Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/505

This page has been validated.
489
SKETCH OF THOMAS ALVA EDISON.

struction. Mr. Edison's forte is automatic contrivances. He arranged strips of metal around the bottom of the walls in the room, and connected them with the opposite poles of a battery, so that when the bugs stepped from one to the other, they closed the circuit and their lives at one operation, and made room for others.

In Boston Mr. Edison fixed up a small shop and continued his experiments, which he put into such practical shape that he saw more money in them than in his salary. He worked out the idea of his duplex telegraph, and went to Rochester in 1870 to test it between that place and Boston. The effort failed, though Mr. Edison says it ought to have succeeded. He then came to New York, scarcely knowing what to do next. He hung around the office of the Gold Indicator Company, studying their cumbersome apparatus. One day some part of it failed in a time of excitement; Mr. Edison offered to remedy it; he was laughed at incredulously; but the case was desperate, and he was allowed to try. He succeeded; and the managers, ready to perceive the value of such a man, made him superintendent. He introduced improved apparatus, invented the gold printer, put up a private line, and finally sold it to the Gold and Stock Company, together with his services, or the privilege of having the first option to buy his telegraphic inventions. He was now fully launched on a tide of success. To furnish his instruments, he established a factory in Newark, New Jersey, employing three hundred men. As a manufacturer he was not a success. If he had an order for any of his inventions, and, after having made a part or all of them, he invented an improvement, nothing would do but he must incorporate it, even though at his own expense. At last, finding that the close attention demanded by his manufacturing business was incompatible with the freedom demanded for invention, he abandoned it, and, two years ago, bought a site for an experiment-shop at Menlo Park, on the Pennsylvania Railroad, twenty-four miles from New York, a mere flag-station, with about a dozen houses, mostly his own and his workmen's.

On the crown of a knoll, and looking, for all the world, like a country meeting-house, minus the steeple, and with the addition of a porch, is a long two-story white frame building, in the middle of a little lot, surrounded by a white picket-fence. This is Mr. Edison's shop. On the ground-floor, as you enter, is a little front-office, from which a small library is partitioned off. Next is a large square room with glass cases filled with models of his inventions. In the rear of this is the machine-shop, completely equipped, and run with a ten-horse-power engine. The upper story occupies the length and breadth of the building, 100 × 25 feet, is lighted by windows on every side, and is occupied as a laboratory. The walls are covered with shelves full of bottles containing all sorts of chemicals. Scattered through the room are tables covered with electrical instruments, telephones, phonographs, microscopes, spectroscopes, etc. In the centre of the room is a rack full