Edison, His Life and Inventions
by Frank Lewis Dyer and Thomas Commerford Martin
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". . . The writer of page 242" (the original article) "is probably a friend of Mr. Edison, but possibly, alas! a wicked partner. Why does he say such things as these? 'Mr. Edison claims that he realizes 90 per cent. of the power applied to this machine in external work.' . . . Perhaps the writer is a humorist, and had in his mind Colonel Sellers, etc., which he could not keep out of a serious discussion; but such jests are not good.

"Mr. Edison has built a very interesting machine, and he has the opportunity of making a valuable contribution to the electrical arts by furnishing authentic accounts of its capabilities."

The foregoing extracts are unavoidably lengthy, but, viewed in the light of facts, serve to illustrate most clearly that Edison's conceptions and work were far and away ahead of the comprehension of his contemporaries in the art, and that his achievements in the line of efficient dynamo design and construction were indeed truly fundamental and revolutionary in character. Much more of similar nature to the above could be quoted from other articles published elsewhere, but the foregoing will serve as instances generally representing all. In the controversy which appeared in the columns of the Scientific American, Mr. Upton, Edison's mathematician, took up the question on his side, and answered the critics by further elucidations of the principles on which Edison had founded such remarkable and radical improvements in the art. The type of Edison's first dynamo-electric machine, the description of which gave rise to the above controversy, is shown in Fig. 1.

Any account of Edison's work on the dynamo would be incomplete did it omit to relate his conception and construction of the great direct-connected steam-driven generator that was the prototype of the colossal units which are used throughout the world to-day.

In the demonstrating plant installed and operated by him at Menlo Park in 1880 ten dynamos of eight horse-power each were driven by a slow-speed engine through a complicated system of counter-shafting, and, to quote from Mr. Clarke's Historical Review, "it was found that a considerable percentage of the power of the engine was necessarily wasted in friction by this method of driving, and to prevent this waste and thus increase the economy of his system, Mr. Edison conceived the idea of substituting a single large dynamo for the several small dynamos, and directly coupling it with the driving engine, and at the same time preserve the requisite high armature speed by using an engine of the high-speed type. He also expected to realize still further gains in economy from the use of a large dynamo in place of several small machines by a more than correspondingly lower armature resistance, less energy for magnetizing the field, and for other minor reasons. To the same end, he intended to supply steam to the engine under a much higher boiler pressure than was customary in stationary-engine driving at that time."

The construction of the first one of these large machines was commenced late in the year 1880. Early in 1881 it was completed and tested, but some radical defects in armature construction were developed, and it was also demonstrated that a rate of engine speed too high for continuously safe and economical operation had been chosen. The machine was laid aside. An accurate illustration of this machine, as it stood in the engine-room at Menlo Park, is given in Van Nostrand's Engineering Magazine, Vol. XXV, opposite page 439, and a brief description is given on page 450.

With the experience thus gained, Edison began, in the spring of 1881, at the Edison Machine Works, Goerck Street, New York City, the construction of the first successful machine of this type. This was the great machine known as "Jumbo No. 1," which is referred to in the narrative as having been exhibited at the Paris International Electrical Exposition, where it was regarded as the wonder of the electrical world. An intimation of some of the tremendous difficulties encountered in the construction of this machine has already been given in preceding pages, hence we shall not now enlarge on the subject, except to note in passing that the terribly destructive effects of the spark of self-induction and the arcing following it were first manifested in this powerful machine, but were finally overcome by Edison after a strenuous application of his powers to the solution of the problem.

It may be of interest, however, to mention some of its dimensions and electrical characteristics, quoting again from Mr. Clarke: "The field-magnet had eight solid cylindrical cores, 8 inches in diameter and 57 inches long, upon each of which was wound an exciting-coil of 3.2 ohms resistance, consisting of 2184 turns of No. 10 B. W. G. insulated copper wire, disposed in six layers. The laminated iron core of the armature, formed of thin iron disks, was 33 3/4 inches long, and had an internal diameter of 12 1/2 inches, and an external diameter of 26 7/16 inches. It was mounted on a 6-inch shaft. The field-poles were 33 3/4 inches long, and 27 1/2 inches inside diameter The armature winding consisted of 146 copper bars on the face of the core, connected into a closed-coil winding by means of 73 copper disks at each end of the core. The cross-sectional area of each bar was 0.2 square inch their average length was 42.7 inches, and the copper end-disks were 0.065 inch thick. The commutator had 73 sections. The armature resistance was 0.0092 ohm, [28] of which 0.0055 ohm was in the armature bars and 0.0037 ohm in the end-disks." An illustration of the next latest type of this machine is presented in Fig. 2.

[Footnote 28: Had Edison in Upton's Scientific American article in 1879 proposed such an exceedingly low armature resistance for this immense generator (although its ratio was proportionate to the original machine), his critics might probably have been sufficiently indignant as to be unable to express themselves coherently.]

The student may find it interesting to look up Edison's United States Patents Nos. 242,898, 263,133, 263,146, and 246,647, bearing upon the construction of the "Jumbo"; also illustrated articles in the technical journals of the time, among which may be mentioned: Scientific American, Vol. XLV, page 367; Engineering, London, Vol. XXXII, pages 409 and 419, The Telegraphic Journal and Electrical Review, London, Vol. IX, pages 431-433, 436-446; La Nature, Paris, 9th year, Part II, pages 408-409; Zeitschrift fur Angewandte Elektricitaatslehre, Munich and Leipsic, Vol. IV, pages 4-14; and Dredge's Electric Illumination, 1882, Vol. I, page 261.

The further development of these great machines later on, and their extensive practical use, are well known and need no further comment, except in passing it may be noted that subsequent machines had each a capacity of 1200 lamps of 16 candle-power, and that the armature resistance was still further reduced to 0.0039 ohm.

Edison's clear insight into the future, as illustrated by his persistent advocacy of large direct-connected generating units, is abundantly vindicated by present-day practice. His Jumbo machines, of 175 horse-power, so enormous for their time, have served as prototypes, and have been succeeded by generators which have constantly grown in size and capacity until at this time (1910) it is not uncommon to employ such generating units of a capacity of 14,000 kilowatts, or about 18,666 horse-power.

We have not entered into specific descriptions of the many other forms of dynamo machines invented by Edison, such as the multipolar, the disk dynamo, and the armature with two windings, for sub-station distribution; indeed, it is not possible within our limited space to present even a brief digest of Edison's great and comprehensive work on the dynamo-electric machine, as embodied in his extensive experiments and in over one hundred patents granted to him. We have, therefore, confined ourselves to the indication of a few salient and basic features, leaving it to the interested student to examine the patents and the technical literature of the long period of time over which Edison's labors were extended.

Although he has not given any attention to the subject of generators for many years, an interesting instance of his incisive method of overcoming minor difficulties occurred while the present volumes were under preparation (1909). Carbon for commutator brushes has been superseded by graphite in some cases, the latter material being found much more advantageous, electrically. Trouble developed, however, for the reason that while carbon was hard and would wear away the mica insulation simultaneously with the copper, graphite, being softer, would wear away only the copper, leaving ridges of mica and thus causing sparking through unequal contact. At this point Edison was asked to diagnose the trouble and provide a remedy. He suggested the cutting out of the mica pieces almost to the bottom, leaving the commutator bars separated by air-spaces. This scheme was objected to on the ground that particles of graphite would fill these air-spaces and cause a short-circuit. His answer was that the air-spaces constituted the value of his plan, as the particles of graphite falling into them would be thrown out by the action of centrifugal force as the commutator revolved. And thus it occurred as a matter of fact, and the trouble was remedied. This idea was subsequently adopted by a great manufacturer of generators.


TO quote from the preamble of the specifications of United States Patent No. 264,642, issued to Thomas A. Edison September 19, 1882: "This invention relates to a method of equalizing the tension or 'pressure' of the current through an entire system of electric lighting or other translation of electric force, preventing what is ordinarily known as a 'drop' in those portions of the system the more remote from the central station...."

The problem which was solved by the Edison feeder system was that relating to the equal distribution of current on a large scale over extended areas, in order that a constant and uniform electrical pressure could be maintained in every part of the distribution area without prohibitory expenditure for copper for mains and conductors.

This problem had a twofold aspect, although each side was inseparably bound up in the other. On the one hand it was obviously necessary in a lighting system that each lamp should be of standard candle-power, and capable of interchangeable use on any part of the system, giving the same degree of illumination at every point, whether near to or remote from the source of electrical energy. On the other hand, this must be accomplished by means of a system of conductors so devised and arranged that while they would insure the equal pressure thus demanded, their mass and consequent cost would not exceed the bounds of practical and commercially economical investment.

The great importance of this invention can be better understood and appreciated by a brief glance at the state of the art in 1878-79, when Edison was conducting the final series of investigations which culminated in his invention of the incandescent lamp and SYSTEM of lighting. At this time, and for some years previously, the scientific world had been working on the "subdivision of the electric light," as it was then termed. Some leading authorities pronounced it absolutely impossible of achievement on any extended scale, while a very few others, of more optimistic mind, could see no gleam of light through the darkness, but confidently hoped for future developments by such workers as Edison.

The earlier investigators, including those up to the period above named, thought of the problem as involving the subdivision of a FIXED UNIT of current, which, being sufficient to cause illumination by one large lamp, might be divided into a number of small units whose aggregate light would equal the candle-power of this large lamp. It was found, however, in their experiments that the contrary effect was produced, for with every additional lamp introduced in the circuit the total candle-power decreased instead of increasing. If they were placed in series the light varied inversely as the SQUARE of the number of lamps in circuit; while if they were inserted in multiple arc, the light diminished as the CUBE of the number in circuit. [29] The idea of maintaining a constant potential and of PROPORTIONING THE CURRENT to the number of lamps in circuit did not occur to most of these early investigators as a feasible method of overcoming the supposed difficulty.

[Footnote 29: M. Fontaine, in his book on Electric Lighting (1877), showed that with the current of a battery composed of sixteen elements, one lamp gave an illumination equal to 54 burners; whereas two similar lamps, if introduced in parallel or multiple arc, gave the light of only 6 1/2 burners in all; three lamps of only 2 burners in all; four lamps of only 3/4 of one burner, and five lamps of 1/4 of a burner.]

It would also seem that although the general method of placing experimental lamps in multiple arc was known at this period, the idea of "drop" of electrical pressure was imperfectly understood, if, indeed, realized at all, as a most important item to be considered in attempting the solution of the problem. As a matter of fact, the investigators preceding Edison do not seem to have conceived the idea of a "system" at all; hence it is not surprising to find them far astray from the correct theory of subdivision of the electric current. It may easily be believed that the term "subdivision" was a misleading one to these early experimenters. For a very short time Edison also was thus misled, but as soon as he perceived that the problem was one involving the MULTIPLICATION OF CURRENT UNITS, his broad conception of a "system" was born.

Generally speaking, all conductors of electricity offer more or less resistance to the passage of current through them and in the technical terminology of electrical science the word "drop" (when used in reference to a system of distribution) is used to indicate a fall or loss of initial electrical pressure arising from the resistance offered by the copper conductors leading from the source of energy to the lamps. The result of this resistance is to convert or translate a portion of the electrical energy into another form—namely, heat, which in the conductors is USELESS and wasteful and to some extent inevitable in practice, but is to be avoided and remedied as far as possible.

It is true that in an electric-lighting system there is also a fall or loss of electrical pressure which occurs in overcoming the much greater resistance of the filament in an incandescent lamp. In this case there is also a translation of the energy, but here it accomplishes a USEFUL purpose, as the energy is converted into the form of light through the incandescence of the filament. Such a conversion is called "work" as distinguished from "drop," although a fall of initial electrical pressure is involved in each case.

The percentage of "drop" varies according to the quantity of copper used in conductors, both as to cross-section and length. The smaller the cross-sectional area, the greater the percentage of drop. The practical effect of this drop would be a loss of illumination in the lamps as we go farther away from the source of energy. This may be illustrated by a simple diagram in which G is a generator, or source of energy, furnishing current at a potential or electrical pressure of 110 volts; 1 and 2 are main conductors, from which 110-volt lamps, L, are taken in derived circuits. It will be understood that the circuits represented in Fig. 1 are theoretically supposed to extend over a large area. The main conductors are sufficiently large in cross-section to offer but little resistance in those parts which are comparatively near the generator, but as the current traverses their extended length there is a gradual increase of resistance to overcome, and consequently the drop increases, as shown by the figures. The result of the drop in such a case would be that while the two lamps, or groups, nearest the generator would be burning at their proper degree of illumination, those beyond would give lower and lower candle-power, successively, until the last lamp, or group, would be giving only about two-thirds the light of the first two. In other words, a very slight drop in voltage means a disproportionately great loss in illumination. Hence, by using a primitive system of distribution, such as that shown by Fig. 1, the initial voltage would have to be so high, in order to obtain the proper candle-power at the end of the circuit, that the lamps nearest the generator would be dangerously overheated. It might be suggested as a solution of this problem that lamps of different voltages could be used. But, as we are considering systems of extended distribution employing vast numbers of lamps (as in New York City, where millions are in use), it will be seen that such a method would lead to inextricable confusion, and therefore be absolutely out of the question. Inasmuch as the percentage of drop decreases in proportion to the increased cross-section of the conductors, the only feasible plan would seem to be to increase their size to such dimensions as to eliminate the drop altogether, beginning with conductors of large cross-section and tapering off as necessary. This would, indeed, obviate the trouble, but, on the other hand, would give rise to a much more serious difficulty—namely, the enormous outlay for copper; an outlay so great as to be absolutely prohibitory in considering the electric lighting of large districts, as now practiced.

Another diagram will probably make this more clear. The reference figures are used as before, except that the horizontal lines extending from square marked G represent the main conductors. As each lamp requires and takes its own proportion of the total current generated, it is obvious that the size of the conductors to carry the current for a number of lamps must be as large as the sum of ALL the separate conductors which would be required to carry the necessary amount of current to each lamp separately. Hence, in a primitive multiple-arc system, it was found that the system must have conductors of a size equal to the aggregate of the individual conductors necessary for every lamp. Such conductors might either be separate, as shown above (Fig. 2), or be bunched together, or made into a solid tapering conductor, as shown in the following figure:

The enormous mass of copper needed in such a system can be better appreciated by a concrete example. Some years ago Mr. W. J. Jenks made a comparative calculation which showed that such a system of conductors (known as the "Tree" system), to supply 8640 lamps in a territory extending over so small an area as nine city blocks, would require 803,250 pounds of copper, which at the then price of 25 cents per pound would cost $200,812.50!

Such, in brief, was the state of the art, generally speaking, at the period above named (1878-79). As early in the art as the latter end of the year 1878, Edison had developed his ideas sufficiently to determine that the problem of electric illumination by small units could be solved by using incandescent lamps of high resistance and small radiating surface, and by distributing currents of constant potential thereto in multiple arc by means of a ramification of conductors, starting from a central source and branching therefrom in every direction. This was an equivalent of the method illustrated in Fig. 3, known as the "Tree" system, and was, in fact, the system used by Edison in the first and famous exhibition of his electric light at Menlo Park around the Christmas period of 1879. He realized, however, that the enormous investment for copper would militate against the commercial adoption of electric lighting on an extended scale. His next inventive step covered the division of a large city district into a number of small sub-stations supplying current through an interconnected network of conductors, thus reducing expenditure for copper to some extent, because each distribution unit was small and limited the drop.

His next development was the radical advancement of the state of the art to the feeder system, covered by the patent now under discussion. This invention swept away the tree and other systems, and at one bound brought into being the possibility of effectively distributing large currents over extended areas with a commercially reasonable investment for copper.

The fundamental principles of this invention were, first, to sever entirely any direct connection of the main conductors with the source of energy; and, second, to feed current at a constant potential to central points in such main conductors by means of other conductors, called "feeders," which were to be connected directly with the source of energy at the central station. This idea will be made more clear by reference to the following simple diagram, in which the same letters are used as before, with additions:

In further elucidation of the diagram, it may be considered that the mains are laid in the street along a city block, more or less distant from the station, while the feeders are connected at one end with the source of energy at the station, their other extremities being connected to the mains at central points of distribution. Of course, this system was intended to be applied in every part of a district to be supplied with current, separate sets of feeders running out from the station to the various centres. The distribution mains were to be of sufficiently large size that between their most extreme points the loss would not be more than 3 volts. Such a slight difference would not make an appreciable variation in the candle-power of the lamps.

By the application of these principles, the inevitable but useless loss, or "drop," required by economy might be incurred, but was LOCALIZED IN THE FEEDERS, where it would not affect the uniformity of illumination of the lamps in any of the circuits, whether near to or remote from the station, because any variations of loss in the feeders would not give rise to similar fluctuations in any lamp circuit. The feeders might be operated at any desired percentage of loss that would realize economy in copper, so long as they delivered current to the main conductors at the potential represented by the average voltage of the lamps.

Thus the feeders could be made comparatively small in cross-section. It will be at once appreciated that, inasmuch as the mains required to be laid ONLY along the blocks to be lighted, and were not required to be run all the way to the central station (which might be half a mile or more away), the saving of copper by Edison's feeder system was enormous. Indeed, the comparative calculation of Mr. Jenks, above referred to, shows that to operate the same number of lights in the same extended area of territory, the feeder system would require only 128,739 pounds of copper, which, at the then price of 25 cents per pound, would cost only $39,185, or A SAVING of $168,627.50 for copper in this very small district of only nine blocks.

An additional illustration, appealing to the eye, is presented in the following sketch, in which the comparative masses of copper of the tree and feeder systems for carrying the same current are shown side by side:


THIS invention is covered by United States Patent No. 274,290, issued to Edison on March 20, 1883. The object of the invention was to provide for increased economy in the quantity of copper employed for the main conductors in electric light and power installations of considerable extent at the same time preserving separate and independent control of each lamp, motor, or other translating device, upon any one of the various distribution circuits.

Immediately prior to this invention the highest state of the art of electrical distribution was represented by Edison's feeder system, which has already been described as a straight parallel or multiple-arc system wherein economy of copper was obtained by using separate sets of conductors—minus load—feeding current at standard potential or electrical pressure into the mains at centres of distribution.

It should be borne in mind that the incandescent lamp which was accepted at the time as a standard (and has so remained to the present day) was a lamp of 110 volts or thereabouts. In using the word "standard," therefore, it is intended that the same shall apply to lamps of about that voltage, as well as to electrical circuits of the approximate potential to operate them.

Briefly stated, the principle involved in the three-wire system is to provide main circuits of double the standard potential, so as to operate standard lamps, or other translating devices, in multiple series of two to each series; and for the purpose of securing independent, individual control of each unit, to divide each main circuit into any desired number of derived circuits of standard potential (properly balanced) by means of a central compensating conductor which would be normally neutral, but designed to carry any minor excess of current that might flow by reason of any temporary unbalancing of either side of the main circuit.

Reference to the following diagrams will elucidate this principle more clearly than words alone can do. For the purpose of increased lucidity we will first show a plain multiple-series system.

In this diagram G and G represent two generators, each producing current at a potential of 110 volts. By connecting them in series this potential is doubled, thus providing a main circuit (P and N) of 220 volts. The figures marked L represent eight lamps of 110 volts each, in multiple series of two, in four derived circuits. The arrows indicate the flow of current. By this method each pair of lamps takes, together, only the same quantity or volume of current required by a single lamp in a simple multiple-arc system; and, as the cross-section of a conductor depends upon the quantity of current carried, such an arrangement as the above would allow the use of conductors of only one-fourth the cross-section that would be otherwise required. From the standpoint of economy of investment such an arrangement would be highly desirable, but considered commercially it is impracticable because the principle of independent control of each unit would be lost, as the turning out of a lamp in any series would mean the extinguishment of its companion also. By referring to the diagram it will be seen that each series of two forms one continuous path between the main conductors, and if this path be broken at any one point current will immediately cease to flow in that particular series.

Edison, by his invention of the three-wire system, overcame this difficulty entirely, and at the same time conserved approximately, the saving of copper, as will be apparent from the following illustration of that system, in its simplest form.

The reference figures are similar to those in the preceding diagram, and all conditions are also alike except that a central compensating, or balancing, conductor, PN, is here introduced. This is technically termed the "neutral" wire, and in the discharge of its functions lies the solution of the problem of economical distribution. Theoretically, a three-wire installation is evenly balanced by wiring for an equal number of lamps on both sides. If all these lamps were always lighted, burned, and extinguished simultaneously the central conductor would, in fact, remain neutral, as there would be no current passing through it, except from lamp to lamp. In practice, however, no such perfect conditions can obtain, hence the necessity of the provision for balancing in order to maintain the principle of independent control of each unit.

It will be apparent that the arrangement shown in Fig. 2 comprises practically two circuits combined in one system, in which the central conductor, PN, in case of emergency, serves in two capacities—namely, as negative to generator G or as positive to generator G, although normally neutral. There are two sides to the system, the positive side being represented by the conductors P and PN, and the negative side by the conductors PN and N. Each side, if considered separately, has a potential of about 110 volts, yet the potential of the two outside conductors, P and N, is 220 volts. The lamps are 110 volts.

In practical use the operation of the system is as follows: If all the lamps were lighted the current would flow along P and through each pair of lamps to N, and so back to the source of energy. In this case the balance is preserved and the central wire remains neutral, as no return current flows through it to the source of energy. But let us suppose that one lamp on the positive side is extinguished. None of the other lamps is affected thereby, but the system is immediately thrown out of balance, and on the positive side there is an excess of current to this extent which flows along or through the central conductor and returns to the generator, the central conductor thus becoming the negative of that side of the system for the time being. If the lamp extinguished had been one of those on the negative side of the system results of a similar nature would obtain, except that the central conductor would for the time being become the positive of that side, and the excess of current would flow through the negative, N, back to the source of energy. Thus it will be seen that a three-wire system, considered as a whole, is elastic in that it may operate as one when in balance and as two when unbalanced, but in either event giving independent control of each unit.

For simplicity of illustration a limited number of circuits, shown in Fig. 2, has been employed. In practice, however, where great numbers of lamps are in use (as, for instance, in New York City, where about 7,000,000 lamps are operated from various central stations), there is constantly occurring more or less change in the balance of many circuits extending over considerable distances, but of course there is a net result which is always on one side of the system or the other for the time being, and this is met by proper adjustment at the appropriate generator in the station.

In order to make the explanation complete, there is presented another diagram showing a three-wire system unbalanced:

The reference figures are used as before, but in this case the vertical lines represent branches taken from the main conductors into buildings or other spaces to be lighted, and the loops between these branch wires represent lamps in operation. It will be seen from this sketch that there are ten lamps on the positive side and twelve on the negative side. Hence, the net result is an excess of current equal to that required by two lamps flowing through the central or compensating conductor, which is now acting as positive to generator G The arrows show the assumed direction of flow of current throughout the system, and the small figures at the arrow-heads the volume of that current expressed in the number of lamps which it supplies.

The commercial value of this invention may be appreciated from the fact that by the application of its principles there is effected a saving of 62 1/2 per cent. of the amount of copper over that which would be required for conductors in any previously devised two-wire system carrying the same load. This arises from the fact that by the doubling of potential the two outside mains are reduced to one-quarter the cross-section otherwise necessary. A saving of 75 per cent. would thus be assured, but the addition of a third, or compensating, conductor of the same cross-section as one of the outside mains reduces the total saving to 62 1/2 per cent.

The three-wire system is in universal use throughout the world at the present day.


AS narrated in Chapter XVIII, there were two electric railroads installed by Edison at Menlo Park—one in 1880, originally a third of a mile long, but subsequently increased to about a mile in length, and the other in 1882, about three miles long. As the 1880 road was built very soon after Edison's notable improvements in dynamo machines, and as the art of operating them to the best advantage was then being developed, this early road was somewhat crude as compared with the railroad of 1882; but both were practicable and serviceable for the purpose of hauling passengers and freight. The scope of the present article will be confined to a description of the technical details of these two installations.

The illustration opposite page 454 of the preceding narrative shows the first Edison locomotive and train of 1880 at Menlo Park.

For the locomotive a four-wheel iron truck was used, and upon it was mounted one of the long "Z" type 110-volt Edison dynamos, with a capacity of 75 amperes, which was to be used as a motor. This machine was laid on its side, its armature being horizontal and located toward the front of the locomotive.

We now quote from an article by Mr. E. W. Hammer, published in the Electrical World, New York, June 10, 1899, and afterward elaborated and reprinted in a volume entitled Edisonia, compiled and published under the auspices of a committee of the Association of Edison Illuminating Companies, in 1904: "The gearing originally employed consisted of a friction-pulley upon the armature shaft, another friction-pulley upon the driven axle, and a third friction-pulley which could be brought in contact with the other two by a suitable lever. Each wheel of the locomotive was made with metallic rim and a centre portion made of wood or papier-mache. A three-legged spider connected the metal rim of each front wheel to a brass hub, upon which rested a collecting brush. The other wheels were subsequently so equipped. It was the intention, therefore, that the current should enter the locomotive wheels at one side, and after passing through the metal spiders, collecting brushes and motor, would pass out through the corresponding brushes, spiders, and wheels to the other rail."

As to the road: "The rails were light and were spiked to ordinary sleepers, with a gauge of about three and one-half feet. The sleepers were laid upon the natural grade, and there was comparatively no effort made to ballast the road. . . . No special precautions were taken to insulate the rails from the earth or from each other."

The road started about fifty feet away from the generating station, which in this case was the machine shop. Two of the "Z" type dynamos were used for generating the current, which was conveyed to the two rails of the road by underground conductors.

On Thursday, May 13, 1880, at 4 o'clock in the afternoon, this historic locomotive made its first trip, packed with as many of the "boys" as could possibly find a place to hang on. "Everything worked to a charm, until, in starting up at one end of the road, the friction gearing was brought into action too suddenly and it was wrecked. This accident demonstrated that some other method of connecting the armature with the driven axle should be arranged.

"As thus originally operated, the motor had its field circuit in permanent connection as a shunt across the rails, and this field circuit was protected by a safety-catch made by turning up two bare ends of the wire in its circuit and winding a piece of fine copper wire across from one bare end to the other. The armature circuit had a switch in it which permitted the locomotive to be reversed by reversing the direction of current flow through the armature.

"After some consideration of the gearing question, it was decided to employ belts instead of the friction-pulleys." Accordingly, Edison installed on the locomotive a system of belting, including an idler-pulley which was used by means of a lever to tighten the main driving-belt, and thus power was applied to the driven axle. This involved some slipping and consequent burning of belts; also, if the belt were prematurely tightened, the burning-out of the armature. This latter event happened a number of times, "and proved to be such a serious annoyance that resistance-boxes were brought out from the laboratory and placed upon the locomotive in series with the armature. This solved the difficulty. The locomotive would be started with these resistance-boxes in circuit, and after reaching full speed the operator could plug the various boxes out of circuit, and in that way increase the speed." To stop, the armature circuit was opened by the main switch and the brake applied.

This arrangement was generally satisfactory, but the resistance-boxes scattered about the platform and foot-rests being in the way, Edison directed that some No. 8 B. & S. copper wire be wound on the lower leg of the motor field-magnet. "By doing this the resistance was put where it would take up the least room, and where it would serve as an additional field-coil when starting the motor, and it replaced all the resistance-boxes which had heretofore been in plain sight. The boxes under the seat were still retained in service. The coil of coarse wire was in series with the armature, just as the resistance-boxes had been, and could be plugged in or out of circuit at the will of the locomotive driver. The general arrangement thus secured was operated as long as this road was in commission."

On this short stretch of road there were many sharp curves and steep grades, and in consequence of the high speed attained (as high as forty-two miles an hour) several derailments took place, but fortunately without serious results. Three cars were in service during the entire time of operating this 1880 railroad: one a flat-car for freight; one an open car with two benches placed back to back; and the third a box-car, familiarly known as the "Pullman." This latter car had an interesting adjunct in an electric braking system (covered by Edison's Patent No. 248,430). "Each car axle had a large iron disk mounted on and revolving with it between the poles of a powerful horseshoe electromagnet. The pole-pieces of the magnet were movable, and would be attracted to the revolving disk when the magnet was energized, grasping the same and acting to retard the revolution of the car axle."

Interesting articles on Edison's first electric railroad were published in the technical and other papers, among which may be mentioned the New York Herald, May 15 and July 23, 1880; the New York Graphic, July 27, 1880; and the Scientific American, June 6, 1880.

Edison's second electric railroad of 1882 was more pretentious as regards length, construction, and equipment. It was about three miles long, of nearly standard gauge, and substantially constructed. Curves were modified, and grades eliminated where possible by the erection of numerous trestles. This road also had some features of conventional railroads, such as sidings, turn-tables, freight platform, and car-house. "Current was supplied to the road by underground feeder cables from the dynamo-room of the laboratory. The rails were insulated from the ties by giving them two coats of japan, baking them in the oven, and then placing them on pads of tar-impregnated muslin laid on the ties. The ends of the rails were not japanned, but were electroplated, to give good contact surfaces for fish-plates and copper bonds."

The following notes of Mr. Frederick A. Scheffler, who designed the passenger locomotive for the 1882 road, throw an interesting light on its technical details:

"In May, 1881, I was engaged by Mr. M. F. Moore, who was the first General Manager of the Edison Company for Isolated Lighting, as a draftsman to undertake the work of designing and building Edison's electric locomotive No. 2.

"Previous to that time I had been employed in the engineering department of Grant Locomotive Works, Paterson, New Jersey, and the Rhode Island Locomotive Works, Providence, Rhode Island....

"It was Mr. Edison's idea, as I understood it at that time, to build a locomotive along the general lines of steam locomotives (at least, in outward appearance), and to combine in that respect the framework, truck, and other parts known to be satisfactory in steam locomotives at the same time.

"This naturally required the services of a draftsman accustomed to steam-locomotive practice.... Mr. Moore was a man of great railroad and locomotive experience, and his knowledge in that direction was of great assistance in the designing and building of this locomotive.

"At that time I had no knowledge of electricity.... One could count so-called electrical engineers on his fingers then, and have some fingers left over.

"Consequently, the ELECTRICAL equipment was designed by Mr. Edison and his assistants. The data and parts, such as motor, rheostat, switches, etc., were given to me, and my work was to design the supporting frame, axles, countershafts, driving mechanism, speed control, wheels and boxes, cab, running board, pilot (or 'cow-catcher'), buffers, and even supports for the headlight. I believe I also designed a bell and supports. From this it will be seen that the locomotive had all the essential paraphernalia to make it LOOK like a steam locomotive.

"The principal part of the outfit was the electric motor. At that time motors were curiosities. There were no electric motors even for stationary purposes, except freaks built for experimental uses. This motor was made from the parts—such as fields, armature, commutator, shaft and bearings, etc., of an Edison 'Z,' or 60-light dynamo. It was the only size of dynamo that the Edison Company had marketed at that time.... As a motor, it was wound to run at maximum speed to develop a torque equal to about fifteen horse-power with 220 volts. At the generating station at Menlo Park four Z dynamos of 110 volts were used, connected two in series, in multiple arc, giving a line voltage of 220.

"The motor was located in the front part of the locomotive, on its side, with the armature shaft across the frames, or parallel with the driving axles.

"On account of the high speed of the armature shaft it was not possible to connect with driving-axles direct, but this was an advantage in one way, as by introducing an intermediate counter-shaft (corresponding to the well-known type of double-reduction motor used on trolley-cars since 1885), a fairly good arrangement was obtained to regulate the speed of the locomotive, exclusive of resistance in the electric circuit.

"Endless leather belting was used to transmit the power from the motor to the counter-shaft, and from the latter to the driving-wheels, which were the front pair. A vertical idler-pulley was mounted in a frame over the belt from motor to counter-shaft, terminating in a vertical screw and hand-wheel for tightening the belt to increase speed, or the reverse to lower speed. This hand-wheel was located in the cab, where it was easily accessible....

"The rough outline sketched below shows the location of motor in relation to counter-shaft, belting, driving-wheels, idler, etc.:

"On account of both rails being used for circuits, . . . the driving-wheels had to be split circumferentially and completely insulated from the axles. This was accomplished by means of heavy wood blocks well shellacked or otherwise treated to make them water and weather proof, placed radially on the inside of the wheels, and then substantially bolted to the hubs and rims of the latter.

"The weight of the locomotive was distributed over the driving-wheels in the usual locomotive practice by means of springs and equalizers.

"The current was taken from the rims of the driving-wheels by a three-pronged collector of brass, against which flexible copper brushes were pressed—a simple manner of overcoming any inequalities of the road-bed.

"The late Mr. Charles T. Hughes was in charge of the track construction at Menlo Park.... His work was excellent throughout, and the results were highly satisfactory so far as they could possibly be with the arrangement originally planned by Mr. Edison and his assistants.

"Mr. Charles L. Clarke, one of the earliest electrical engineers employed by Mr. Edison, made a number of tests on this 1882 railroad. I believe that the engine driving the four Z generators at the power-house indicated as high as seventy horse-power at the time the locomotive was actually in service."

The electrical features of the 1882 locomotive were very similar to those of the earlier one, already described. Shunt and series field-windings were added to the motor, and the series windings could be plugged in and out of circuit as desired. The series winding was supplemented by resistance-boxes, also capable of being plugged in or out of circuit. These various electrical features are diagrammatically shown in Fig. 2, which also illustrates the connection with the generating plant.

We quote again from Mr. Hammer, who says: "The freight-locomotive had single reduction gears, as is the modern practice, but the power was applied through a friction-clutch The passenger-locomotive was very speedy, and ninety passengers have been carried at a time by it; the freight-locomotive was not so fast, but could pull heavy trains at a good speed. Many thousand people were carried on this road during 1882." The general appearance of Edison's electric locomotive of 1882 is shown in the illustration opposite page 462 of the preceding narrative. In the picture Mr. Edison may be seen in the cab, and Mr. Insull on the front platform of the passenger-car.


WHILE the one-time art of telegraphing to and from moving trains was essentially a wireless system, and allied in some of its principles to the art of modern wireless telegraphy through space, the two systems cannot, strictly speaking be regarded as identical, as the practice of the former was based entirely on the phenomenon of induction.

Briefly described in outline, the train telegraph system consisted of an induction circuit obtained by laying strips of metal along the top or roof of a railway-car, and the installation of a special telegraph line running parallel with the track and strung on poles of only medium height. The train, and also each signalling station, was equipped with regulation telegraph apparatus, such as battery, key, relay, and sounder, together with induction-coil and condenser. In addition, there was a special transmitting device in the shape of a musical reed, or "buzzer." In practice, this buzzer was continuously operated at a speed of about five hundred vibrations per second by an auxiliary battery. Its vibrations were broken by means of a telegraph key into long and short periods, representing Morse characters, which were transmitted inductively from the train circuit to the pole line or vice versa, and received by the operator at the other end through a high-resistance telephone receiver inserted in the secondary circuit of the induction-coil.

The accompanying diagrammatic sketch of a simple form of the system, as installed on a car, will probably serve to make this more clear.

An insulated wire runs from the metallic layers on the roof of the car to switch S, which is shown open in the sketch. When a message is to be received on the car from a station more or less remote, the switch is thrown to the left to connect with a wire running to the telephone receiver, T. The other wire from this receiver is run down to one of the axles and there permanently connected, thus making a ground. The operator puts the receiver to his ear and listens for the message, which the telephone renders audible in the Morse characters.

If a message is to be transmitted from the car to a receiving station, near or distant, the switch, S, is thrown to the other side, thus connecting with a wire leading to one end of the secondary of induction-coil C. The other end of the secondary is connected with the grounding wire. The primary of the induction-coil is connected as shown, one end going to key K and the other to the buzzer circuit. The other side of the key is connected to the transmitting battery, while the opposite pole of this battery is connected in the buzzer circuit. The buzzer, R, is maintained in rapid vibration by its independent auxiliary battery, B.

When the key is pressed down the circuit is closed, and current from the transmitting battery, B, passes through primary of the coil, C, and induces a current of greatly increased potential in the secondary. The current as it passes into the primary, being broken up into short impulses by the tremendously rapid vibrations of the buzzer, induces similarly rapid waves of high potential in the secondary, and these in turn pass to the roof and thence through the intervening air by induction to the telegraph wire. By a continued lifting and depression of the key in the regular manner, these waves are broken up into long and short periods, and are thus transmitted to the station, via the wire, in Morse characters, dots and dashes.

The receiving stations along the line of the railway were similarly equipped as to apparatus, and, generally speaking the operations of sending and receiving messages were substantially the same as above described.

The equipment of an operator on a car was quite simple consisting merely of a small lap-board, on which were mounted the key, coil, and buzzer, leaving room for telegraph blanks. To this board were also attached flexible conductors having spring clips, by means of which connections could be made quickly with conveniently placed terminals of the ground, roof, and battery wires. The telephone receiver was held on the head with a spring, the flexible connecting wire being attached to the lap board, thus leaving the operator with both hands free.

The system, as shown in the sketch and elucidated by the text, represents the operation of train telegraphy in a simple form, but combining the main essentials of the art as it was successfully and commercially practiced for a number of years after Edison and Gilliland entered the field. They elaborated the system in various ways, making it more complete; but it has not been deemed necessary to enlarge further upon the technical minutiae of the art for the purpose of this work.


ALTHOUGH many of the arts in which Edison has been a pioneer have been enriched by his numerous inventions and patents, which were subsequent to those of a fundamental nature, the (so-called) motion-picture art is an exception, as the following, together with three other additional patents [30] comprise all that he has taken out on this subject: United States Patent No. 589,168, issued August 31, 1897, reissued in two parts—namely, No. 12,037, under date of September 30,1902, and No. 12,192, under date of January 12, 1904. Application filed August 24, 1891.

[Footnote 30: Not 491,993, issued February 21, 1893; No. 493,426, issued March 14, 1893; No. 772,647, issued October 18, 1904.]

There is nothing surprising in this, however, as the possibility of photographing and reproducing actual scenes of animate life are so thoroughly exemplified and rendered practicable by the apparatus and methods disclosed in the patents above cited, that these basic inventions in themselves practically constitute the art—its development proceeding mainly along the line of manufacturing details. That such a view of his work is correct, the highest criterion—commercial expediency—bears witness; for in spite of the fact that the courts have somewhat narrowed the broad claims of Edison's patents by reason of the investigations of earlier experimenters, practically all the immense amount of commercial work that is done in the motion-picture field to-day is accomplished through the use of apparatus and methods licensed under the Edison patents.

The philosophy of this invention having already been described in Chapter XXI, it will be unnecessary to repeat it here. Suffice it to say by way of reminder that it is founded upon the physiological phenomenon known as the persistence of vision, through which a series of sequential photographic pictures of animate motion projected upon a screen in rapid succession will reproduce to the eye all the appearance of the original movements.

Edison's work in this direction comprised the invention not only of a special form of camera for making original photographic exposures from a single point of view with very great rapidity, and of a machine adapted to effect the reproduction of such pictures in somewhat similar manner but also of the conception and invention of a continuous uniform, and evenly spaced tape-like film, so absolutely essential for both the above objects.

The mechanism of such a camera, as now used, consists of many parts assembled in such contiguous proximity to each other that an illustration from an actual machine would not help to clearness of explanation to the general reader. Hence a diagram showing a sectional view of a simple form of such a camera is presented below.

In this diagram, A represents an outer light-tight box containing a lens, C, and the other necessary mechanism for making the photographic exposures, H and H being cases for holding reels of film before and after exposure, F the long, tape-like film, G a sprocket whose teeth engage in perforations on the edges of the film, such sprocket being adapted to be revolved with an intermittent or step-by-step movement by hand or by motor, and B a revolving shutter having an opening and connected by gears with G, and arranged to expose the film during the periods of rest. A full view of this shutter is also represented, with its opening, D, in the small illustration to the right.

In practice, the operation would be somewhat as follows, generally speaking: The lens would first be focussed on the animate scene to be photographed. On turning the main shaft of the camera the sprocket, G, is moved intermittently, and its teeth, catching in the holes in the sensitized film, draws it downward, bringing a new portion of its length in front of the lens, the film then remaining stationary for an instant. In the mean time, through gearing connecting the main shaft with the shutter, the latter is rotated, bringing its opening, D, coincident with the lens, and therefore exposing the film while it is stationary, after which the film again moves forward. So long as the action is continued these movements are repeated, resulting in a succession of enormously rapid exposures upon the film during its progress from reel H to its automatic rewinding on reel H. While the film is passing through the various parts of the machine it is guided and kept straight by various sets of rollers between which it runs, as indicated in the diagram.

By an ingenious arrangement of the mechanism, the film moves intermittently so that it may have a much longer period of rest than of motion. As in practice the pictures are taken at a rate of twenty or more per second, it will be quite obvious that each period of rest is infinitesimally brief, being generally one-thirtieth of a second or less. Still it is sufficient to bring the film to a momentary condition of complete rest, and to allow for a maximum time of exposure, comparatively speaking, thus providing means for taking clearly defined pictures. The negatives so obtained are developed in the regular way, and the positive prints subsequently made from them are used for reproduction.

The reproducing machine, or, as it is called in practice, the Projecting Kinetoscope, is quite similar so far as its general operations in handling the film are concerned. In appearance it is somewhat different; indeed, it is in two parts, the one containing the lighting arrangements and condensing lens, and the other embracing the mechanism and objective lens. The "taking" camera must have its parts enclosed in a light-tight box, because of the undeveloped, sensitized film, but the projecting kinetoscope, using only a fully developed positive film, may, and, for purposes of convenient operation, must be accessibly open. The illustration (Fig. 2) will show the projecting apparatus as used in practice.

The philosophy of reproduction is very simple, and is illustrated diagrammatically in Fig. 3, reference letters being the same as in Fig. 1. As to the additional reference letters, I is a condenser J the source of light, and K a reflector.

The positive film is moved intermittently but swiftly throughout its length between the objective lens and a beam of light coming through the condenser, being exposed by the shutter during the periods of rest. This results in a projection of the photographs upon a screen in such rapid succession as to present an apparently continuous photograph of the successive positions of the moving objects, which, therefore, appear to the human eye to be in motion.

The first claim of Reissue Patent No. 12,192 describes the film. It reads as follows:

"An unbroken transparent or translucent tape-like photographic film having thereon uniform, sharply defined, equidistant photographs of successive positions of an object in motion as observed from a single point of view at rapidly recurring intervals of time, such photographs being arranged in a continuous straight-line sequence, unlimited in number save by the length of the film, and sufficient in number to represent the movements of the object throughout an extended period of time."


THE wide range of Edison's activities in this department of the arts is well represented in the diversity of the numerous patents that have been issued to him from time to time. These patents are between fifty and sixty in number, and include magnetic ore separators of ten distinct types; also breaking, crushing, and grinding rolls, conveyors, dust-proof bearings, screens, driers, mixers, bricking apparatus and machines, ovens, and processes of various kinds.

A description of the many devices in each of these divisions would require more space than is available; hence, we shall confine ourselves to a few items of predominating importance, already referred to in the narrative, commencing with the fundamental magnetic ore separator, which was covered by United States Patent No. 228,329, issued June 1, 1880.

The illustration here presented is copied from the drawing forming part of this patent. A hopper with adjustable feed is supported several feet above a bin having a central partition. Almost midway between the hopper and the bin is placed an electromagnet whose polar extension is so arranged as to be a little to one side of a stream of material falling from the hopper. Normally, a stream of finely divided ore falling from the hopper would fall into that portion of the bin lying to the left of the partition. If, however, the magnet is energized from a source of current, the magnetic particles in the falling stream are attracted by and move toward the magnet, which is so placed with relation to the falling material that the magnetic particles cannot be attracted entirely to the magnet before gravity has carried them past. Hence, their trajectory is altered, and they fall on the right-hand side of the partition in the bin, while the non-magnetic portion of the stream continues in a straight line and falls on the other side, thus effecting a complete separation.

This simple but effective principle was the one employed by Edison in his great concentrating plant already described. In practice, the numerous hoppers, magnets, and bins were many feet in length; and they were arranged in batteries of varied magnetic strength, in order that the intermingled mass of crushed rock and iron ore might be more thoroughly separated by being passed through magnetic fields of successively increasing degrees of attracting power. Altogether there were about four hundred and eighty of these immense magnets in the plant, distributed in various buildings in batteries as above mentioned, the crushed rock containing the iron ore being delivered to them by conveyors, and the gangue and ore being taken away after separation by two other conveyors and delivered elsewhere. The magnetic separators at first used by Edison at this plant were of the same generality as the ones employed some years previously in the separation of sea-shore sand, but greatly enlarged and improved. The varied experiences gained in the concentration of vast quantities of ore led naturally to a greater development, and several new types and arrangements of magnetic separators were evolved and elaborated by him from first to last, during the progress of the work at the concentrating plant.

The magnetic separation of iron from its ore being the foundation idea of the inventions now under discussion, a consideration of the separator has naturally taken precedence over those of collateral but inseparable interest. The ore-bearing rock, however, must first be ground to powder before it can be separated; hence, we will now begin at the root of this operation and consider the "giant rolls," which Edison devised for breaking huge masses of rock. In his application for United States Patent No. 672,616, issued April 23, 1901, applied for on July 16, 1897, he says: "The object of my invention is to produce a method for the breaking of rock which will be simple and effective, will not require the hand-sledging or blasting of the rock down to pieces of moderate size, and will involve the consumption of a small amount of power."

While this quotation refers to the method as "simple," the patent under consideration covers one of the most bold and daring projects that Edison has ever evolved. He proposed to eliminate the slow and expensive method of breaking large boulders manually, and to substitute therefor momentum and kinetic energy applied through the medium of massive machinery, which, in a few seconds, would break into small pieces a rock as big as an ordinary upright cottage piano, and weighing as much as six tons. Engineers to whom Edison communicated his ideas were unanimous in declaring the thing an impossibility; it was like driving two express-trains into each other at full speed to crack a great rock placed between them; that no practical machinery could be built to stand the terrific impact and strains. Edison's convictions were strong, however, and he persisted. The experiments were of heroic size, physically and financially, but after a struggle of several years and an expenditure of about $100,000, he realized the correctness and practicability of his plans in the success of the giant rolls, which were the outcome of his labors.

The giant rolls consist of a pair of iron cylinders of massive size and weight, with removable wearing plates having irregular surfaces formed by projecting knobs. These rolls are mounted side by side in a very heavy frame (leaving a gap of about fourteen inches between them), and are so belted up with the source of power that they run in opposite directions. The giant rolls described by Edison in the above-named patent as having been built and operated by him had a combined weight of 167,000 pounds, including all moving parts, which of themselves weighed about seventy tons, each roll being six feet in diameter and five feet long. A top view of the rolls is shown in the sketch, one roll and one of its bearings being shown in section.

In Fig. 2 the rolls are illustrated diagrammatically. As a sketch of this nature, even if given with a definite scale, does not always carry an adequate idea of relative dimensions to a non-technical reader, we present in Fig. 3 a perspective illustration of the giant rolls as installed in the concentrating plant.

In practice, a small amount of power is applied to run the giant rolls gradually up to a surface speed of several thousand feet a minute. When this high speed is attained, masses of rock weighing several tons in one or more pieces are dumped into a hopper which guides them into the gap between the rapidly revolving rolls. The effect is to partially arrest the swift motion of the rolls instantaneously, and thereby develop and expend an enormous amount of kinetic energy, which with pile-driver effect cracks the rocks and breaks them into pieces small enough to pass through the fourteen-inch gap. As the power is applied to the rolls through slipping friction-clutches, the speed of the driving-pulleys is not materially reduced; hence the rolls may again be quickly speeded up to their highest velocity while another load of rock is being hoisted in position to be dumped into the hopper. It will be obvious from the foregoing that if it were attempted to supply the great energy necessary for this operation by direct application of steam-power, an engine of enormous horse-power would be required, and even then it is doubtful if one could be constructed of sufficient strength to withstand the terrific strains that would ensue. But the work is done by the great momentum and kinetic energy obtained by speeding up these tremendous masses of metal, and then suddenly opposing their progress, the engine being relieved of all strain through the medium of the slipping friction-clutches. Thus, this cyclopean operation may be continuously conducted with an amount of power prodigiously inferior, in proportion, to the results accomplished.

The sketch (Fig. 4) showing a large boulder being dumped into the hopper, or roll-pit, will serve to illustrate the method of feeding these great masses of rock to the rolls, and will also enable the reader to form an idea of the rapidity of the breaking operation, when it is stated that a boulder of the size represented would be reduced by the giant rolls to pieces a trifle larger than a man's head in a few seconds.

After leaving the giant rolls the broken rock passed on through other crushing-rolls of somewhat similar construction. These also were invented by Edison, but antedated those previously described; being covered by Patent No. 567,187, issued September 8, 1896. These rolls were intended for the reducing of "one-man-size" rocks to small pieces, which at the time of their original inception was about the standard size of similar machines. At the Edison concentrating plant the broken rock, after passing through these rolls, was further reduced in size by other rolls, and was then ready to be crushed to a fine powder through the medium of another remarkable machine devised by Edison to meet his ever-recurring and well-defined ideas of the utmost economy and efficiency.

NOTE.—Figs. 3 and 4 are reproduced from similar sketches on pages 84 and 85 of McClure's Magazine for November, 1897, by permission of S. S. McClure Co.

The best fine grinding-machines that it was then possible to obtain were so inefficient as to involve a loss of 82 per cent. of the power applied. The thought of such an enormous loss was unbearable, and he did not rest until he had invented and put into use an entirely new grinding-machine, which was called the "three-high" rolls. The device was covered by a patent issued to him on November 21, 1899, No. 637,327. It was a most noteworthy invention, for it brought into the art not only a greater efficiency of grinding than had ever been dreamed of before, but also a tremendous economy by the saving of power; for whereas the previous efficiency had been 18 per cent. and the loss 82 per cent., Edison reversed these figures, and in his three-high rolls produced a working efficiency of 84 per cent., thus reducing the loss of power by friction to 16 per cent. A diagrammatic sketch of this remarkable machine is shown in Fig. 5, which shows a front elevation with the casings, hopper, etc., removed, and also shows above the rolls the rope and pulleys, the supports for which are also removed for the sake of clearness in the illustration.

For the convenience of the reader, in referring to Fig. 5, we will repeat the description of the three-high rolls, which is given on pages 487 and 488 of the preceding narrative.

In the two end-pieces of a heavy iron frame were set three rolls, or cylinders—one in the centre, another below, and the other above—all three being in a vertical line. These rolls were about three feet in diameter, made of cast-iron, and had face-plates of chilled-iron. [31] The lowest roll was set in a fixed bearing at the bottom of the frame, and, therefore, could only turn around on its axis. The middle and top rolls were free to move up or down from and toward the lower roll, and the shafts of the middle and upper rolls were set in a loose bearing which could slip up and down in the iron frame. It will be apparent, therefore, that any material which passed in between the top and the middle rolls, and the middle and bottom rolls, could be ground as fine as might be desired, depending entirely upon the amount of pressure applied to the loose rolls. In operation the material passed first through the upper and middle rolls, and then between the middle and lowest rolls.

[Footnote 31: The faces of these rolls were smooth, but as three-high rolls came into use later in Edison's Portland cement operations the faces were corrugated so as to fit into each other, gear-fashion, to provide for a high rate of feed]

This pressure was applied in a most ingenious manner. On the ends of the shafts of the bottom and top rolls there were cylindrical sleeves, or bearings, having seven sheaves in which was run a half-inch endless wire rope. This rope was wound seven times over the sheaves as above, and led upward and over a single-groove sheave, which was operated by the piston of an air-cylinder, and in this manner the pressure was applied to the rolls. It will be seen, therefore that the system consisted in a single rope passed over sheaves and so arranged that it could be varied in length, thus providing for elasticity in exerting pressure and regulating it as desired. The efficiency of this system was incomparably greater than that of any other known crusher or grinder, for while a pressure of one hundred and twenty-five thousand pounds could be exerted by these rolls, friction was almost entirely eliminated, because the upper and lower roll bearings turned with the rolls and revolved in the wire rope, which constituted the bearing proper.

Several other important patents have been issued to Edison for crushing and grinding rolls, some of them being for elaborations and improvements of those above described but all covering methods of greater economy and effectiveness in rock-grinding.

Edison's work on conveyors during the period of his ore-concentrating labors was distinctively original, ingenious and far in advance of the times. His conception of the concentrating problem was broad and embraced an entire system, of which a principal item was the continuous transfer of enormous quantities of material from place to place at the lowest possible cost. As he contemplated the concentration of six thousand tons daily, the expense of manual labor to move such an immense quantity of rock, sand, and ore would be absolutely prohibitive. Hence, it became necessary to invent a system of conveyors that would be capable of transferring this mass of material from one place to another. And not only must these conveyors be capable of carrying the material, but they must also be devised so that they would automatically receive and discharge their respective loads at appointed places. Edison's ingenuity, engineering ability, and inventive skill were equal to the task, however, and were displayed in a system and variety of conveyors that in practice seemed to act with almost human discrimination. When fully installed throughout the plant, they automatically transferred daily a mass of material equal to about one hundred thousand cubic feet, from mill to mill, covering about a mile in the transit. Up and down, winding in and out, turning corners, delivering material from one to another, making a number of loops in the drying-oven, filling up bins and passing on to the next when they were full, these conveyors in automatic action seemingly played their part with human intelligence, which was in reality the reflection of the intelligence and ingenuity that had originally devised them and set them in motion.

Six of Edison's patents on conveyors include a variety of devices that have since came into broad general use for similar work, and have been the means of effecting great economies in numerous industries of widely varying kinds. Interesting as they are, however, we shall not attempt to describe them in detail, as the space required would be too great. They are specified in the list of patents following this Appendix, and may be examined in detail by any interested student.

In the same list will also be found a large number of Edison's patents on apparatus and methods of screening, drying, mixing, and briquetting, as well as for dust-proof bearings, and various types and groupings of separators, all of which were called forth by the exigencies and magnitude of his great undertaking, and without which he could not possibly have attained the successful physical results that crowned his labors. Edison's persistence in reducing the cost of his operations is noteworthy in connection with his screening and drying inventions, in which the utmost advantage is taken of the law of gravitation. With its assistance, which cost nothing, these operations were performed perfectly. It was only necessary to deliver the material at the top of the chambers, and during its natural descent it was screened or dried as the case might be.

All these inventions and devices, as well as those described in detail above (except magnetic separators and mixing and briquetting machines), are being used by him to-day in the manufacture of Portland cement, as that industry presents many of the identical problems which presented themselves in relation to the concentration of iron ore.


IN this remarkable invention, which has brought about a striking innovation in a long-established business, we see another characteristic instance of Edison's incisive reasoning and boldness of conception carried into practical effect in face of universal opinions to the contrary.

For the information of those unacquainted with the process of manufacturing Portland cement, it may be stated that the material consists preliminarily of an intimate mixture of cement rock and limestone, ground to a very fine powder. This powder is technically known in the trade as "chalk," and is fed into rotary kilns and "burned"; that is to say, it is subjected to a high degree of heat obtained by the combustion of pulverized coal, which is injected into the interior of the kiln. This combustion effects a chemical decomposition of the chalk, and causes it to assume a plastic consistency and to collect together in the form of small spherical balls, which are known as "clinker." Kilns are usually arranged with a slight incline, at the upper end of which the chalk is fed in and gradually works its way down to the interior flame of burning fuel at the other end. When it arrives at the lower end, the material has been "burned," and the clinker drops out into a receiving chamber below. The operation is continuous, a constant supply of chalk passing in at one end of the kiln and a continuous dribble of clinker-balls dropping out at the other. After cooling, the clinker is ground into very fine powder, which is the Portland cement of commerce.

It is self-evident that an ideal kiln would be one that produced the maximum quantity of thoroughly clinkered material with a minimum amount of fuel, labor, and investment. When Edison was preparing to go into the cement business, he looked the ground over thoroughly, and, after considerable investigation and experiment, came to the conclusion that prevailing conditions as to kilns were far from ideal.

The standard kilns then in use were about sixty feet in length, with an internal diameter of about five feet. In all rotary kilns for burning cement, the true clinkering operation takes place only within a limited portion of their total length, where the heat is greatest; hence the interior of the kiln may be considered as being divided longitudinally into two parts or zones—namely, the combustion, or clinkering, zone, and the zone of oncoming raw material. In the sixty-foot kiln the length of the combustion zone was about ten feet, extending from a point six or eight feet from the lower, or discharge, end to a point about eighteen feet from that end. Consequently, beyond that point there was a zone of only about forty feet, through which the heated gases passed and came in contact with the oncoming material, which was in movement down toward the clinkering zone. Since the bulk of oncoming material was small, the gases were not called upon to part with much of their heat, and therefore passed on up the stack at very high temperatures, ranging from 1500 degrees to 1800 degrees Fahr. Obviously, this heat was entirely lost.

An additional loss of efficiency arose from the fact that the material moved so rapidly toward the combustion zone that it had not given up all its carbon dioxide on reaching there; and by the giving off of large quantities of that gas within the combustion zone, perfect and economical combustion of coal could not be effected.

The comparatively short length of the sixty-foot kiln not only limited the amount of material that could be fed into it, but the limitation in length of the combustion zone militated against a thorough clinkering of the material, this operation being one in which the elements of time and proper heat are prime considerations. Thus the quantity of good clinker obtainable was unfavorably affected. By reason of these and other limitations and losses, it had been possible, in practice, to obtain only about two hundred and fifty barrels of clinker per day of twenty-four hours; and that with an expenditure for coal proportionately equal to about 29 to 33 per cent. of the quantity of clinker produced, even assuming that all the clinker was of good quality.

Edison realized that the secret of greater commercial efficiency and improvement of quality lay in the ability to handle larger quantities of material within a given time, and to produce a more perfect product without increasing cost or investment in proportion. His reasoning led him to the conclusion that this result could only be obtained through the use of a kiln of comparatively great length, and his investigations and experiments enabled him to decide upon a length of one hundred and fifty feet, but with an increase in diameter of only six inches to a foot over that of the sixty-foot kiln.

The principal considerations that influenced Edison in making this radical innovation may be briefly stated as follows:

First. The ability to maintain in the kiln a load from five to seven times greater than ordinarily employed, thereby tending to a more economical output.

Second. The combustion of a vastly increased bulk of pulverized coal and a greatly enlarged combustion zone, extending about forty feet longitudinally into the kiln—thus providing an area within which the material might be maintained in a clinkering temperature for a sufficiently long period to insure its being thoroughly clinkered from periphery to centre.

Third. By reason of such a greatly extended length of the zone of oncoming material (and consequently much greater bulk), the gases and other products of combustion would be cooled sufficiently between the combustion zone and the stack so as to leave the kiln at a comparatively low temperature. Besides, the oncoming material would thus be gradually raised in temperature instead of being heated abruptly, as in the shorter kilns.

Fourth. The material having thus been greatly raised in temperature before reaching the combustion zone would have parted with substantially all its carbon dioxide, and therefore would not introduce into the combustion zone sufficient of that gas to disturb the perfect character of the combustion.

Fifth. On account of the great weight of the heavy load in a long kiln, there would result the formation of a continuous plastic coating on that portion of the inner surface of the kiln where temperatures are highest. This would effectively protect the fire-brick lining from the destructive effects of the heat.

Such, in brief, were the essential principles upon which Edison based his conception and invention of the long kiln, which has since become so well known in the cement business.

Many other considerations of a minor and mechanical nature, but which were important factors in his solution of this difficult problem, are worthy of study by those intimately associated with or interested in the art. Not the least of the mechanical questions was settled by Edison's decision to make this tremendously long kiln in sections of cast-iron, with flanges, bolted together, and supported on rollers rotated by electric motors. Longitudinal expansion and thrust were also important factors to be provided for, as well as special devices to prevent the packing of the mass of material as it passed in and out of the kiln. Special provision was also made for injecting streams of pulverized coal in such manner as to create the largely extended zone of combustion. As to the details of these and many other ingenious devices, we must refer the curious reader to the patents, as it is merely intended in these pages to indicate in a brief manner the main principles of Edison's notable inventions. The principal United States patent on the long kiln was issued October 24, 1905, No. 802,631.

That his reasonings and deductions were correct in this case have been indubitably proven by some years of experience with the long kiln in its ability to produce from eight hundred to one thousand barrels of good clinker every twenty-four hours, with an expenditure for coal proportionately equal to about only 20 per cent. of the quantity of clinker produced.

To illustrate the long cement kiln by diagram would convey but little to the lay mind, and we therefore present an illustration (Fig. 1) of actual kilns in perspective, from which sense of their proportions may be gathered.


GENERICALLY considered, a "battery" is a device which generates electric current. There are two distinct species of battery, one being known as "primary," and the other as "storage," although the latter is sometimes referred to as a "secondary battery" or "accumulator." Every type of each of these two species is essentially alike in its general make-up; that is to say, every cell of battery of any kind contains at least two elements of different nature immersed in a more or less liquid electrolyte of chemical character. On closing the circuit of a primary battery an electric current is generated by reason of the chemical action which is set up between the electrolyte and the elements. This involves a gradual consumption of one of the elements and a corresponding exhaustion of the active properties of the electrolyte. By reason of this, both the element and the electrolyte that have been used up must be renewed from time to time, in order to obtain a continued supply of electric current.

The storage battery also generates electric current through chemical action, but without involving the constant repriming with active materials to replace those consumed and exhausted as above mentioned. The term "storage," as applied to this species of battery, is, however, a misnomer, and has been the cause of much misunderstanding to nontechnical persons. To the lay mind a "storage" battery presents itself in the aspect of a device in which electric energy is STORED, just as compressed air is stored or accumulated in a tank. This view, however, is not in accordance with facts. It is exactly like the primary battery in the fundamental circumstance that its ability for generating electric current depends upon chemical action. In strict terminology it is a "reversible" battery, as will be quite obvious if we glance briefly at its philosophy. When a storage battery is "charged," by having an electric current passed through it, the electric energy produces a chemical effect, adding oxygen to the positive plate, and taking oxygen away from the negative plate. Thus, the positive plate becomes oxidized, and the negative plate reduced. After the charging operation is concluded the battery is ready for use, and upon its circuit being closed through a translating device, such as a lamp or motor, a reversion ("discharge") takes place, the positive plate giving up its oxygen, and the negative plate being oxidized. These chemical actions result in the generation of an electric current as in a primary battery. As a matter of fact, the chemical actions and reactions in a storage battery are much more complex, but the above will serve to afford the lay reader a rather simple idea of the general result arrived at through the chemical activity referred to.

The storage battery, as a commercial article, was introduced into the market in the year 1881. At that time, and all through the succeeding years, until about 1905, there was only one type that was recognized as commercially practicable—namely, that known as the lead-sulphuric-acid cell, consisting of lead plates immersed in an electrolyte of dilute sulphuric acid. In the year last named Edison first brought out his new form of nickel-iron cell with alkaline electrolyte, as we have related in the preceding narrative. Early in the eighties, at Menlo Park, he had given much thought to the lead type of storage battery, and during the course of three years had made a prodigious number of experiments in the direction of improving it, probably performing more experiments in that time than the aggregate of those of all other investigators. Even in those early days he arrived at the conclusion that the lead-sulphuric-acid combination was intrinsically wrong, and did not embrace the elements of a permanent commercial device. He did not at that time, however, engage in a serious search for another form of storage battery, being tremendously occupied with his lighting system and other matters.

It may here be noted, for the information of the lay reader, that the lead-acid type of storage battery consists of two or more lead plates immersed in dilute sulphuric acid and contained in a receptacle of glass, hard rubber, or other special material not acted upon by acid. The plates are prepared and "formed" in various ways, and the chemical actions are similar to those above stated, the positive plate being oxidized and the negative reduced during "charge," and reversed during "discharge." This type of cell, however, has many serious disadvantages inherent to its very nature. We will name a few of them briefly. Constant dropping of fine particles of active material often causes short-circuiting of the plates, and always necessitates occasional washing out of cells; deterioration through "sulphation" if discharge is continued too far or if recharging is not commenced quickly enough; destruction of adjacent metalwork by the corrosive fumes given out during charge and discharge; the tendency of lead plates to "buckle" under certain conditions; the limitation to the use of glass, hard rubber, or similar containers on account of the action of the acid; and the immense weight for electrical capacity. The tremendously complex nature of the chemical reactions which take place in the lead-acid storage battery also renders it an easy prey to many troublesome diseases.

In the year 1900, when Edison undertook to invent a storage battery, he declared it should be a new type into which neither sulphuric nor any other acid should enter. He said that the intimate and continued companionship of an acid and a metal was unnatural, and incompatible with the idea of durability and simplicity. He furthermore stated that lead was an unmechanical metal for a battery, being heavy and lacking stability and elasticity, and that as most metals were unaffected by alkaline solutions, he was going to experiment in that direction. The soundness of his reasoning is amply justified by the perfection of results obtained in the new type of storage battery bearing his name, and now to be described.

The essential technical details of this battery are fully described in an article written by one of Edison's laboratory staff, Walter E. Holland, who for many years has been closely identified with the inventor's work on this cell The article was published in the Electrical World, New York, April 28, 1910; and the following extracts therefrom will afford an intelligent comprehension of this invention:

"The 'A' type Edison cell is the outcome of nine years of costly experimentation and persistent toil on the part of its inventor and his associates....

"The Edison invention involves the use of an entirely new voltaic combination in an alkaline electrolyte, in place of the lead-lead-peroxide combination and acid electrolyte, characteristic of all other commercial storage batteries. Experience has proven that this not only secures durability and greater output per unit-weight of battery, but in addition there is eliminated a long list of troubles and diseases inherent in the lead-acid combination....

"The principle on which the action of this new battery is based is the oxidation and reduction of metals in an electrolyte which does not combine with, and will not dissolve, either the metals or their oxides; and an electrolyte, furthermore, which, although decomposed by the action of the battery, is immediately re-formed in equal quantity; and therefore in effect is a CONSTANT element, not changing in density or in conductivity.

"A battery embodying this basic principle will have features of great value where lightness and durability are desiderata. For instance, the electrolyte, being a constant factor, as explained, is not required in any fixed and large amount, as is the case with sulphuric acid in the lead battery; thus the cell may be designed with minimum distancing of plates and with the greatest economy of space that is consistent with safe insulation and good mechanical design. Again, the active materials of the electrodes being insoluble in, and absolutely unaffected by, the electrolyte, are not liable to any sort of chemical deterioration by action of the electrolyte—no matter how long continued....

"The electrolyte of the Edison battery is a 21 per cent. solution of potassium hydrate having, in addition, a small amount of lithium hydrate. The active metals of the electrodes—which will oxidize and reduce in this electrolyte without dissolution or chemical deterioration—are nickel and iron. These active elements are not put in the plates AS METALS; but one, nickel, in the form of a hydrate, and the other, iron, as an oxide.

"The containing cases of both kinds of active material (Fig. 1), and their supporting grids (Fig. 2), as well as the bolts, washers, and nuts used in assembling (Fig. 3), and even the retaining can and its cover (Fig. 4), are all made of nickel-plated steel—a material in which lightness, durability and mechanical strength are most happily combined, and a material beyond suspicion as to corrosion in an alkaline electrolyte....

"An essential part of Edison's discovery of active masetials for an alkaline storage battery was the PREPARATION of these materials. Metallic powder of iron and nickel, or even oxides of these metals, prepared in the ordinary way, are not chemically active in a sufficient degree to work in a battery. It is only when specially prepared iron oxide of exceeding fineness, and nickel hydrate conforming to certain physical, as well as chemical, standards can be made that the alkaline battery is practicable. Needless to say, the working out of the conditions and processes of manufacture of the materials has involved great ingenuity and endless experimentation."

The article then treats of Edison's investigations into means for supporting and making electrical connection with the active materials, showing some of the difficulties encountered and the various discoveries made in developing the perfected cell, after which the writer continues his description of the "A" type cell, as follows:

"It will be seen at once that the construction of the two kinds of plate is radically different. The negative or iron plate (Fig. 5) has the familiar flat-pocket construction. Each negative contains twenty-four pockets—a pocket being 1/2 inch wide by 3 inches long, and having a maximum thickness of a little more than 1/8 inch. The positive or nickel plate (Fig. 6) is seen to consist of two rows of round rods or pencils, thirty in number, held in a vertical position by a steel support-frame. The pencils have flat flanges at the ends (formed by closing in the metal case), by which they are supported and electrical connection is made. The frame is slit at the inner horizontal edges, and then folded in such a way as to make individual clamping-jaws for each end-flange. The clamping-in is done at great pressure, and the resultant plate has great rigidity and strength.

"The perforated tubes into which the nickel active material is loaded are made of nickel-plated steel of high quality. They are put together with a double-lapped spiral seam to give expansion-resisting qualities, and as an additional precaution small metal rings are slipped on the outside. Each tube is 1/4 inch in diameter by 4 1/8 inches long, add has eight of the reinforcing rings.

"It will be seen that the 'A' positive plate has been given the theoretically best design to prevent expansion and overcome trouble from that cause. Actual tests, long continued under very severe conditions, have shown that the construction is right, and fulfils the most sanguine expectations."

Mr. Holland in his article then goes on to explain the development of the nickel flakes as the conducting factor in the positive element, but as this has already been described in Chapter XXII, we shall pass on to a later point, where he says:

"An idea of the conditions inside a loaded tube can best be had by microscopic examination. Fig. 7 shows a magnified section of a regularly loaded tube which has been sawed lengthwise. The vertical bounding walls are edges of the perforated metal containing tube; the dark horizontal lines are layers of nickel flake, while the light-colored thicker layers represent the nickel hydrate. It should be noted that the layers of flake nickel extend practically unbroken across the tube and make contact with the metal wall at both sides. These metal layers conduct current to or from the active nickel hydrate in all parts of the tube very efficiently. There are about three hundred and fifty layers of each kind of material in a 4 1/8-inch tube, each layer of nickel hydrate being about 0.01 inch thick; so it will be seen that the current does not have to penetrate very far into the nickel hydrate—one-half a layer's thickness being the maximum distance. The perforations of the containing tube, through which the electrolyte reaches the active material, are also shown in Fig. 7."

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