm, struggling to put
on a pair of tattered imaginary gloves, with a self-
satisfied smirk and leer that would have done credit
to a real comedian. This particular bit of acting was
heightened by the fact that even in the coldest weather
he wears thin summer clothes, generally acid-worn and
more or less disreputable. For protection he varies
the number of his suits of underclothing, sometimes
wearing three or four sets, according to the thermometer.

If one could divorce Edison from the idea of work,
and could regard him separate and apart from his
embodiment as an inventor and man of science, it
might truly be asserted that his temperament is essentially
mercurial. Often he is in the highest spirits,
with all the spontaneity of youth, and again he is
depressed, moody, and violently angry. Anger with
him, however, is a good deal like the story attributed
to Napoleon:

"Sire, how is it that your judgment is not affected
by your great rage?" asked one of his courtiers.

"Because," said the Emperor, "I never allow it to
rise above this line," drawing his hand across his
throat. Edison has been seen sometimes almost beside
himself with anger at a stupid mistake or inexcusable
oversight on the part of an assistant, his voice
raised to a high pitch, sneeringly expressing his feelings
of contempt for the offender; and yet when the
culprit, like a bad school-boy, has left the room,
Edison has immediately returned to his normal poise,
and the incident is a thing of the past. At other
times the unsettled condition persists, and his spleen
is vented not only on the original instigator but upon
others who may have occasion to see him, sometimes
hours afterward. When such a fit is on him the word
is quickly passed around, and but few of his associates
find it necessary to consult with him at the time. The
genuine anger can generally be distinguished from the
imitation article by those who know him intimately
by the fact that when really enraged his forehead
between the eyes partakes of a curious rotary movement
that cannot be adequately described in words.
It is as if the storm-clouds within are moving like a
whirling cyclone. As a general rule, Edison does not
get genuinely angry at mistakes and other human
weaknesses of his subordinates; at best he merely
simulates anger. But woe betide the one who has
committed an act of bad faith, treachery, dishonesty,
or ingratitude; THEN Edison can show what it is for a
strong man to get downright mad. But in this respect
he is singularly free, and his spells of anger are
really few. In fact, those who know him best are
continually surprised at his moderation and patience,
often when there has been great provocation. People
who come in contact with him and who may have
occasion to oppose his views, may leave with the
impression that he is hot-tempered; nothing could be
further from the truth. He argues his point with
great vehemence, pounds on the table to emphasize
his views, and illustrates his theme with a wealth of
apt similes; but, on account of his deafness, it is
difficult to make the argument really two-sided. Before
the visitor can fully explain his side of the matter
some point is brought up that starts Edison off again,
and new arguments from his viewpoint are poured
forth. This constant interruption is taken by many
to mean that Edison has a small opinion of any
arguments that oppose him; but he is only intensely in
earnest in presenting his own side. If the visitor
persists until Edison has seen both sides of the controversy,
he is always willing to frankly admit that his
own views may be unsound and that his opponent is
right. In fact, after such a controversy, both parties

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest