Edison, His Life and Inventions
by Frank Lewis Dyer and Thomas Commerford Martin
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The electric railways of our country show even larger figures than the lighting stations and plants, as they employ on the average over 250,000 persons, whose annual compensation amounts to not less than $155,000,000.

In the manufacture of about $50,000,000 worth of dynamos and motors annually, for central-station equipment, isolated plants, electric railways, and other purposes, the manufacturers of the country employ an average of not less than 30,000 people, whose yearly pay-roll amounts to no less a sum than $20,000,000.

The growth of the telephone systems of the United States also furnishes us with statistics of an analogous nature, for we find that the average number of employees engaged in this industry is at least 140,000, whose annual earnings aggregate a minimum of $75,000,000; besides which the manufacturers of telephone apparatus employ over 12,000 persons, to whom is paid annually about $5,500,000.

No attempt is made to include figures of collateral industries, such, for instance, as copper, which is very closely allied with the electrical arts, and the great bulk of which is refined electrically.

The 8000 or so motion-picture theatres of the country employ no fewer than 40,000 people, whose aggregate annual income amounts to not less than $37,000,000.

Coming now to the Orange Valley plant, we take a drop from these figures to the comparatively modest ones which give us an average of 3600 employees and calling for an annual pay-roll of about $2,250,000. It must be remembered, however, that the sums mentioned above represent industries operated by great aggregations of capital, while the Orange Valley plant, as well as the Edison Portland Cement Company, with an average daily number of 530 employees and over $400,000 annual pay-roll, represent in a large measure industries that are more in the nature of closely held enterprises and practically under the direction of one mind.

The table herewith given summarizes the figures that have just been presented, and affords an idea of the totals affected by the genius of this one man. It is well known that many other men and many other inventions have been needed for the perfection of these arts; but it is equally true that, as already noted, some of these industries are directly the creation of Edison, while in every one of the rest his impress has been deep and significant. Before he began inventing, only two of them were known at all as arts—telegraphy and the manufacture of cement. Moreover, these figures deal only with the United States, and take no account of the development of many of the Edison inventions in Europe or of their adoption throughout the world at large. Let it suffice


Annual Gross Rev- Number Annual Class of Industry Investment enue or of Em- Pay-Rolls sales Central station lighting and power $1,000,000,000 $125,000,000 50,000 $40,000,000 Isolated incandescent lighting 500,000,000 — 33,000 17,000 000 Incandescent lamps 25,000,000 20,000,000 14,000 8,000 000 Electric fixtures 8,000,000 5,000,000 6,000 3,750,000 Dynamos and motors 60,000,000 50,000,000 30,000 20,000,000 Electric railways 4,000,000,000 430,000,000 250,000 155,000,000 Telephone systems 800,000,000 175,000,000 140,000 75,000,000 Telephone apparatus 30,000,000 15,000,000 12,000 5,500,000 Phonograph and motion pictures 10,000,000 15,000,000 5,000 6,000,000 Motion picture theatres 40,000,000 80,000,000 40,000 37,000,000 Edison Portland cement 4,000,000 2,000,000 530 400,000 Telegraphy 250,000,000 60,000,000 100,000 30,000,000 —————————————————————————————————————Totals 6,727,000,000 1,077,000,000 680,530 397,650,000

that in America alone the work of Edison has been one of the most potent factors in bringing into existence new industries now capitalized at nearly $ 7,000,000,000, earning annually over $1,000,000,000, and giving employment to an army of more than six hundred thousand people.

A single diamond, prismatically flashing from its many facets the beauties of reflected light, comes well within the limits of comprehension of the human mind and appeals to appreciation by the finer sensibilities; but in viewing an exhibition of thousands of these beautiful gems, the eye and brain are simply bewildered with the richness of a display which tends to confuse the intellect until the function of analysis comes into play and leads to more adequate apprehension.

So, in presenting the mass of statistics contained in this chapter, we fear that the result may have been the bewilderment of the reader to some extent. Nevertheless, in writing a biography of Edison, the main object is to present the facts as they are, and leave it to the intelligent reader to classify, apply, and analyze them in such manner as appeals most forcibly to his intellectual processes. If in the foregoing pages there has appeared to be a tendency to attribute to Edison the entire credit for the growth to which many of the above-named great enterprises have in these latter days attained, we must especially disclaim any intention of giving rise to such a deduction. No one who has carefully followed the course of this narrative can deny, however, that Edison is the father of some of the arts and industries that have been mentioned, and that as to some of the others it was the magic of his touch that helped make them practicable. Not only to his work and ingenuity is due the present magnitude of these arts and industries, but it is attributable also to the splendid work and numerous contributions of other great inventors, such as Brush, Bell, Elihu Thomson, Weston, Sprague, and many others, as well as to the financiers and investors who in the past thirty years have furnished the vast sums of money that were necessary to exploit and push forward these enterprises.

The reader may have noticed in a perusal of this chapter the lack of autobiographical quotations, such as have appeared in other parts of this narrative. Edison's modesty has allowed us but one remark on the subject. This was made by him to one of the writers a short time ago, when, after an interesting indulgence in reminiscences of old times and early inventions, he leaned back in his chair, and with a broad smile on his face, said, reflectively: "Say, I HAVE been mixed up in a whole lot of things, haven't I?"



THROUGHOUT the forty-odd years of his creative life, Edison has realized by costly experience the truth of the cynical proverb that "A patent is merely a title to a lawsuit." It is not intended, however, by this statement to lead to any inference on the part of the reader that HE stands peculiarly alone in any such experience, for it has been and still is the common lot of every successful inventor, sooner or later.

To attribute dishonesty or cupidity as the root of the defence in all patent litigation would be aiming very wide of the mark, for in no class of suits that come before the courts are there any that present a greater variety of complex, finely shaded questions, or that require more delicacy of interpretation, than those that involve the construction of patents, particularly those relating to electrical devices. Indeed, a careful study of legal procedure of this character could not be carried far without discovery of the fact that in numerous instances the differences of opinion between litigants were marked by the utmost bona fides.

On the other hand, such study would reveal many cases of undoubted fraudulent intent, as well as many bold attempts to deprive the inventor of the fruits of his endeavors by those who have sought to evade, through subtle technicalities of the law, the penalty justly due them for trickery, evasion, or open contempt of the rights of others.

In the history of science and of the arts to which the world has owed its continued progress from year to year there is disclosed one remarkable fact, and that is, that whenever any important discovery or invention has been made and announced by one man, it has almost always been disclosed later that other men—possibly widely separated and knowing nothing of the other's work—have been following up the same general lines of investigation, independently, with the same object in mind. Their respective methods might be dissimilar while tending to the same end, but it does not necessarily follow that any one of these other experimenters might ever have achieved the result aimed at, although, after the proclamation of success by one, it is easy to believe that each of the other independent investigators might readily persuade himself that he would ultimately have reached the goal in just that same way.

This peculiar coincidence of simultaneous but separate work not only comes to light on the bringing out of great and important discoveries or inventions, but becomes more apparent if a new art is disclosed, for then the imagination of previous experimenters is stimulated through wide dissemination of the tidings, sometimes resulting in more or less effort to enter the newly opened field with devices or methods that resemble closely the original and fundamental ones in principle and application. In this and other ways there arises constantly in the United States Patent Office a large number of contested cases, called "Interferences," where applications for patents covering the invention of a similar device have been independently filed by two or even more persons. In such cases only one patent can be issued, and that to the inventor who on the taking of testimony shows priority in date of invention. [20]

[Footnote 20: A most remarkable instance of contemporaneous invention and without a parallel in the annals of the United States Patent Office, occurred when, on the same day, February 15, 1876, two separate descriptions were filed in that office, one a complete application and the other a caveat, but each covering an invention for "transmitting vocal sounds telegraphically." The application was made by Alexander Graham Bell, of Salem, Massachusetts, and the caveat by Elisha Gray, of Chicago, Illinois. On examination of the two papers it was found that both of them covered practically the same ground, hence, as only one patent could be granted, it became necessary to ascertain the precise hour at which the documents were respectively filed, and put the parties in interference. This was done, with the result that the patent was ultimately awarded to Bell.]

In the opening up and development of any new art based upon a fundamental discovery or invention, there ensues naturally an era of supplemental or collateral inventive activity—the legitimate outcome of the basic original ideas. Part of this development may be due to the inventive skill and knowledge of the original inventor and his associates, who, by reason of prior investigation, would be in better position to follow up the art in its earliest details than others, who might be regarded as mere outsiders. Thus a new enterprise may be presented before the world by its promoters in the belief that they are strongly fortified by patent rights which will protect them in a degree commensurate with the risks they have assumed.

Supplemental inventions, however, in any art, new or old, are not limited to those which emanate from the original workers, for the ingenuity of man, influenced by the spirit of the times, seizes upon any novel line of action and seeks to improve or enlarge upon it, or, at any rate, to produce more or less variation of its phases. Consequently, there is a constant endeavor on the part of a countless host of men possessing some degree of technical skill and inventive ability, to win fame and money by entering into the already opened fields of endeavor with devices and methods of their own, for which subsidiary patents may be obtainable. Some of such patents may prove to be valuable, while it is quite certain that in the natural order of things others will be commercially worthless, but none may be entirely disregarded in the history and development of the art.

It will be quite obvious, therefore, that the advent of any useful invention or discovery, great or small, is followed by a clashing of many interests which become complex in their interpretation by reason of the many conflicting claims that cluster around the main principle. Nor is the confusion less confounded through efforts made on the part of dishonest persons, who, like vultures, follow closely on the trail of successful inventors and (sometimes through information derived by underhand methods) obtain patents on alleged inventions, closely approximating the real ones, solely for the purpose of harassing the original patentee until they are bought up, or else, with the intent of competing boldly in the new business, trust in the delays of legal proceedings to obtain a sure foothold in their questionable enterprise.

Then again there are still others who, having no patent rights, but waving aside all compunction and in downright fraud, simply enter the commercial field against the whole world, using ruthlessly whatever inventive skill and knowledge the original patentee may have disclosed, and trusting to the power of money, rapid movement, and mendacious advertising to build up a business which shall presently assume such formidable proportions as to force a compromise, or stave off an injunction until the patent has expired. In nine cases out of ten such a course can be followed with relative impunity; and guided by skilful experts who may suggest really trivial changes here and there over the patented structure, and with the aid of keen and able counsel, hardly a patent exists that could not be invaded by such infringers. Such is the condition of our laws and practice that the patentee in seeking to enforce his rights labors under a terrible handicap.

And, finally, in this recital of perplexing conditions confronting the inventor, there must not be forgotten the commercial "shark," whose predatory instincts are ever keenly alert for tender victims. In the wake of every newly developed art of world-wide importance there is sure to follow a number of unscrupulous adventurers, who hasten to take advantage of general public ignorance of the true inwardness of affairs. Basing their operations on this lack of knowledge, and upon the tendency of human nature to give credence to widely advertised and high-sounding descriptions and specious promises of vast profits, these men find little difficulty in conjuring money out of the pockets of the unsophisticated and gullible, who rush to become stockholders in concerns that have "airy nothings" for a foundation, and that collapse quickly when the bubble is pricked. [21]

[Footnote 21: A notable instance of the fleecing of unsuspecting and credulous persons occurred in the early eighties, during the furor occasioned by the introduction of Mr. Edison's electric-light system. A corporation claiming to have a self-generating dynamo (practically perpetual motion) advertised its preposterous claims extensively, and actually succeeded in selling a large amount of stock, which, of course, proved to be absolutely worthless.]

To one who is unacquainted with the trying circumstances attending the introduction and marketing of patented devices, it might seem unnecessary that an inventor and his business associates should be obliged to take into account the unlawful or ostensible competition of pirates or schemers, who, in the absence of legal decision, may run a free course for a long time. Nevertheless, as public patronage is the element vitally requisite for commercial success, and as the public is not usually in full possession of all the facts and therefore cannot discriminate between the genuine and the false, the legitimate inventor must avail himself of every possible means of proclaiming and asserting his rights if he desires to derive any benefit from the results of his skill and labor. Not only must he be prepared to fight in the Patent Office and pursue a regular course of patent litigation against those who may honestly deem themselves to be protected by other inventions or patents of similar character, and also proceed against more palpable infringers who are openly, defiantly, and illegitimately engaged in competitive business operations, but he must, as well, endeavor to protect himself against the assaults of impudent fraud by educating the public mind to a point of intelligent apprehension of the true status of his invention and the conflicting claims involved.

When the nature of a patent right is considered it is difficult to see why this should be so. The inventor creates a new thing—an invention of utility—and the people, represented by the Federal Government, say to him in effect: "Disclose your invention to us in a patent so that we may know how to practice it, and we will agree to give you a monopoly for seventeen years, after which we shall be free to use it. If the right thus granted is invaded, apply to a Federal Court and the infringer will be enjoined and required to settle in damages." Fair and false promise! Is it generally realized that no matter how flagrant the infringement nor how barefaced and impudent the infringer, no Federal Court will grant an injunction UNTIL THE PATENT SHALL HAVE BEEN FIRST LITIGATED TO FINAL HEARING AND SUSTAINED? A procedure, it may be stated, requiring years of time and thousands of dollars, during which other infringers have generally entered the field, and all have grown fat.

Thus Edison and his business associates have been forced into a veritable maelstrom of litigation during the major part of the last forty years, in the effort to procure for themselves a small measure of protection for their interests under the numerous inventions of note that he has made at various times in that period. The earlier years of his inventive activity, while productive of many important contributions to electrical industries, such as stock tickers and printers, duplex, quadruplex, and automatic telegraphs, were not marked by the turmoil of interminable legal conflicts that arose after the beginning of the telephone and electric-light epochs. In fact, his inventions; up to and including his telephone improvements (which entered into already existing arts), had been mostly purchased by the Western Union and other companies, and while there was more or less contesting of his claims (especially in respect of the telephone), the extent of such litigation was not so conspicuously great as that which centred subsequently around his patents covering incandescent electric lighting and power systems.

Through these inventions there came into being an entirely new art, complete in its practicability evolved by Edison after protracted experiments founded upon most patient, thorough, and original methods of investigation extending over several years. Long before attaining the goal, he had realized with characteristic insight the underlying principles of the great and comprehensive problem he had started out to solve, and plodded steadily along the path that he had marked out, ignoring the almost universal scientific disbelief in his ultimate success. "Dreamer," "fool," "boaster" were among the appellations bestowed upon him by unbelieving critics. Ridicule was heaped upon him in the public prints, and mathematics were called into service by learned men to settle the point forever that he was attempting the utterly impossible.

But, presto! no sooner had he accomplished the task and shown concrete results to the world than he found himself in the anomalous position of being at once surrounded by the conditions which inevitably confront every inventor. The path through the trackless forest had been blazed, and now every one could find the way. At the end of the road was a rich prize belonging rightfully to the man who had opened a way to it, but the struggles of others to reach it by more or less honest methods now began and continued for many years. If, as a former commissioner once said, "Edison was the man who kept the path to the Patent Office hot with his footsteps," there were other great inventors abreast or immediately on his heels, some, to be sure, with legitimate, original methods and vital improvements representing independent work; while there were also those who did not trouble to invent, but simply helped themselves to whatever ideas were available, and coming from any source.

Possibly events might have happened differently had Edison been able to prevent the announcement of his electric-light inventions until he was entirely prepared to bring out the system as a whole, ready for commercial exploitation, but the news of his production of a practical and successful incandescent lamp became known and spread like wild-fire to all corners of the globe. It took more than a year after the evolution of the lamp for Edison to get into position to do actual business, and during that time his laboratory was the natural Mecca of every inquiring person. Small wonder, then, that when he was prepared to market his invention he should find others entering that market, at home and abroad, at the same time, and with substantially similar merchandise.

Edison narrates two incidents that may be taken as characteristic of a good deal that had to be contended with, coming in the shape of nefarious attack. "In the early days of my electric light," he says, "curiosity and interest brought a great many people to Menlo Park to see it. Some of them did not come with the best of intentions. I remember the visit of one expert, a well-known electrician, a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, and who then represented a Baltimore gas company. We had the lamps exhibited in a large room, and so arranged on a table as to illustrate the regular layout of circuits for houses and streets. Sixty of the men employed at the laboratory were used as watchers, each to keep an eye on a certain section of the exhibit, and see there was no monkeying with it. This man had a length of insulated No. 10 wire passing through his sleeves and around his back, so that his hands would conceal the ends and no one would know he had it. His idea, of course, was to put this wire across the ends of the supplying circuits, and short-circuit the whole thing—put it all out of business without being detected. Then he could report how easily the electric light went out, and a false impression would be conveyed to the public. He did not know that we had already worked out the safety-fuse, and that every group of lights was thus protected independently. He put this jumper slyly in contact with the wires—and just four lamps went out on the section he tampered with. The watchers saw him do it, however, and got hold of him and just led him out of the place with language that made the recording angels jump for their typewriters."

The other incident is as follows: "Soon after I had got out the incandescent light I had an interference in the Patent Office with a man from Wisconsin. He filed an application for a patent and entered into a conspiracy to 'swear back' of the date of my invention, so as to deprive me of it. Detectives were put on the case, and we found he was a 'faker,' and we took means to break the thing up. Eugene Lewis, of Eaton & Lewis, had this in hand for me. Several years later this same man attempted to defraud a leading firm of manufacturing chemists in New York, and was sent to State prison. A short time after that a syndicate took up a man named Goebel and tried to do the same thing, but again our detective-work was too much for them. This was along the same line as the attempt of Drawbaugh to deprive Bell of his telephone. Whenever an invention of large prospective value comes out, these cases always occur. The lamp patent was sustained in the New York Federal Court. I thought that was final and would end the matter, but another Federal judge out in St. Louis did not sustain it. The result is I have never enjoyed any benefits from my lamp patents, although I fought for many years." The Goebel case will be referred to later in this chapter.

The original owner of the patents and inventions covering his electric-lighting system, the Edison Electric Light Company (in which Edison was largely interested as a stockholder), thus found at the outset that its commercial position was imperilled by the activity of competitors who had sprung up like mushrooms. It became necessary to take proper preliminary legal steps to protect the interests which had been acquired at the cost of so much money and such incessant toil and experiment. During the first few years in which the business of the introduction of the light was carried on with such strenuous and concentrated effort, the attention of Edison and his original associates was constantly focused upon the commercial exploitation and the further development of the system at home and abroad. The difficult and perplexing situation at that time is thus described by Major S. B. Eaton:

"The reason for the delay in beginning and pushing suits for infringements of the lamp patent has never been generally understood. In my official position as president of the Edison Electric Light Company I became the target, along with Mr. Edison, for censure from the stockholders and others on account of this delay, and I well remember how deep the feeling was. In view of the facts that a final injunction on the lamp patent was not obtained until the life of the patent was near its end, and, next, that no damages in money were ever paid by the guilty infringers, it has been generally believed that Mr. Edison sacrificed the interest of his stockholders selfishly when he delayed the prosecution of patent suits and gave all his time and energies to manufacturing. This belief was the stronger because the manufacturing enterprises belonged personally to Mr. Edison and not to his company. But the facts render it easy to dispel this false belief. The Edison inventions were not only a lamp; they comprised also an entire system of central stations. Such a thing was new to the world, and the apparatus, as well as the manufacture thereof, was equally new. Boilers, engines, dynamos, motors, distribution mains, meters, house-wiring, safety-devices, lamps, and lamp-fixtures—all were vital parts of the whole system. Most of them were utterly novel and unknown to the arts, and all of them required quick, and, I may say, revolutionary thought and invention. The firm of Babcock & Wilcox gave aid on the boilers, Armington & Sims undertook the engines, but everything else was abnormal. No factories in the land would take up the manufacture. I remember, for instance, our interviews with Messrs. Mitchell, Vance & Co., the leading manufacturers of house gas-lighting fixtures, such as brackets and chandeliers. They had no faith in electric lighting, and rejected all our overtures to induce them to take up the new business of making electric-light fixtures. As regards other parts of the Edison system, notably the Edison dynamo, no such machines had ever existed; there was no factory in the world equipped to make them, and, most discouraging of all, the very scientific principles of their construction were still vague and experimental.

"What was to be done? Mr. Edison has never been greater than when he met and solved this crisis. 'If there are no factories,' he said, 'to make my inventions, I will build the factories myself. Since capital is timid, I will raise and supply it. The issue is factories or death.' Mr. Edison invited the cooperation of his leading stockholders. They lacked confidence or did not care to increase their investments. He was forced to go on alone. The chain of Edison shops was then created. By far the most perplexing of these new manufacturing problems was the lamp. Not only was it a new industry, one without shadow of prototype, but the mechanical devices for making the lamps, and to some extent the very machines to make those devices, were to be invented. All of this was done by the courage, capital, and invincible energy and genius of the great inventor. But Mr. Edison could not create these great and diverse industries and at the same time give requisite attention to litigation. He could not start and develop the new and hard business of electric lighting and yet spare one hour to pursue infringers. One thing or the other must wait. All agreed that it must be the litigation. And right there a lasting blow was given to the prestige of the Edison patents. The delay was translated as meaning lack of confidence; and the alert infringer grew strong in courage and capital. Moreover, and what was the heaviest blow of all, he had time, thus unmolested, to get a good start.

"In looking back on those days and scrutinizing them through the years, I am impressed by the greatness, the solitary greatness I may say, of Mr. Edison. We all felt then that we were of importance, and that our contribution of effort and zeal were vital. I can see now, however, that the best of us was nothing but the fly on the wheel. Suppose anything had happened to Edison? All would have been chaos and ruin.. To him, therefore, be the glory, if not the profit."

The foregoing remarks of Major Eaton show authoritatively how the much-discussed delay in litigating the Edison patents was so greatly misunderstood at the time, and also how imperatively necessary it was for Edison and his associates to devote their entire time and energies to the commercial development of the art. As the lighting business increased, however, and a great number of additional men were initiated into its mysteries, Edison and his experts were able to spare some time to legal matters, and an era of active patent litigation against infringers was opened about the year 1885 by the Edison company, and thereafter continued for many years.

While the history of this vast array of legal proceedings possesses a fascinating interest for those involved, as well as for professional men, legal and scientific, it could not be expected that it would excite any such feeling on the part of a casual reader. Hence, it is not proposed to encumber this narrative with any detailed record of the numerous suits that were brought and conducted through their complicated ramifications by eminent counsel. Suffice it to say that within about sixteen years after the commencement of active patent litigation, there had been spent by the owners of the Edison lighting patents upward of two million dollars in prosecuting more than two hundred lawsuits brought against persons who were infringing many of the patents of Edison on the incandescent electric lamp and component parts of his system. Over fifty separate patents were involved in these suits, including the basic one on the lamp (ordinarily called the "Filament" patent), other detail lamp patents, as well as those on sockets, switches, dynamos, motors, and distributing systems.

The principal, or "test," suit on the "Filament" patent was that brought against "The United States Electric Lighting Company," which became a cause celebre in the annals of American jurisprudence. Edison's claims were strenuously and stubbornly contested throughout a series of intense legal conflicts that raged in the courts for a great many years. Both sides of the controversy were represented by legal talent of the highest order, under whose examination and cross-examination volumes of testimony were taken, until the printed record (including exhibits) amounted to more than six thousand pages. Scientific and technical literature and records in all parts of the civilized world were subjected to the most minute scrutiny of opposing experts in the endeavor to prove Edison to be merely an adapter of methods and devices already projected or suggested by others. The world was ransacked for anything that might be claimed as an anticipation of what he had done. Every conceivable phase of ingenuity that could be devised by technical experts was exercised in the attempt to show that Edison had accomplished nothing new. Everything that legal acumen could suggest—every subtle technicality of the law—all the complicated variations of phraseology that the novel nomenclature of a young art would allow—all were pressed into service and availed of by the contestors of the Edison invention in their desperate effort to defeat his claims. It was all in vain, however, for the decision of the court was in favor of Edison, and his lamp patent was sustained not only by the tribunal of the first resort, but also by the Appellate Court some time afterward.

The first trial was had before Judge Wallace in the United States Circuit Court for the Southern District of New York, and the appeal was heard by Judges Lacombe and Shipman, of the United States Circuit Court of Appeals. Before both tribunals the cause had been fully represented by counsel chosen from among the most eminent representatives of the bar at that time, those representing the Edison interests being the late Clarence A. Seward and Grosvenor P. Lowrey, together with Sherburne Blake Eaton, Albert H. Walker, and Richard N. Dyer. The presentation of the case to the courts had in both instances been marked by masterly and able arguments, elucidated by experiments and demonstrations to educate the judges on technical points. Some appreciation of the magnitude of this case may be gained from the fact that the argument on its first trial employed a great many days, and the minutes covered hundreds of pages of closely typewritten matter, while the argument on appeal required eight days, and was set forth in eight hundred and fifty pages of typewriting. Eliminating all purely forensic eloquence and exparte statements, the addresses of counsel in this celebrated suit are worthy of deep study by an earnest student, for, taken together, they comprise the most concise, authentic, and complete history of the prior state of the art and the development of the incandescent lamp that had been made up to that time. [22]

[22] The argument on appeal was conducted with the dignity and decorum that characterize such a proceeding in that court. There is usually little that savors of humor in the ordinary conduct of a case of this kind, but in the present instance a pertinent story was related by Mr. Lowrey, and it is now reproduced. In the course of his address to the court, Mr. Lowrey said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The injunction was granted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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