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

Part 7 out of 17

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additional comfort, convenience, and beauty in the
home, that inspection was almost invariably followed
by a request for installation.

The camaraderie that existed at this time was very
democratic, for all were workers in a common cause;
all were enthusiastic believers in the doctrine they
proclaimed, and hoped to profit by the opening up
of the new art. Often at night, in the small hours,
all would adjourn for refreshments to a famous resort
nearby, to discuss the events of to-day and to-
morrow, full of incident and excitement. The easy
relationship of the time is neatly sketched by Edison
in a humorous complaint as to his inability to keep
his own cigars: "When at `65' I used to have in my
desk a box of cigars. I would go to the box four or
five times to get a cigar, but after it got circulated
about the building, everybody would come to get
my cigars, so that the box would only last about a
day and a half. I was telling a gentleman one day
that I could not keep a cigar. Even if I locked them
up in my desk they would break it open. He suggested
to me that he had a friend over on Eighth
Avenue who made a superior grade of cigars, and
who would show them a trick. He said he would
have some of them made up with hair and old paper,
and I could put them in without a word and see the
result. I thought no more about the matter. He
came in two or three months after, and said: `How
did that cigar business work?' I didn't remember
anything about it. On coming to investigate, it
appeared that the box of cigars had been delivered
and had been put in my desk, and I had smoked
them all! I was too busy on other things to notice."

It was no uncommon sight to see in the parlors in
the evening John Pierpont Morgan, Norvin Green,
Grosvenor P. Lowrey, Henry Villard, Robert L.
Cutting, Edward D. Adams, J. Hood Wright, E. G.
Fabbri, R. M. Galloway, and other men prominent in
city life, many of them stock-holders and directors;
all interested in doing this educational work. Thousands
of persons thus came--bankers, brokers, lawyers,
editors, and reporters, prominent business men,
electricians, insurance experts, under whose searching
and intelligent inquiries the facts were elicited, and
general admiration was soon won for the system,
which in advance had solved so many new problems.
Edison himself was in universal request and the subject
of much adulation, but altogether too busy and
modest to be spoiled by it. Once in a while he felt
it his duty to go over the ground with scientific
visitors, many of whom were from abroad, and discuss
questions which were not simply those of technique,
but related to newer phenomena, such as the
action of carbon, the nature and effects of high
vacua; the principles of electrical subdivision; the
value of insulation, and many others which, unfortu-
nate to say, remain as esoteric now as they were then,
ever fruitful themes of controversy.

Speaking of those days or nights, Edison says:
"Years ago one of the great violinists was Remenyi.
After his performances were over he used to come
down to `65' and talk economics, philosophy, moral
science, and everything else. He was highly educated
and had great mental capacity. He would talk with
me, but I never asked him to bring his violin. One
night he came with his violin, about twelve o'clock.
I had a library at the top of the house, and Remenyi
came up there. He was in a genial humor, and played
the violin for me for about two hours--$2000 worth.
The front doors were closed, and he walked up and
down the room as he played. After that, every time
he came to New York he used to call at `65' late at
night with his violin. If we were not there, he could
come down to the slums at Goerck Street, and would
play for an hour or two and talk philosophy. I would
talk for the benefit of his music. Henry E. Dixey,
then at the height of his `Adonis' popularity, would
come in in those days, after theatre hours, and would
entertain us with stories--1882-84. Another visitor
who used to give us a good deal of amusement and
pleasure was Captain Shaw, the head of the London
Fire Brigade. He was good company. He would
go out among the fire-laddies and have a great time.
One time Robert Lincoln and Anson Stager, of the
Western Union, interested in the electric light, came
on to make some arrangement with Major Eaton,
President of the Edison Electric Light Company.
They came to `65' in the afternoon, and Lincoln com-
menced telling stories--like his father. They told
stories all the afternoon, and that night they left for
Chicago. When they got to Cleveland, it dawned
upon them that they had not done any business, so
they had to come back on the next train to New York
to transact it. They were interested in the Chicago
Edison Company, now one of the largest of the
systems in the world. Speaking of telling stories, I
once got telling a man stories at the Harrison lamp
factory, in the yard, as he was leaving. It was
winter, and he was all in furs. I had nothing on to
protect me against the cold. I told him one story
after the other--six of them. Then I got pleurisy,
and had to be shipped to Florida for cure."

The organization of the Edison Electric Light Company
went back to 1878; but up to the time of leasing
65 Fifth Avenue it had not been engaged in actual
business. It had merely enjoyed the delights of
anxious anticipation, and the perilous pleasure of
backing Edison's experiments. Now active exploitation
was required. Dr. Norvin Green, the well-known
President of the Western Union Telegraph Company,
was president also of the Edison Company, but the
pressing nature of his regular duties left him no
leisure for such close responsible management as was
now required. Early in 1881 Mr. Grosvenor P.
Lowrey, after consultation with Mr. Edison, prevailed
upon Major S. B. Eaton, the leading member
of a very prominent law firm in New York, to
accept the position of vice-president and general
manager of the company, in which, as also in some
of the subsidiary Edison companies, and as presi-
dent, he continued actively and energetically for
nearly four years, a critical, formative period in which
the solidity of the foundation laid is attested by the
magnitude and splendor of the superstructure.

The fact that Edison conferred at this point with
Mr. Lowrey should, perhaps, be explained in justice
to the distinguished lawyer, who for so many years
was the close friend of the inventor, and the chief
counsel in all the tremendous litigation that followed
the effort to enforce and validate the Edison patents.
As in England Mr. Edison was fortunate in securing
the legal assistance of Sir Richard Webster, afterward
Lord Chief Justice of England, so in America it
counted greatly in his favor to enjoy the advocacy
of such a man as Lowrey, prominent among the famous
leaders of the New York bar. Born in Massachusetts,
Mr. Lowrey, in his earlier days of straitened
circumstances, was accustomed to defray some portion
of his educational expenses by teaching music
in the Berkshire villages, and by a curious coincidence
one of his pupils was F. L. Pope, later Edison's
partner for a time. Lowrey went West to "Bleeding
Kansas" with the first Governor, Reeder, and both
were active participants in the exciting scenes of the
"Free State" war until driven away in 1856, like
many other free-soilers, by the acts of the "Border
Ruffian" legislature. Returning East, Mr. Lowrey
took up practice in New York, soon becoming eminent
in his profession, and upon the accession of William
Orton to the presidency of the Western Union Telegraph
Company in 1866, he was appointed its general
counsel, the duties of which post he discharged for
fifteen years. One of the great cases in which he
thus took a leading and distinguished part was that
of the quadruplex telegraph; and later he acted as
legal adviser to Henry Villard in his numerous
grandiose enterprises. Lowrey thus came to know
Edison, to conceive an intense admiration for him,
and to believe in his ability at a time when others
could not detect the fire of genius smouldering beneath
the modest exterior of a gaunt young operator
slowly "finding himself." It will be seen that Mr
Lowrey was in a peculiarly advantageous position to
make his convictions about Edison felt, so that it was
he and his friends who rallied quickly to the new
banner of discovery, and lent to the inventor the aid
that came at a critical period. In this connection it
may be well to quote an article that appeared at the
time of Mr. Lowrey's death, in 1893: "One of the
most important services which Mr. Lowrey has ever
performed was in furnishing and procuring the necessary
financial backing for Thomas A. Edison in bringing
out and perfecting his system of incandescent
lighting. With characteristic pertinacity, Mr. Lowrey
stood by the inventor through thick and thin, in spite
of doubt, discouragement, and ridicule, until at last
success crowned his efforts. In all the litigation
which has resulted from the wide-spread infringements
of the Edison patents, Mr. Lowrey has ever
borne the burden and heat of the day, and perhaps
in no other field has he so personally distinguished
himself as in the successful advocacy of the claims of
Edison to the invention of the incandescent lamp
and everything "hereunto pertaining."

This was the man of whom Edison had necessarily
to make a confidant and adviser, and who supplied
other things besides the legal direction and financial
alliance, by his knowledge of the world and of affairs.
There were many vital things to be done in the
exploitation of the system that Edison simply could
not and would not do; but in Lowrey's savoir faire,
ready wit and humor, chivalry of devotion, graceful
eloquence, and admirable equipoise of judgment were
all the qualities that the occasion demanded and that
met the exigencies.

We are indebted to Mr. Insull for a graphic sketch
of Edison at this period, and of the conditions under
which work was done and progress was made: "I do
not think I had any understanding with Edison
when I first went with him as to my duties. I did
whatever he told me, and looked after all kinds of
affairs, from buying his clothes to financing his business.
I used to open the correspondence and answer
it all, sometimes signing Edison's name with my
initial, and sometimes signing my own name. If the
latter course was pursued, and I was addressing a
stranger, I would sign as Edison's private secretary.
I held his power of attorney, and signed his checks.
It was seldom that Edison signed a letter or check at
this time. If he wanted personally to send a
communication to anybody, if it was one of his close
associates, it would probably be a pencil memorandum
signed `Edison.' I was a shorthand writer, but seldom
took down from Edison's dictation, unless it was
on some technical subject that I did not understand.
I would go over the correspondence with Edison,
sometimes making a marginal note in shorthand, and
sometimes Edison would make his own notes on letters,
and I would be expected to clean up the correspondence
with Edison's laconic comments as a guide
as to the character of answer to make. It was a
very common thing for Edison to write the words
`Yes' or `No,' and this would be all I had on which
to base my answer. Edison marginalized documents
extensively. He had a wonderful ability in pointing
out the weak points of an agreement or a balance-sheet,
all the while protesting he was no lawyer or accountant;
and his views were expressed in very few words,
but in a characteristic and emphatic manner.

"The first few months I was with Edison he spent
most of the time in the office at 65 Fifth Avenue.
Then there was a great deal of trouble with the life
of the lamps there, and he disappeared from the
office and spent his time largely at Menlo Park. At
another time there was a great deal of trouble
with some of the details of construction of the
dynamos, and Edison spent a lot of time at Goerck
Street, which had been rapidly equipped with the
idea of turning out bi-polar dynamo-electric machines,
direct-connected to the engine, the first of
which went to Paris and London, while the next were
installed in the old Pearl Street station of the Edison
Electric Illuminating Company of New York, just
south of Fulton Street, on the west side of the street.
Edison devoted a great deal of his time to the
engineering work in connection with the laying out of
the first incandescent electric-lighting system in New
York. Apparently at that time--between the end
of 1881 and spring of 1882--the most serious work
was the manufacture and installation of underground
conductors in this territory. These conductors
were manufactured by the Electric Tube
Company, which Edison controlled in a shop at 65
Washington Street, run by John Kruesi. Half-round
copper conductors were used, kept in place relatively
to each other and in the tube, first of all by a heavy
piece of cardboard, and later on by a rope; and then
put in a twenty-foot iron pipe; and a combination of
asphaltum and linseed oil was forced into the pipe for
the insulation. I remember as a coincidence that the
building was only twenty feet wide. These lengths
of conductors were twenty feet six inches long, as
the half-round coppers extended three inches beyond
the drag-ends of the lengths of pipe; and in one of
the operations we used to take the length of tubing
out of the window in order to turn it around. I was
elected secretary of the Electric Tube Company, and
was expected to look after its finance; and it was in
this position that my long intimacy with John Kruesi

At this juncture a large part of the correspondence
referred very naturally to electric lighting, embodying
requests for all kinds of information, catalogues,
prices, terms, etc.; and all these letters were turned
over to the lighting company by Edison for attention.
The company was soon swamped with propositions for
sale of territorial rights and with other negotiations,
and some of these were accompanied by the offer of
very large sums of money. It was the beginning of
the electric-light furor which soon rose to sensational
heights. Had the company accepted the cash offers
from various localities, it could have gathered several
millions of dollars at once into its treasury; but this
was not at all in accord with Mr. Edison's idea, which
was to prove by actual experience the commercial
value of the system, and then to license central-
station companies in large cities and towns, the parent
company taking a percentage of their capital for the
license under the Edison patents, and contracting
also for the supply of apparatus, lamps, etc. This
left the remainder of the country open for the cash
sale of plants wherever requested. His counsels prevailed,
and the wisdom of the policy adopted was seen
in the swift establishment of Edison companies in
centres of population both great and small, whose
business has ever been a constant and growing source
of income for the parent manufacturing interests.

From first to last Edison has been an exponent and
advocate of the central-station idea of distribution
now so familiar to the public mind, but still very far
from being carried out to its logical conclusion. In
this instance, demands for isolated plants for lighting
factories, mills, mines, hotels, etc., began to pour in,
and something had to be done with them. This was
a class of plant which the inquirers desired to purchase
outright and operate themselves, usually because
of remoteness from any possible source of
general supply of current. It had not been Edison's
intention to cater to this class of customer until his
broad central-station plan had been worked out, and
he has always discouraged the isolated plant within
the limits of urban circuits; but this demand was so
insistent it could not be denied, and it was deemed
desirable to comply with it at once, especially as it
was seen that the steady call for supplies and renewals
would benefit the new Edison manufacturing
plants. After a very short trial, it was found necessary
to create a separate organization for this branch
of the industry, leaving the Edison Electric Light
Company to continue under the original plan of
operation as a parent, patent-holding and licensing
company. Accordingly a new and distinct corporation
was formed called the Edison Company for
Isolated Lighting, to which was issued a special
license to sell and operate plants of a self-contained
character. As a matter of fact such work began in
advance of almost every other kind. A small plant
using the paper-carbon filament lamps was furnished
by Edison at the earnest solicitation of Mr. Henry
Villard for the steamship Columbia, in 1879, and it
is amusing to note that Mr. Upton carried the lamps
himself to the ship, very tenderly and jealously, like
fresh eggs, in a market-garden basket. The installation
was most successful. Another pioneer plant was
that equipped and started in January, 1881, for
Hinds & Ketcham, a New York firm of lithographers
and color printers, who had previously been able to
work only by day, owing to difficulties in color-
printing by artificial light. A year later they said:
"It is the best substitute for daylight we have ever
known, and almost as cheap."

Mr. Edison himself describes various instances in
which the demand for isolated plants had to be met:
"One night at `65,' " he says, "James Gordon Bennett
came in. We were very anxious to get into a printing
establishment. I had caused a printer's composing
case to be set up with the idea that if we could get
editors and publishers in to see it, we should show
them the advantages of the electric light. So ultimately
Mr. Bennett came, and after seeing the whole
operation of everything, he ordered Mr. Howland,
general manager of the Herald, to light the newspaper
offices up at once with electricity."

Another instance of the same kind deals with the
introduction of the light for purely social purposes:
"While at 65 Fifth Avenue," remarks Mr. Edison,
"I got to know Christian Herter, then the largest
decorator in the United States. He was a highly
intellectual man, and I loved to talk to him. He was
always railing against the rich people, for whom he
did work, for their poor taste. One day Mr. W. H.
Vanderbilt came to `65,' saw the light, and decided
that he would have his new house lighted with it.
This was one of the big `box houses' on upper Fifth
Avenue. He put the whole matter in the hands of
his son-in-law, Mr. H. McK. Twombly, who was then
in charge of the telephone department of the Western
Union. Twombly closed the contract with us for a
plant. Mr. Herter was doing the decoration, and it
was extraordinarily fine. After a while we got the
engines and boilers and wires all done, and the lights
in position, before the house was quite finished, and
thought we would have an exhibit of the light. About
eight o'clock in the evening we lit up, and it was very
good. Mr. Vanderbilt and his wife and some of his
daughters came in, and were there a few minutes
when a fire occurred. The large picture-gallery was
lined with silk cloth interwoven with fine metallic
thread. In some manner two wires had got crossed
with this tinsel, which became red-hot, and the whole
mass was soon afire. I knew what was the matter,
and ordered them to run down and shut off. It had
not burst into flame, and died out immediately.
Mrs. Vanderbilt became hysterical, and wanted to
know where it came from. We told her we had the
plant in the cellar, and when she learned we had a
boiler there she said she would not occupy the house.
She would not live over a boiler. We had to take
the whole installation out. The houses afterward
went onto the New York Edison system."

The art was, however, very crude and raw, and as
there were no artisans in existence as mechanics or
electricians who had any knowledge of the practice,
there was inconceivable difficulty in getting such
isolated plants installed, as well as wiring the buildings
in the district to be covered by the first central
station in New York. A night school was, therefore,
founded at Fifth Avenue, and was put in charge of
Mr. E. H. Johnson, fresh from his successes in England.
The most available men for the purpose were,
of course, those who had been accustomed to wiring
for the simpler electrical systems then in vogue--
telephones, district-messenger calls, burglar alarms,
house annunciators, etc., and a number of these
"wiremen" were engaged and instructed patiently in
the rudiments of the new art by means of a blackboard
and oral lessons. Students from the technical
schools and colleges were also eager recruits, for here
was something that promised a career, and one that was
especially alluring to youth because of its novelty.
These beginners were also instructed in general
engineering problems under the guidance of Mr. C. L.
Clarke, who was brought in from the Menlo Park
laboratory to assume charge of the engineering part
of the company's affairs. Many of these pioneer
students and workmen became afterward large and
successful contractors, or have filled positions of
distinction as managers and superintendents of central
stations. Possibly the electrical industry may not
now attract as much adventurous genius as it did
then, for automobiles, aeronautics, and other new arts
have come to the front in a quarter of a century to
enlist the enthusiasm of a younger generation of
mercurial spirits; but it is certain that at the period
of which we write, Edison himself, still under thirty-
five, was the centre of an extraordinary group of men,
full of effervescing and aspiring talent, to which he
gave glorious opportunity.

A very novel literary feature of the work was the
issuance of a bulletin devoted entirely to the Edison
lighting propaganda. Nowadays the "house organ,"
as it is called, has become a very hackneyed feature
of industrial development, confusing in its variety and
volume, and a somewhat doubtful adjunct to a highly
perfected, widely circulating periodical technical press.
But at that time, 1882, the Bulletin of the Edison
Electric Light Company, published in ordinary 12mo
form, was distinctly new in advertising and possibly
unique, as it is difficult to find anything that compared
with it. The Bulletin was carried on for some
years, until its necessity was removed by the development
of other opportunities for reaching the public;
and its pages serve now as a vivid and lively picture
of the period to which its record applies. The first
issue, of January 12, 1882, was only four pages, but
it dealt with the question of insurance; plants at
Santiago, Chili, and Rio de Janeiro; the European
Company with 3,500,000 francs subscribed; the work
in Paris, London, Strasburg, and Moscow; the laying
of over six miles of street mains in New York; a patent
decision in favor of Edison; and the size of safety
catch wire. By April of 1882, the Bulletin had
attained the respectable size of sixteen pages; and in
December it was a portly magazine of forty-eight.
Every item bears testimony to the rapid progress
being made; and by the end of 1882 it is seen that
no fewer than 153 isolated Edison plants had been
installed in the United States alone, with a capacity
of 29,192 lamps. Moreover, the New York central
station had gone into operation, starting at 3 P.M. on
September 4, and at the close of 1882 it was lighting
225 houses wired for about 5000 lamps. This epochal
story will be told in the next chapter. Most interesting
are the Bulletin notes from England, especially
in regard to the brilliant exhibition given by Mr.
E. H. Johnson at the Crystal Palace, Sydenham,
visited by the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh, twice
by the Dukes of Westminster and Sutherland, by
three hundred members of the Gas Institute, and by
innumerable delegations from cities, boroughs, etc.
Describing this before the Royal Society of Arts,
Sir W. H. Preece, F.R.S., remarked: "Many unkind
things have been said of Mr. Edison and his promises;
perhaps no one has been severer in this direction than
myself. It is some gratification for me to announce
my belief that he has at last solved the problem he
set himself to solve, and to be able to describe to the
Society the way in which he has solved it." Before
the exhibition closed it was visited by the Prince and
Princess of Wales--now the deceased Edward VII.
and the Dowager Queen Alexandra--and the Princess
received from Mr. Johnson as a souvenir a tiny
electric chandelier fashioned like a bouquet of fern
leaves and flowers, the buds being some of the first
miniature incandescent lamps ever made.

The first item in the first Bulletin dealt with the
"Fire Question," and all through the successive issues
runs a series of significant items on the same subject.
Many of them are aimed at gas, and there are several
grim summaries of death and fires due to gas-
leaks or explosions. A tendency existed at the time
to assume that electricity was altogether safe, while
its opponents, predicating their attacks on arc-lighting
casualties, insisted it was most dangerous. Edison's
problem in educating the public was rather difficult,
for while his low-pressure, direct-current system has
always been absolutely without danger to life, there
has also been the undeniable fact that escaping
electricity might cause a fire just as a leaky water-
pipe can flood a house. The important question had
arisen, therefore, of satisfying the fire underwriters
as to the safety of the system. He had foreseen that
there would be an absolute necessity for special devices
to prevent fires from occurring by reason of
any excess of current flowing in any circuit; and several
of his earliest detail lighting inventions deal with
this subject. The insurance underwriters of New
York and other parts of the country gave a great deal
of time and study to the question through their most
expert representatives, with the aid of Edison and
his associates, other electric-light companies
cooperating; and the knowledge thus gained was
embodied in insurance rules to govern wiring for electric
lights, formulated during the latter part of 1881,
adopted by the New York Board of Fire Underwriters,
January 12, 1882, and subsequently endorsed
by other boards in the various insurance
districts. Under temporary rulings, however, a vast
amount of work had already been done, but it was
obvious that as the industry grew there would be
less and less possibility of supervision except through
such regulations, insisting upon the use of the best
devices and methods. Indeed, the direct superintendence
soon became unnecessary, owing to the increasing
knowledge and greater skill acquired by the
installing staff; and this system of education was
notably improved by a manual written by Mr. Edison
himself. Copies of this brochure are as scarce to-day
as First Folio Shakespeares, and command prices
equal to those of other American first editions. The
little book is the only known incursion of its author
into literature, if we except the brief articles he has
written for technical papers and for the magazines.
It contained what was at once a full, elaborate,
and terse explanation of a complete isolated plant,
with diagrams of various methods of connection and
operation, and a carefully detailed description of
every individual part, its functions and its
characteristics. The remarkable success of those early
years was indeed only achieved by following up with
Chinese exactness the minute and intimate methods
insisted upon by Edison as to the use of the apparatus
and devices employed. It was a curious example of
establishing standard practice while changing with
kaleidoscopic rapidity all the elements involved. He
was true to an ideal as to the pole-star, but was
incessantly making improvements in every direction.
With an iconoclasm that has often seemed ruthless
and brutal he did not hesitate to sacrifice older devices
the moment a new one came in sight that embodied
a real advance in securing effective results. The process
is heroic but costly. Nobody ever had a bigger
scrap-heap than Edison; but who dare proclaim the
process intrinsically wasteful if the losses occur in
the initial stages, and the economies in all the later

With Edison in this introduction of his lighting
system the method was ruthless, but not reckless.
At an early stage of the commercial development a
standardizing committee was formed, consisting of
the heads of all the departments, and to this body
was intrusted the task of testing and criticising all
existing and proposed devices, as well as of considering
the suggestions and complaints of workmen offered
from time to time. This procedure was fruitful in
two principal results--the education of the whole executive
force in the technical details of the system; and
a constant improvement in the quality of the Edison
installations; both contributing to the rapid growth
of the industry.

For many years Goerck Street played an important
part in Edison's affairs, being the centre of all his
manufacture of heavy machinery. But it was not
in a desirable neighborhood, and owing to the rapid
growth of the business soon became disadvantageous
for other reasons. Edison tells of his frequent visits
to the shops at night, with the escort of "Jim" Russell,
a well-known detective, who knew all the denizens
of the place: "We used to go out at night to a little,
low place, an all-night house--eight feet wide and
twenty-two feet long--where we got a lunch at two or
three o'clock in the morning. It was the toughest kind
of restaurant ever seen. For the clam chowder they
used the same four clams during the whole season,
and the average number of flies per pie was seven.
This was by actual count."

As to the shops and the locality: "The street was
lined with rather old buildings and poor tenements.
We had not much frontage. As our business increased
enormously, our quarters became too small,
so we saw the district Tammany leader and asked
him if we could not store castings and other things
on the sidewalk. He gave us permission--told us
to go ahead, and he would see it was all right. The
only thing he required for this was that when a man
was sent with a note from him asking us to give him
a job, he was to be put on. We had a hand-laborer
foreman--`Big Jim'--a very powerful Irishman, who
could lift above half a ton. When one of the Tammany
aspirants appeared, he was told to go right to
work at $1.50 per day. The next day he was told
off to lift a certain piece, and if the man could not
lift it he was discharged. That made the Tammany
man all safe. Jim could pick the piece up easily.
The other man could not, and so we let him out.
Finally the Tammany leader called a halt, as we were
running big engine lathes out on the sidewalk, and
he was afraid we were carrying it a little too far.
The lathes were worked right out in the street, and
belted through the windows of the shop."

At last it became necessary to move from Goerck
Street, and Mr. Edison gives a very interesting account
of the incidents in connection with the transfer
of the plant to Schenectady, New York: "After our
works at Goerck Street got too small, we had labor
troubles also. It seems I had rather a socialistic
strain in me, and I raised the pay of the workmen
twenty-five cents an hour above the prevailing rate
of wages, whereupon Hoe & Company, our near
neighbors, complained at our doing this. I said I
thought it was all right. But the men, having got
a little more wages, thought they would try coercion
and get a little more, as we were considered soft
marks. Whereupon they struck at a time that was
critical. However, we were short of money for pay-
rolls; and we concluded it might not be so bad after
all, as it would give us a couple of weeks to catch up.
So when the men went out they appointed a committee
to meet us; but for two weeks they could not
find us, so they became somewhat more anxious than
we were. Finally they said they would like to go
back. We said all right, and back they went. It
was quite a novelty to the men not to be able to find
us when they wanted to; and they didn't relish it at

"What with these troubles and the lack of room,
we decided to find a factory elsewhere, and decided
to try the locomotive works up at Schenectady. It
seems that the people there had had a falling out
among themselves, and one of the directors had
started opposition works; but before he had completed
all the buildings and put in machinery some
compromise was made, and the works were for sale.
We bought them very reasonably and moved everything
there. These works were owned by me and
my assistants until sold to the Edison General Electric
Company. At one time we employed several thousand
men; and since then the works have been
greatly expanded.

"At these new works our orders were far in excess
of our capital to handle the business, and both Mr.
Insull and I were afraid we might get into trouble
for lack of money. Mr. Insull was then my business
manager, running the whole thing; and, therefore,
when Mr. Henry Villard and his syndicate offered to
buy us out, we concluded it was better to be sure
than be sorry; so we sold out for a large sum. Villard
was a very aggressive man with big ideas, but I
could never quite understand him. He had no sense
of humor. I remember one time we were going up
on the Hudson River boat to inspect the works, and
with us was Mr. Henderson, our chief engineer, who
was certainly the best raconteur of funny stories I
ever knew. We sat at the tail-end of the boat, and
he started in to tell funny stories. Villard could not
see a single point, and scarcely laughed at all; and
Henderson became so disconcerted he had to give it
up. It was the same way with Gould. In the early
telegraph days I remember going with him to see
Mackay in "The Impecunious Country Editor." It
was very funny, full of amusing and absurd situations;
but Gould never smiled once."

The formation of the Edison General Electric Company
involved the consolidation of the immediate
Edison manufacturing interests in electric light and
power, with a capitalization of $12,000,000, now a
relatively modest sum; but in those days the amount
was large, and the combination caused a great deal
of newspaper comment as to such a coinage of brain
power. The next step came with the creation of the
great General Electric Company of to-day, a combination
of the Edison, Thomson-Houston, and Brush
lighting interests in manufacture, which to this day
maintains the ever-growing plants at Harrison, Lynn,
and Schenectady, and there employs from twenty to
twenty-five thousand people.



A NOTED inventor once said at the end of a lifetime
of fighting to defend his rights, that he
found there were three stages in all great inventions:
the first, in which people said the thing could not
be done; the second, in which they said anybody
could do it; and the third, in which they said it had
always been done by everybody. In his central-
station work Edison has had very much this kind of
experience; for while many of his opponents came to
acknowledge the novelty and utility of his plans, and
gave him unstinted praise, there are doubtless others
who to this day profess to look upon him merely as
an adapter. How different the view of so eminent a
scientist as Lord Kelvin was, may be appreciated
from his remark when in later years, in reply to the
question why some one else did not invent so obvious
and simple a thing as the Feeder System, he said:
"The only answer I can think of is that no one else
was Edison."

Undaunted by the attitude of doubt and the predictions
of impossibility, Edison had pushed on until
he was now able to realize all his ideas as to the establishment
of a central station in the work that culminated
in New York City in 1882. After he had
conceived the broad plan, his ambition was to create
the initial plant on Manhattan Island, where it would
be convenient of access for watching its operation,
and where the demonstration of its practicability
would have influence in financial circles. The first
intention was to cover a district extending from
Canal Street on the north to Wall Street on the south;
but Edison soon realized that this territory was too
extensive for the initial experiment, and he decided
finally upon the district included between Wall,
Nassau, Spruce, and Ferry streets, Peck Slip and the
East River, an area nearly a square mile in extent.
One of the preliminary steps taken to enable him to
figure on such a station and system was to have men
go through this district on various days and note the
number of gas jets burning at each hour up to two or
three o'clock in the morning. The next step was to
divide the region into a number of sub-districts and
institute a house-to-house canvass to ascertain precisely
the data and conditions pertinent to the project.
When the canvass was over, Edison knew exactly
how many gas jets there were in every building in
the entire district, the average hours of burning, and
the cost of light; also every consumer of power, and
the quantity used; every hoistway to which an
electric motor could be applied; and other details too
numerous to mention, such as related to the gas itself,
the satisfaction of the customers, and the limitations
of day and night demand. All this information
was embodied graphically in large maps of the district,
by annotations in colored inks; and Edison thus
could study the question with every detail before
him. Such a reconnaissance, like that of a coming
field of battle, was invaluable, and may help give a
further idea of the man's inveterate care for the
minutiae of things.

The laboratory note-books of this period--1878-
80, more particularly--show an immense amount of
calculation by Edison and his chief mathematician,
Mr. Upton, on conductors for the distribution of current
over large areas, and then later in the district
described. With the results of this canvass before
them, the sizes of the main conductors to be laid
throughout the streets of this entire territory were
figured, block by block; and the results were then
placed on the map. These data revealed the fact
that the quantity of copper required for the main
conductors would be exceedingly large and costly;
and, if ever, Edison was somewhat dismayed. But
as usual this apparently insurmountable difficulty
only spurred him on to further effort. It was but a
short time thereafter that he solved the knotty problem
by an invention mentioned in a previous chapter.
This is known as the "feeder and main" system, for
which he signed the application for a patent on
August 4, 1880. As this invention effected a saving
of seven-eighths of the cost of the chief conductors
in a straight multiple arc system, the mains for the
first district were refigured, and enormous new maps
were made, which became the final basis of actual
installation, as they were subsequently enlarged by
the addition of every proposed junction-box, bridge
safety-catch box, and street-intersection box in the
whole area.

When this patent, after protracted fighting, was
sustained by Judge Green in 1893, the Electrical
Engineer remarked that the General Electric Company
"must certainly feel elated" because of its
importance; and the journal expressed its fear that
although the specifications and claims related only
to the maintenance of uniform pressure of current
on lighting circuits, the owners might naturally seek
to apply it also to feeders used in the electric-railway
work already so extensive. At this time, however,
the patent had only about a year of life left, owing
to the expiration of the corresponding English patent.
The fact that thirteen years had elapsed gives a vivid
idea of the ordeal involved in sustaining a patent and
the injustice to the inventor, while there is obviously
hardship to those who cannot tell from any decision
of the court whether they are infringing or not. It
is interesting to note that the preparation for hearing
this case in New Jersey was accompanied by models
to show the court exactly the method and its economy,
as worked out in comparison with what is known as
the "tree system" of circuits--the older alternative
way of doing it. As a basis of comparison, a district
of thirty-six city blocks in the form of a square was
assumed. The power station was placed at the centre
of the square; each block had sixteen consumers
using fifteen lights each. Conductors were run from
the station to supply each of the four quarters of the
district with light. In one example the "feeder"
system was used; in the other the "tree." With
these models were shown two cubes which represented
one one-hundredth of the actual quantity of
copper required for each quarter of the district by
the two-wire tree system as compared with the feeder
system under like conditions. The total weight
of copper for the four quarter districts by the tree
system was 803,250 pounds, but when the feeder
system was used it was only 128,739 pounds! This
was a reduction from $23.24 per lamp for copper
to $3.72 per lamp. Other models emphasized this
extraordinary contrast. At the time Edison was
doing this work on economizing in conductors, much
of the criticism against him was based on the assumed
extravagant use of copper implied in the obvious
"tree" system, and it was very naturally said
that there was not enough copper in the world to
supply his demands. It is true that the modern
electrical arts have been a great stimulator of copper
production, now taking a quarter of all made; yet
evidently but for such inventions as this such arts
could not have come into existence at all, or else
in growing up they would have forced copper to
starvation prices.[11]

[11] For description of feeder patent see Appendix.

It should be borne in mind that from the outset
Edison had determined upon installing underground
conductors as the only permanent and satisfactory
method for the distribution of current from central
stations in cities; and that at Menlo Park he laid out
and operated such a system with about four hundred
and twenty-five lamps. The underground system
there was limited to the immediate vicinity of the
laboratory and was somewhat crude, as well as much
less complicated than would be the network of over
eighty thousand lineal feet, which he calculated to be
required for the underground circuits in the first
district of New York City. At Menlo Park no effort
was made for permanency; no provision was needed
in regard to occasional openings of the street for
various purposes; no new customers were to be connected
from time to time to the mains, and no repairs
were within contemplation. In New York the question
of permanency was of paramount importance,
and the other contingencies were sure to arise as
well as conditions more easy to imagine than to forestall.
These problems were all attacked in a resolute,
thoroughgoing manner, and one by one solved by
the invention of new and unprecedented devices that
were adequate for the purposes of the time, and which
are embodied in apparatus of slight modification in
use up to the present day.

Just what all this means it is hard for the present
generation to imagine. New York and all the other
great cities in 1882, and for some years thereafter,
were burdened and darkened by hideous masses of
overhead wires carried on ugly wooden poles along
all the main thoroughfares. One after another rival
telegraph and telephone, stock ticker, burglar-alarm,
and other companies had strung their circuits without
any supervision or restriction; and these wires in all
conditions of sag or decay ramified and crisscrossed in
every direction, often hanging broken and loose-ended
for months, there being no official compulsion to
remove any dead wire. None of these circuits carried
dangerous currents; but the introduction of the arc
light brought an entirely new menace in the use of
pressures that were even worse than the bully of the
West who "kills on sight," because this kindred peril
was invisible, and might lurk anywhere. New poles
were put up, and the lighting circuits on them, with
but a slight insulation of cotton impregnated with
some "weather-proof" compound, straggled all over
the city exposed to wind and rain and accidental
contact with other wires, or with the metal of buildings.
So many fatalities occurred that the insulated
wire used, called "underwriters," because approved
by the insurance bodies, became jocularly known as
"undertakers," and efforts were made to improve its
protective qualities. Then came the overhead circuits
for distributing electrical energy to motors for
operating elevators, driving machinery, etc., and
these, while using a lower, safer potential, were
proportionately larger. There were no wires underground.
Morse had tried that at the very beginning of electrical
application, in telegraphy, and all agreed that
renewals of the experiment were at once costly and
foolish. At last, in cities like New York, what may
be styled generically the "overhead system" of wires
broke down under its own weight; and various
methods of underground conductors were tried, hastened
in many places by the chopping down of poles
and wires as the result of some accident that stirred
the public indignation. One typical tragic scene was
that in New York, where, within sight of the City
Hall, a lineman was killed at his work on the arc
light pole, and his body slowly roasted before the gaze
of the excited populace, which for days afterward
dropped its silver and copper coin into the alms-box
nailed to the fatal pole for the benefit of his family.
Out of all this in New York came a board of electrical
control, a conduit system, and in the final analysis
the Public Service Commission, that is credited to
Governor Hughes as the furthest development of
utility corporation control.

The "road to yesterday" back to Edison and his
insistence on underground wires is a long one, but
the preceding paragraph traces it. Even admitting
that the size and weight of his low-tension conductors
necessitated putting them underground, this argues
nothing against the propriety and sanity of his
methods. He believed deeply and firmly in the
analogy between electrical supply and that for water
and gas, and pointed to the trite fact that nobody
hoisted the water and gas mains into the air on stilts,
and that none of the pressures were inimical to human
safety. The arc-lighting methods were unconsciously
and unwittingly prophetic of the latter-day
long-distance transmissions at high pressure that,
electrically, have placed the energy of Niagara at
the command of Syracuse and Utica, and have put
the power of the falling waters of the Sierras at the
disposal of San Francisco, two hundred miles away.
But within city limits overhead wires, with such
space-consuming potentials, are as fraught with
mischievous peril to the public as the dynamite stored
by a nonchalant contractor in the cellar of a schoolhouse.
As an offset, then, to any tendency to depreciate
the intrinsic value of Edison's lighting work,
let the claim be here set forth modestly and subject
to interference, that he was the father of under-
ground wires in America, and by his example outlined
the policy now dominant in every city of the
first rank. Even the comment of a cynic in regard
to electrical development may be accepted: "Some
electrical companies wanted all the air; others apparently
had use for all the water; Edison only asked
for the earth."

The late Jacob Hess, a famous New York Republican
politician, was a member of the commission
appointed to put the wires underground in New York
City, in the "eighties." He stated that when the
commission was struggling with the problem, and
examining all kinds of devices and plans, patented
and unpatented, for which fabulous sums were often
asked, the body turned to Edison in its perplexity
and asked for advice. Edison said: "All you have
to do, gentlemen, is to insulate your wires, draw them
through the cheapest thing on earth--iron pipe--run
your pipes through channels or galleries under the
street, and you've got the whole thing done." This
was practically the system adopted and in use to
this day. What puzzled the old politician was that
Edison would accept nothing for his advice.

Another story may also be interpolated here as to
the underground work done in New York for the first
Edison station. It refers to the "man higher up,"
although the phrase had not been coined in those days
of lower public morality. That a corporation should
be "held up" was accepted philosophically by the
corporation as one of the unavoidable incidents of its
business; and if the corporation "got back" by securing
some privilege without paying for it, the public
was ready to condone if not applaud. Public utilities
were in the making, and no one in particular had a
keen sense of what was right or what was wrong, in
the hard, practical details of their development. Edison
tells this illuminating story: "When I was laying
tubes in the streets of New York, the office received
notice from the Commissioner of Public Works to
appear at his office at a certain hour. I went up
there with a gentleman to see the Commissioner,
H. O. Thompson. On arrival he said to me: `You
are putting down these tubes. The Department of
Public Works requires that you should have five inspectors
to look after this work, and that their salary
shall be $5 per day, payable at the end of each week.
Good-morning.' I went out very much crestfallen,
thinking I would be delayed and harassed in the work
which I was anxious to finish, and was doing night
and day. We watched patiently for those inspectors
to appear. The only appearance they made was to
draw their pay Saturday afternoon."

Just before Christmas in 1880--December 17--as
an item for the silk stocking of Father Knickerbocker
--the Edison Electric Illuminating Company of New
York was organized. In pursuance of the policy adhered
to by Edison, a license was issued to it for the
exclusive use of the system in that territory--Manhattan
Island--in consideration of a certain sum of
money and a fixed percentage of its capital in stock
for the patent rights. Early in 1881 it was altogether
a paper enterprise, but events moved swiftly as narrated
already, and on June 25, 1881, the first "Jumbo"
prototype of the dynamo-electric machines to gen-
erate current at the Pearl Street station was put
through its paces before being shipped to Paris to
furnish new sensations to the flaneur of the boulevards.
A number of the Edison officers and employees
assembled at Goerck Street to see this "gigantic"
machine go into action, and watched its performance
with due reverence all through the night until five
o'clock on Sunday morning, when it respected the
conventionalities by breaking a shaft and suspending
further tests. After this dynamo was shipped
to France, and its successors to England for the Holborn
Viaduct plant, Edison made still further improvements
in design, increasing capacity and economy,
and then proceeded vigorously with six machines for
Pearl Street.

An ideal location for any central station is at the
very centre of the district served. It may be questioned
whether it often goes there. In the New York
first district the nearest property available was a
double building at Nos. 255 and 257 Pearl Street,
occupying a lot so by 100 feet. It was four stories
high, with a fire-wall dividing it into two equal parts.
One of these parts was converted for the uses of the
station proper, and the other was used as a tube-shop
by the underground construction department, as well
as for repair-shops, storage, etc. Those were the days
when no one built a new edifice for station purposes;
that would have been deemed a fantastic extravagance.
One early station in New York for arc lighting
was an old soap-works whose well-soaked floors did
not need much additional grease to render them
choice fuel for the inevitable flames. In this Pearl
Street instance, the building, erected originally for
commercial uses, was quite incapable of sustaining
the weight of the heavy dynamos and steam-engines
to be installed on the second floor; so the old flooring
was torn out and a new one of heavy girders supported
by stiff columns was substituted. This heavy construction,
more familiar nowadays, and not unlike
the supporting metal structure of the Manhattan
Elevated road, was erected independent of the enclosing
walls, and occupied the full width of 257 Pearl
Street, and about three-quarters of its depth. This
change in the internal arrangements did not at all
affect the ugly external appearance, which did little to
suggest the stately and ornate stations since put up
by the New York Edison Company, the latest occupying
whole city blocks.

Of this episode Edison gives the following account:
"While planning for my first New York station--
Pearl Street--of course, I had no real estate, and
from lack of experience had very little knowledge of
its cost in New York; so I assumed a rather large,
liberal amount of it to plan my station on. It
occurred to me one day that before I went too far with
my plans I had better find out what real estate was
worth. In my original plan I had 200 by 200 feet.
I thought that by going down on a slum street near
the water-front I would get some pretty cheap property.
So I picked out the worst dilapidated street
there was, and found I could only get two buildings,
each 25 feet front, one 100 feet deep and the other
85 feet deep. I thought about $10,000 each would
cover it; but when I got the price I found that they
wanted $75,000 for one and $80,000 for the other.
Then I was compelled to change my plans and go upward
in the air where real estate was cheap. I
cleared out the building entirely to the walls and
built my station of structural ironwork, running it
up high."

Into this converted structure was put the most
complete steam plant obtainable, together with all
the mechanical and engineering adjuncts bearing
upon economical and successful operation. Being in
a narrow street and a congested district, the plant
needed special facilities for the handling of coal and
ashes, as well as for ventilation and forced draught.
All of these details received Mr. Edison's personal
care and consideration on the spot, in addition to the
multitude of other affairs demanding his thought.
Although not a steam or mechanical engineer, his
quick grasp of principles and omnivorous reading had
soon supplied the lack of training; nor had he forgotten
the practical experience picked up as a boy
on the locomotives of the Grand Trunk road. It is
to be noticed as a feature of the plant, in common
with many of later construction, that it was placed
well away from the water's edge, and equipped with
non-condensing engines; whereas the modern plant
invariably seeks the bank of a river or lake for the
purpose of a generous supply of water for its
condensing engines or steam-turbines. These are among
the refinements of practice coincidental with the advance
of the art.

At the award of the John Fritz gold medal in April,
1909, to Charles T. Porter for his work in advancing
the knowledge of steam-engineering, and for improvements
in engine construction, Mr. Frank J. Sprague
spoke on behalf of the American Institute of Electrical
Engineers of the debt of electricity to the high-speed
steam-engine. He recalled the fact that at the
French Exposition of 1867 Mr. Porter installed two
Porter-Allen engines to drive electric alternating-current
generators for supplying current to primitive
lighthouse apparatus. While the engines were not
directly coupled to the dynamos, it was a curious
fact that the piston speeds and number of revolutions
were what is common to-day in isolated direct-coupled
plants. In the dozen years following Mr. Porter built
many engines with certain common characteristics--
i.e., high piston speed and revolutions, solid engine
bed, and babbitt-metal bearings; but there was no
electric driving until 1880, when Mr. Porter installed
a high-speed engine for Edison at his laboratory in
Menlo Park. Shortly after this he was invited to
construct for the Edison Pearl Street station the first
of a series of engines for so-called "steam-dynamos,"
each independently driven by a direct-coupled engine.
Mr. Sprague compared the relations thus established
between electricity and the high-speed engine not to
those of debtor and creditor, but rather to those of
partners--an industrial marriage--one of the most
important in the engineering world. Here were two
machines destined to be joined together, economizing
space, enhancing economy, augmenting capacity, reducing
investment, and increasing dividends.

While rapid progress was being made in this and
other directions, the wheels of industry were hum-
ming merrily at the Edison Tube Works, for over
fifteen miles of tube conductors were required for the
district, besides the boxes to connect the network at
the street intersections, and the hundreds of junction
boxes for taking the service conductors into each of
the hundreds of buildings. In addition to the
immense amount of money involved, this specialized
industry required an enormous amount of experiment,
as it called for the development of an entirely
new art. But with Edison's inventive fertility--if
ever there was a cross-fertilizer of mechanical ideas
it is he--and with Mr. Kruesi's never-failing patience
and perseverance applied to experiment and evolution,
rapid progress was made. A franchise having
been obtained from the city, the work of laying the
underground conductors began in the late fall of
1881, and was pushed with almost frantic energy. It
is not to be supposed, however, that the Edison tube
system had then reached a finality of perfection in
the eyes of its inventor. In his correspondence with
Kruesi, as late as 1887, we find Edison bewailing the
inadequacy of the insulation of the conductors under
twelve hundred volts pressure, as for example:
"Dear Kruesi,--There is nothing wrong with your
present compound. It is splendid. The whole
trouble is air-bubbles. The hotter it is poured the
greater the amount of air-bubbles. At 212 it can
be put on rods and there is no bubble. I have a man
experimenting and testing all the time. Until I get
at the proper method of pouring and getting rid of
the air-bubbles, it will be waste of time to experiment
with other asphalts. Resin oil distils off easily. It
may answer, but paraffine or other similar substances
must be put in to prevent brittleness, One thing is
certain, and that is, everything must be poured in
layers, not only the boxes, but the tubes. The tube
itself should have a thin coating. The rope should
also have a coating. The rods also. The whole lot,
rods and rope, when ready for tube, should have
another coat, and then be placed in tube and filled.
This will do the business." Broad and large as a
continent in his ideas, if ever there was a man of
finical fussiness in attention to detail, it is Edison.
A letter of seven pages of about the same date in
1887 expatiates on the vicious troubles caused by the
air-bubble, and remarks with fine insight into the
problems of insulation and the idea of layers of it:
"Thus you have three separate coatings, and it is
impossible an air-hole in one should match the

To a man less thorough and empirical in method
than Edison, it would have been sufficient to have
made his plans clear to associates or subordinates
and hold them responsible for accurate results. No
such vicarious treatment would suit him, ready as he
has always been to share the work where he could
give his trust. In fact he realized, as no one else
did at this stage, the tremendous import of this
novel and comprehensive scheme for giving the world
light; and he would not let go, even if busy to the
breaking-point. Though plunged in a veritable maelstrom
of new and important business interests, and
though applying for no fewer than eighty-nine patents
in 1881, all of which were granted, he superintended
on the spot all this laying of underground conductors
for the first district. Nor did he merely stand around
and give orders. Day and night he actually worked
in the trenches with the laborers, amid the dirt and
paving-stones and hurry-burly of traffic, helping to
lay the tubes, filling up junction-boxes, and taking
part in all the infinite detail. He wanted to know
for himself how things went, why for some occult
reason a little change was necessary, what improvement
could be made in the material. His hours of
work were not regulated by the clock, but lasted until
he felt the need of a little rest. Then he would go
off to the station building in Pearl Street, throw an
overcoat on a pile of tubes, lie down and sleep for a
few hours, rising to resume work with the first gang.
There was a small bedroom on the third floor of the
station available for him, but going to bed meant
delay and consumed time. It is no wonder that
such impatience, such an enthusiasm, drove the work
forward at a headlong pace.

Edison says of this period: "When we put down
the tubes in the lower part of New York, in the
streets, we kept a big stock of them in the cellar of
the station at Pearl Street. As I was on all the time,
I would take a nap of an hour or so in the daytime--
any time--and I used to sleep on those tubes in the
cellar. I had two Germans who were testing there,
and both of them died of diphtheria, caught in the
cellar, which was cold and damp. It never affected

It is worth pausing just a moment to glance at this
man taking a fitful rest on a pile of iron pipe in a
dingy building. His name is on the tip of the world's
tongue. Distinguished scientists from every part of
Europe seek him eagerly. He has just been decorated
and awarded high honors by the French Government.
He is the inventor of wonderful new apparatus, and
the exploiter of novel and successful arts. The magic
of his achievements and the rumors of what is being
done have caused a wild drop in gas securities, and a
sensational rise in his own electric-light stock from
$100 to $3500 a share. Yet these things do not at
all affect his slumber or his democratic simplicity,
for in that, as in everything else, he is attending
strictly to business, "doing the thing that is next
to him."

Part of the rush and feverish haste was due to the
approach of frost, which, as usual in New York, suspended
operations in the earth; but the laying of
the conductors was resumed promptly in the spring
of 1882; and meantime other work had been advanced.
During the fall and winter months two
more "Jumbo" dynamos were built and sent to
London, after which the construction of six for New
York was swiftly taken in hand. In the month of
May three of these machines, each with a capacity of
twelve hundred incandescent lamps, were delivered
at Pearl Street and assembled on the second floor.
On July 5th--owing to the better opportunity for
ceaseless toil given by a public holiday--the construction
of the operative part of the station was so
far completed that the first of the dynamos was
operated under steam; so that three days later the
satisfactory experiment was made of throwing its
flood of electrical energy into a bank of one thousand
lamps on an upper floor. Other tests followed in due
course. All was excitement. The field-regulating
apparatus and the electrical-pressure indicator--first
of its kind--were also tested, and in turn found
satisfactory. Another vital test was made at this time--
namely, of the strength of the iron structure itself
on which the plant was erected. This was done by
two structural experts; and not till he got their report
as to ample factors of safety was Edison reassured
as to this detail.

A remark of Edison, familiar to all who have
worked with him, when it is reported to him that
something new goes all right and is satisfactory from
all points of view, is: "Well, boys, now let's find the
bugs," and the hunt for the phylloxera begins with
fiendish, remorseless zest. Before starting the plant
for regular commercial service, he began personally
a series of practical experiments and tests to ascertain
in advance what difficulties would actually
arise in practice, so that he could provide remedies
or preventives. He had several cots placed in the
adjoining building, and he and a few of his most
strenuous assistants worked day and night, leaving
the work only for hurried meals and a snatch of
sleep. These crucial tests, aiming virtually to break
the plant down if possible within predetermined
conditions, lasted several weeks, and while most valuable
in the information they afforded, did not hinder
anything, for meantime customers' premises throughout
the district were being wired and supplied with lamps
and meters.

On Monday, September 4, 1882, at 3 o'clock, P.M.,
Edison realized the consummation of his broad and
original scheme. The Pearl Street station was officially
started by admitting steam to the engine of one of
the "Jumbos," current was generated, turned into
the network of underground conductors, and was
transformed into light by the incandescent lamps that
had thus far been installed. This date and event
may properly be regarded as historical, for they mark
the practical beginning of a new art, which in the
intervening years has grown prodigiously, and is still
increasing by leaps and bounds.

Everything worked satisfactorily in the main.
There were a few mechanical and engineering annoyances
that might naturally be expected to arise in a
new and unprecedented enterprise; but nothing of
sufficient moment to interfere with the steady and
continuous supply of current to customers at all
hours of the day and night. Indeed, once started,
this station was operated uninterruptedly for eight
years with only insignificant stoppage.

It will have been noted by the reader that there
was nothing to indicate rashness in starting up the
station, as only one dynamo was put in operation.
Within a short time, however, it was deemed desirable
to supply the underground network with more current,
as many additional customers had been connected
and the demand for the new light was increasing
very rapidly. Although Edison had successfully
operated several dynamos in multiple arc two
years before--i.e., all feeding current together into
the same circuits--there was not, at this early period
of experience, any absolute certainty as to what
particular results might occur upon the throwing of
the current from two or more such massive dynamos
into a great distributing system. The sequel showed
the value of Edison's cautious method in starting the
station by operating only a single unit at first.

He decided that it would be wise to make the trial
operation of a second "Jumbo" on a Sunday, when
business houses were closed in the district, thus
obviating any danger of false impressions in the public
mind in the event of any extraordinary manifestations.
The circumstances attending the adding of
a second dynamo are thus humorously described by
Edison: "My heart was in my mouth at first, but
everything worked all right.... Then we started another
engine and threw them in parallel. Of all the
circuses since Adam was born, we had the worst
then! One engine would stop, and the other would
run up to about a thousand revolutions, and then
they would see-saw. The trouble was with the governors.
When the circus commenced, the gang that
was standing around ran out precipitately, and I
guess some of them kept running for a block or two.
I grabbed the throttle of one engine, and E. H. Johnson,
who was the only one present to keep his wits,
caught hold of the other, and we shut them off."
One of the "gang" that ran, but, in this case, only to
the end of the room, afterward said: "At the time it
was a terrifying experience, as I didn't know what
was going to happen. The engines and dynamos
made a horrible racket, from loud and deep groans
to a hideous shriek, and the place seemed to be filled
with sparks and flames of all colors. It was as if the
gates of the infernal regions had been suddenly

This trouble was at once attacked by Edison in his
characteristic and strenuous way. The above experiment
took place between three and four o'clock on
a Sunday afternoon, and within a few hours he had
gathered his superintendent and men of the machine-
works and had them at work on a shafting device
that he thought would remedy the trouble. He says:
"Of course, I discovered that what had happened
was that one set was running the other as a motor.
I then put up a long shaft, connecting all the governors
together, and thought this would certainly
cure the trouble; but it didn't. The torsion of the
shaft was so great that one governor still managed
to get ahead of the others. Well, it was a serious
state of things, and I worried over it a lot. Finally
I went down to Goerck Street and got a piece of
shafting and a tube in which it fitted. I twisted the
shafting one way and the tube the other as far as I
could, and pinned them together. In this way, by
straining the whole outfit up to its elastic limit in
opposite directions, the torsion was practically
eliminated, and after that the governors ran together
all right."

Edison realized, however, that in commercial practice
this was only a temporary expedient, and that a
satisfactory permanence of results could only be
attained with more perfect engines that could be
depended upon for close and simple regulation. The
engines that were made part of the first three "Jum-
bos" placed in the station were the very best that
could be obtained at the time, and even then had
been specially designed and built for the purpose.
Once more quoting Edison on this subject: "About
that time" (when he was trying to run several dynamos
in parallel in the Pearl Street station) "I got
hold of Gardiner C. Sims, and he undertook to build
an engine to run at three hundred and fifty revolutions
and give one hundred and seventy-five horse-power.
He went back to Providence and set to work, and
brought the engine back with him to the shop. It
worked only a few minutes when it busted. That
man sat around that shop and slept in it for three
weeks, until he got his engine right and made it work
the way he wanted it to. When he reached this
period I gave orders for the engine-works to run night
and day until we got enough engines, and when all
was ready we started the engines. Then everything
worked all right.... One of these engines that Sims
built ran twenty-four hours a day, three hundred and
sixty-five days in the year, for over a year before it

[12] We quote the following interesting notes of Mr. Charles L.
Clarke on the question of see-sawing, or "hunting," as it was
afterward termed:

"In the Holborn Viaduct station the difficulty of `hunting'
was not experienced. At the time the `Jumbos' were first operated
in multiple arc, April 8, 1882, one machine was driven by
a Porter-Allen engine, and the other by an Armington & Sims engine,
and both machines were on a solid foundation. At the station
at Milan, Italy, the first `Jumbos' operated in multiple arc were
driven by Porter-Allen engines, and dash-pots were applied to the
governors. These machines were also upon a solid foundation,
and no trouble was experienced.

"At the Pearl Street station, however, the machines were sup-
ported upon long iron floor-beams, and at the high speed of 350
revolutions per minute, considerable vertical vibration was given
to the engines. And the writer is inclined to the opinion that
this vibration, acting in the same direction as the action of gravitation,
which was one of the two controlling forces in the operation
of the Porter-Allen governor, was the primary cause of the
`hunting.' In the Armington & Sims engine the controlling
forces in the operation of the governor were the centrifugal force
of revolving weights, and the opposing force of compressed springs,
and neither the action of gravitation nor the vertical vibrations
of the engine could have any sensible effect upon the governor,"

The Pearl Street station, as this first large plant
was called, made rapid and continuous growth in its
output of electric current. It started, as we have
said, on September 4, 1882, supplying about four
hundred lights to a comparatively small number of
customers. Among those first supplied was the banking
firm of Drexel, Morgan & Company, corner of
Broad and Wall streets, at the outermost limits of the
system. Before the end of December of the same year
the light had so grown in favor that it was being
supplied to over two hundred and forty customers
whose buildings were wired for over five thousand
lamps. By this time three more "Jumbos" had been
added to the plant. The output from this time forward
increased steadily up to the spring of 1884, when the
demands of the station necessitated the installation of
two additional "Jumbos" in the adjoining building,
which, with the venous improvements that had been
made in the mean time, gave the station a capacity of
over eleven thousand lamps actually in service at
any one time.

During the first three months of operating the Pearl
Street station light was supplied to customers with-
out charge. Edison had perfect confidence in his
meters, and also in the ultimate judgment of the public
as to the superiority of the incandescent electric
light as against other illuminants. He realized, however,
that in the beginning of the operation of an entirely
novel plant there was ample opportunity for
unexpected contingencies, although the greatest care
had been exercised to make everything as perfect as
possible. Mechanical defects or other unforeseen
troubles in any part of the plant or underground
system might arise and cause temporary stoppages of
operation, thus giving grounds for uncertainty which
would create a feeling of public distrust in the permanence
of the supply of light.

As to the kind of mishap that was wont to occur,
Edison tells the following story: "One afternoon,
after our Pearl Street station started, a policeman
rushed in and told us to send an electrician at once
up to the corner of Ann and Nassau streets--some
trouble. Another man and I went up. We found
an immense crowd of men and boys there and in the
adjoining streets--a perfect jam. There was a leak
in one of our junction-boxes, and on account of the
cellars extending under the street, the top soil had
become insulated. Hence, by means of this leak
powerful currents were passing through this thin
layer of moist earth. When a horse went to pass
over it he would get a very severe shock. When I
arrived I saw coming along the street a ragman with
a dilapidated old horse, and one of the boys told him
to go over on the other side of the road--which was
the place where the current leaked. When the rag-
man heard this he took that side at once. The moment
the horse struck the electrified soil he stood
straight up in the air, and then reared again; and the
crowd yelled, the policeman yelled; and the horse
started to run away. This continued until the crowd
got so serious that the policeman had to clear it out;
and we were notified to cut the current off. We got
a gang of men, cut the current off for several junction-
boxes, and fixed the leak. One man who had seen it
came to me next day and wanted me to put in apparatus
for him at a place where they sold horses. He said
he could make a fortune with it, because he could get old
nags in there and make them act like thoroughbreds."

So well had the work been planned and executed,
however, that nothing happened to hinder the continuous
working of the station and the supply of light
to customers. Hence it was decided in December,
1882, to begin charging a price for the service, and,
accordingly, Edison electrolytic meters were installed
on the premises of each customer then connected.
The first bill for lighting, based upon the
reading of one of these meters, amounted to $50.40,
and was collected on January 18, 1883, from the Ansonia
Brass and Copper Company, 17 and 19 Cliff
Street. Generally speaking, customers found that
their bills compared fairly with gas bills for
corresponding months where the same amount of light was
used, and they paid promptly and cheerfully, with
emphatic encomiums of the new light. During November,
1883, a little over one year after the station
was started, bills for lighting amounting to over $9000
were collected.

An interesting story of meter experience in the first
few months of operation of the Pearl Street station
is told by one of the "boys" who was then in position
to know the facts; "Mr. J. P. Morgan, whose firm was
one of the first customers, expressed to Mr. Edison
some doubt as to the accuracy of the meter. The
latter, firmly convinced of its correctness, suggested
a strict test by having some cards printed and hung
on each fixture at Mr. Morgan's place. On these
cards was to be noted the number of lamps in the
fixture, and the time they were turned on and off
each day for a month. At the end of that time the
lamp-hours were to be added together by one of the
clerks and figured on a basis of a definite amount per
lamp-hour, and compared with the bill that would be
rendered by the station for the corresponding period.
The results of the first month's test showed an apparent
overcharge by the Edison company. Mr. Morgan
was exultant, while Mr. Edison was still confident
and suggested a continuation of the test.
Another month's trial showed somewhat similar results.
Mr. Edison was a little disturbed, but insisted
that there was a mistake somewhere. He went down
to Drexel, Morgan & Company's office to investigate,
and, after looking around, asked when the office was
cleaned out. He was told it was done at night by
the janitor, who was sent for, and upon being interrogated
as to what light he used, said that he turned
on a central fixture containing about ten lights. It
came out that he had made no record of the time these
lights were in use. He was told to do so in future,
and another month's test was made. On comparison
with the company's bill, rendered on the meter-reading,
the meter came within a few cents of the amount
computed from the card records, and Mr. Morgan was
completely satisfied of the accuracy of the meter."

It is a strange but not extraordinary commentary
on the perversity of human nature and the lack of
correct observation, to note that even after the Pearl
Street station had been in actual operation twenty-
four hours a day for nearly three months, there
should still remain an attitude of "can't be done."
That such a scepticism still obtained is evidenced by
the public prints of the period. Edison's electric-
light system and his broad claims were freely discussed
and animadverted upon at the very time he
was demonstrating their successful application. To
show some of the feeling at the time, we reproduce
the following letter, which appeared November 29,

"To the Editor of the Sun:

"SIR,--In reading the discussions relative to the Pearl
Street station of the Edison light, I have noted that
while it is claimed that there is scarcely any loss from
leakage of current, nothing is said about the loss due to
the resistance of the long circuits. I am informed that
this is the secret of the failure to produce with the power
in position a sufficient amount of current to run all the
lamps that have been put up, and that while six, and
even seven, lights to the horse-power may be produced
from an isolated plant, the resistance of the long underground
wires reduces this result in the above case to less
than three lights to the horse-power, thus making the
cost of production greatly in excess of gas. Can the
Edison company explain this?

This was one of the many anonymous letters that
had been written to the newspapers on the subject,
and the following reply by the Edison company was
printed December 3, 1882:

"To the Editor of the Sun:

"SIR,--`Investigator' in Wednesday's Sun, says that
the Edison company is troubled at its Pearl Street station
with a `loss of current, due to the resistance of the long
circuits'; also that, whereas Edison gets `six or even
seven lights to the horse-power in isolated plants, the
resistance of the long underground wires reduces that
result in the Pearl Street station to less than three lights
to the horse-power.' Both of these statements are false.
As regards loss due to resistance, there is a well-known
law for determining it, based on Ohm's law. By use of
that law we knew in advance, that is to say, when the
original plans for the station were drawn, just what this
loss would be, precisely the same as a mechanical engineer
when constructing a mill with long lines of shafting
can forecast the loss of power due to friction. The
practical result in the Pearl Street station has fully
demonstrated the correctness of our estimate thus made
in advance. As regards our getting only three lights
per horse-power, our station has now been running three
months, without stopping a moment, day or night, and
we invariably get over six lamps per horse-power, or
substantially the same as we do in our isolated plants.
We are now lighting one hundred and ninety-three buildings,
wired for forty-four hundred lamps, of which about
two-thirds are in constant use, and we are adding
additional houses and lamps daily. These figures can be
verified at the office of the Board of Underwriters, where
certificates with full details permitting the use of our
light are filed by their own inspector. To light these
lamps we run from one to three dynamos, according to
the lamps in use at any given time, and we shall start
additional dynamos as fast as we can connect more buildings.
Neither as regards the loss due to resistance, nor
as regards the number of lamps per horse-power, is there
the slightest trouble or disappointment on the part of
our company, and your correspondent is entirely in error
is assuming that there is. Let me suggest that if `Investigator'
really wishes to investigate, and is competent
and willing to learn the exact facts, he can do
so at this office, where there is no mystery of concealment,
but, on the contrary, a strong desire to communicate
facts to intelligent inquirers. Such a method of
investigating must certainly be more satisfactory to one
honestly seeking knowledge than that of first assuming
an error as the basis of a question, and then demanding
an explanation.
"Yours very truly,
"S. B. EATON, President."

Viewed from the standpoint of over twenty-seven
years later, the wisdom and necessity of answering
anonymous newspaper letters of this kind might be
deemed questionable, but it must be remembered that,
although the Pearl Street station was working
successfully, and Edison's comprehensive plans were
abundantly vindicated, the enterprise was absolutely
new and only just stepping on the very threshold of
commercial exploitation. To enter in and possess
the land required the confidence of capital and the
general public. Hence it was necessary to maintain
a constant vigilance to defeat the insidious attacks of
carping critics and others who would attempt to
injure the Edison system by misleading statements.

It will be interesting to the modern electrician to
note that when this pioneer station was started, and
in fact for some little time afterward, there was not
a single electrical instrument in the whole station--
not a voltmeter or an ammeter! Nor was there a
central switchboard! Each dynamo had its own individual
control switch. The feeder connections were
all at the front of the building, and the general voltage
control apparatus was on the floor above. An
automatic pressure indicator had been devised and
put in connection with the main circuits. It consisted,
generally speaking, of an electromagnet with
relays connecting with a red and a blue lamp. When
the electrical pressure was normal, neither lamp was
lighted; but if the electromotive force rose above a
predetermined amount by one or two volts, the red
lamp lighted up, and the attendant at the hand-wheel
of the field regulator inserted resistance in the field
circuit, whereas, if the blue lamp lighted, resistance
was cut out until the pressure was raised to normal.
Later on this primitive indicator was supplanted by
the "Bradley Bridge," a crude form of the "Howell"
pressure indicators, which were subsequently used
for many years in the Edison stations.

Much could be added to make a complete pictorial
description of the historic Pearl Street station, but
it is not within the scope of this narrative to enter
into diffuse technical details, interesting as they may
be to many persons. We cannot close this chapter,
however, without mention of the fate of the Pearl
Street station, which continued in successful commercial
operation until January 2, 1890, when it was
partially destroyed by fire. All the "Jumbos" were
ruined, excepting No. 9, which is still a venerated
relic in the possession of the New York Edison Company.
Luckily, the boilers were unharmed. Belt-
driven generators and engines were speedily installed,
and the station was again in operation in a few days.
The uninjured "Jumbo," No. 9, again continued to
perform its duty. But in the words of Mr. Charles L.
Clarke, "the glory of the old Pearl Street station,
unique in bearing the impress of Mr. Edison's personality,
and, as it were, constructed with his own
hands, disappeared in the flame and smoke of that
Thursday morning fire."

The few days' interruption of the service was the
only serious one that has taken place in the history
of the New York Edison Company from September 4,
1882, to the present date. The Pearl Street station
was operated for some time subsequent to the fire,
but increasing demands in the mean time having led
to the construction of other stations, the mains of
the First District were soon afterward connected to
another plant, the Pearl Street station was dismantled,
and the building was sold in 1895.

The prophetic insight into the magnitude of central-
station lighting that Edison had when he was still
experimenting on the incandescent lamp over thirty
years ago is a little less than astounding, when it is
so amply verified in the operations of the New York
Edison Company (the successor of the Edison Electric
Illuminating Company of New York) and many others.
At the end of 1909 the New York Edison Company
alone was operating twenty-eight stations and substations,
having a total capacity of 159,500 kilowatts.
Connected with its lines were approximately 85,000
customers wired for 3,813,899 incandescent lamps and
nearly 225,000 horse-power through industrial electric
motors connected with the underground service.
A large quantity of electrical energy is also supplied
for heating and cooking, charging automobiles, chemical
and plating work, and various other uses.



WE have now seen the Edison lighting system
given a complete, convincing demonstration in
Paris, London, and New York; and have noted steps
taken for its introduction elsewhere on both sides
of the Atlantic. The Paris plant, like that at the
Crystal Palace, was a temporary exhibit. The London
plant was less temporary, but not permanent,
supplying before it was torn out no fewer than
three thousand lamps in hotels, churches, stores, and
dwellings in the vicinity of Holborn Viaduct. There
Messrs. Johnson and Hammer put into practice many
of the ideas now standard in the art, and secured
much useful data for the work in New York, of
which the story has just been told.

As a matter of fact the first Edison commercial
station to be operated in this country was that at
Appleton, Wisconsin, but its only serious claim to
notice is that it was the initial one of the system
driven by water-power. It went into service August
15, 1882, about three weeks before the Pearl Street
station. It consisted of one small dynamo of a
capacity of two hundred and eighty lights of 10 c.p.
each, and was housed in an unpretentious wooden
shed. The dynamo-electric machine, though small,
was robust, for under all the varying speeds of water-
power, and the vicissitudes of the plant to which it,
belonged, it continued in active use until 1899--
seventeen years.

Edison was from the first deeply impressed with
the possibilities of water-power, and, as this incident
shows, was prompt to seize such a very early opportunity.
But his attention was in reality concentrated
closely on the supply of great centres of population,
a task which he then felt might well occupy his lifetime;
and except in regard to furnishing isolated
plants he did not pursue further the development of
hydro-electric stations. That was left to others, and
to the application of the alternating current, which
has enabled engineers to harness remote powers, and,
within thoroughly economical limits, transmit thousands
of horse-power as much as two hundred miles at
pressures of 80,000 and 100,000 volts. Owing to his
insistence on low pressure, direct current for use in
densely populated districts, as the only safe and truly
universal, profitable way of delivering electrical
energy to the consumers, Edison has been frequently
spoken of as an opponent of the alternating current.
This does him an injustice. At the time a measure
was before the Virginia legislature, in 1890, to limit
the permissible pressures of current so as to render
it safe, he said: "You want to allow high pressure
wherever the conditions are such that by no possible
accident could that pressure get into the houses of
the consumers; you want to give them all the latitude
you can." In explaining this he added: "Suppose
you want to take the falls down at Richmond,
and want to put up a water-power? Why, if we
erect a station at the falls, it is a great economy to
get it up to the city. By digging a cheap trench and
putting in an insulated cable, and connecting such
station with the central part of Richmond, having
the end of the cable come up into the station from
the earth and there connected with motors, the power
of the falls would be transmitted to these motors.
If now the motors were made to run dynamos conveying
low-pressure currents to the public, there is
no possible way whereby this high-pressure current
could get to the public." In other words, Edison
made the sharp fundamental distinction between high
pressure alternating current for transmission and low
pressure direct current for distribution; and this is
exactly the practice that has been adopted in all the
great cities of the country to-day. There seems no
good reason for believing that it will change. It
might perhaps have been altogether better for Edison,
from the financial standpoint, if he had not identified
himself so completely with one kind of current, but
that made no difference to him, as it was a matter of
conviction; and Edison's convictions are granitic.
Moreover, this controversy over the two currents,
alternating and direct, which has become historical
in the field of electricity--and is something like the
"irrepressible conflict" we heard of years ago in
national affairs--illustrates another aspect of Edison's
character. Broad as the prairies and free in thought
as the winds that sweep them, he is idiosyncratically
opposed to loose and wasteful methods, to plans of
empire that neglect the poor at the gate. Every-
thing he has done has been aimed at the conservation
of energy, the contraction of space, the intensification
of culture. Burbank and his tribe represent
in the vegetable world, Edison in the mechanical.
Not only has he developed distinctly new species,
but he has elucidated the intensive art of getting
$1200 out of an electrical acre instead of $12--a
manured market-garden inside London and a ten-
bushel exhausted wheat farm outside Lawrence,
Kansas, being the antipodes of productivity--yet
very far short of exemplifying the difference of electrical
yield between an acre of territory in Edison's
"first New York district" and an acre in some small

Edison's lighting work furnished an excellent basis--
in fact, the only one--for the development of the alternating
current now so generally employed in central-
station work in America; and in the McGraw Electrical
Directory of April, 1909, no fewer than 4164 stations
out of 5780 reported its use. When the alternating
current was introduced for practical purposes it was
not needed for arc lighting, the circuit for which,
from a single dynamo, would often be twenty or
thirty miles in length, its current having a pressure
of not less than five or six thousand volts. For some
years it was not found feasible to operate motors on
alternating-current circuits, and that reason was
often urged against it seriously. It could not be
used for electroplating or deposition, nor could it
charge storage batteries, all of which are easily within
the ability of the direct current. But when it came
to be a question of lighting a scattered suburb, a
group of dwellings on the outskirts, a remote country
residence or a farm-house, the alternating current, in
all elements save its danger, was and is ideal. Its
thin wires can be carried cheaply over vast areas,
and at each local point of consumption the transformer
of size exactly proportioned to its local task
takes the high-voltage transmission current and
lowers its potential at a ratio of 20 or 40 to 1, for use
in distribution and consumption circuits. This evolution
has been quite distinct, with its own inventors
like Gaulard and Gibbs and Stanley, but came subsequent
to the work of supplying small, dense areas
of population; the art thus growing from within,
and using each new gain as a means for further

Nor was the effect of such great advances as those
made by Edison limited to the electrical field. Every
department of mechanics was stimulated and benefited
to an extraordinary degree. Copper for the
circuits was more highly refined than ever before to
secure the best conductivity, and purity was insisted
on in every kind of insulation. Edison was intolerant
of sham and shoddy, and nothing would satisfy him
that could not stand cross-examination by microscope,
test-tube, and galvanometer. It was, perhaps,
the steam-engine on which the deepest imprint for
good was made, referred to already in the remarks
of Mr. F. J. Sprague in the preceding chapter, but
best illustrated in the perfection of the modern high-
speed engine of the Armington & Sims type. Unless
he could secure an engine of smoother running and
more exactly governed and regulated than those avail-
able for his dynamo and lamp, Edison realized that
he would find it almost impossible to give a steady
light. He did not want his customers to count the
heart-beats of the engine in the flicker of the lamp.
Not a single engine was even within gunshot of the
standard thus set up, but the emergency called forth
its man in Gardiner C. Sims, a talented draughtsman
and designer who had been engaged in locomotive
construction and in the engineering department of
the United States Navy. He may be quoted as to
what happened: "The deep interest, financial and
moral, and friendly backing I received from Mr.
Edison, together with valuable suggestions, enabled
me to bring out the engine; as I was quite alone in
the world--poor--I had found a friend who knew
what he wanted and explained it clearly. Mr. Edison
was a leader far ahead of the time. He compelled the
design of the successful engine.

"Our first engine compelled the inventing and making
of a suitable engine indicator to indicate it--the
Tabor. He obtained the desired speed and load
with a friction brake; also regulator of speed; but
waited for an indicator to verify it. Then again there
was no known way to lubricate an engine for continuous
running, and Mr. Edison informed me that as a
marine engine started before the ship left New York
and continued running until it reached its home
port, so an engine for his purposes must produce
light at all times. That was a poser to me, for a
five-hours' run was about all that had been required
up to that time.

"A day or two later Mr. Edison inquired: `How far

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