It has generally been supposed that Edison did not take up work on the stock ticker until after his arrival a little later in New York; but he says: "After the vote-recorder I invented a stock ticker, and started a ticker service in Boston; had thirty or forty subscribers, and operated from a room over the Gold Exchange. This was about a year after Callahan started in New York." To say the least, this evidenced great ability and enterprise on the part of the youth. The dealings in gold during the Civil War and after its close had brought gold indicators into use, and these had soon been followed by "stock tickers," the first of which was introduced in New York in 1867. The success of this new but still primitively crude class of apparatus was immediate. Four manufacturers were soon busy trying to keep pace with the demands for it from brokers; and the Gold & Stock Telegraph Company formed to exploit the system soon increased its capital from $200,000 to $300,000, paying 12 per cent. dividends on the latter amount. Within its first year the capital was again increased to $1,000,000, and dividends of 10 per cent. were paid easily on that sum also. It is needless to say that such facts became quickly known among the operators, from whose ranks, of course, the new employees were enlisted; and it was a common ambition among the more ingenious to produce a new ticker. From the beginning, each phase of electrical development—indeed, each step in mechanics—has been accompanied by the well-known phenomenon of invention; namely, the attempt of the many to perfect and refine and even re-invent where one or two daring spirits have led the way. The figures of capitalization and profit just mentioned were relatively much larger in the sixties than they are to-day; and to impressionable young operators they spelled illimitable wealth. Edison was, how ever, about the only one in Boston of whom history makes record as achieving any tangible result in this new art; and he soon longed for the larger telegraphic opportunity of New York. His friend, Milt Adams, went West with quenchless zest for that kind of roving life and aimless adventure of which the serious minded Edison had already had more than enough. Realizing that to New York he must look for further support in his efforts, Edison, deep in debt for his embryonic inventions, but with high hope and courage, now made the next momentous step in his career. He was far riper in experience and practice of his art than any other telegrapher of his age, and had acquired, moreover, no little knowledge of the practical business of life. Note has been made above of his invention of a stock ticker in Boston, and of his establishing a stock-quotation circuit. This was by no means all, and as a fitting close to this chapter he may be quoted as to some other work and its perils in experimentation: "I also engaged in putting up private lines, upon which I used an alphabetical dial instrument for telegraphing between business establishments, a forerunner of modern telephony. This instrument was very simple and practical, and any one could work it after a few minutes' explanation. I had these instruments made at Mr. Hamblet's, who had a little shop where he was engaged in experimenting with electric clocks. Mr. Hamblet was the father and introducer in after years of the Western Union Telegraph system of time distribution. My laboratory was the headquarters for the men, and also of tools and supplies for those private lines. They were put up cheaply, as I used the roofs of houses, just as the Western Union did. It never occurred to me to ask permission from the owners; all we did was to go to the store, etc., say we were telegraph men, and wanted to go up to the wires on the roof; and permission was always granted.
"In this laboratory I had a large induction coil which I had borrowed to make some experiments with. One day I got hold of both electrodes of the coil, and it clinched my hand on them so that I couldn't let go. The battery was on a shelf. The only way I could get free was to back off and pull the coil, so that the battery wires would pull the cells off the shelf and thus break the circuit. I shut my eyes and pulled, but the nitric acid splashed all over my face and ran down my back. I rushed to a sink, which was only half big enough, and got in as well as I could and wiggled around for several minutes to permit the water to dilute the acid and stop the pain. My face and back were streaked with yellow; the skin was thoroughly oxidized. I did not go on the street by daylight for two weeks, as the appearance of my face was dreadful. The skin, however, peeled off, and new skin replaced it without any damage."
THE STOCK TICKER
"THE letters and figures used in the language of the tape," said a well-known Boston stock speculator, "are very few, but they spell ruin in ninety-nine million ways." It is not to be inferred, however, that the modern stock ticker has anything to do with the making or losing of fortunes. There were regular daily stock-market reports in London newspapers in 1825, and New York soon followed the example. As far back as 1692, Houghton issued in London a weekly review of financial and commercial transactions, upon which Macaulay based the lively narrative of stock speculation in the seventeenth century, given in his famous history. That which the ubiquitous stock ticker has done is to give instantaneity to the news of what the stock market is doing, so that at every minute, thousands of miles apart, brokers, investors, and gamblers may learn the exact conditions. The existence of such facilities is to be admired rather than deplored. News is vital to Wall Street, and there is no living man on whom the doings in Wall Street are without effect. The financial history of the United States and of the world, as shown by the prices of government bonds and general securities, has been told daily for forty years on these narrow strips of paper tape, of which thousands of miles are run yearly through the "tickers" of New York alone. It is true that the record of the chattering little machine, made in cabalistic abbreviations on the tape, can drive a man suddenly to the very verge of insanity with joy or despair; but if there be blame for that, it attaches to the American spirit of speculation and not to the ingenious mechanism which reads and registers the beating of the financial pulse.
Edison came first to New York in 1868, with his early stock printer, which he tried unsuccessfully to sell. He went back to Boston, and quite undismayed got up a duplex telegraph. "Toward the end of my stay in Boston," he says, "I obtained a loan of money, amounting to $800, to build a peculiar kind of duplex telegraph for sending two messages over a single wire simultaneously. The apparatus was built, and I left the Western Union employ and went to Rochester, New York, to test the apparatus on the lines of the Atlantic & Pacific Telegraph between that city and New York. But the assistant at the other end could not be made to understand anything, notwithstanding I had written out a very minute description of just what to do. After trying for a week I gave it up and returned to New York with but a few cents in my pocket." Thus he who has never speculated in a stock in his life was destined to make the beginnings of his own fortune by providing for others the apparatus that should bring to the eye, all over a great city, the momentary fluctuations of stocks and bonds. No one could have been in direr poverty than he when the steamboat landed him in New York in 1869. He was in debt, and his few belongings in books and instruments had to be left behind. He was not far from starving. Mr. W. S. Mallory, an associate of many years, quotes directly from him on this point: "Some years ago we had a business negotiation in New York which made it necessary for Mr. Edison and me to visit the city five or six times within a comparatively short period. It was our custom to leave Orange about 11 A.M., and on arrival in New York to get our lunch before keeping the appointments, which were usually made for two o'clock. Several of these lunches were had at Delmonico's, Sherry's, and other places of similar character, but one day, while en route, Mr. Edison said: 'I have been to lunch with you several times; now to-day I am going to take you to lunch with me, and give you the finest lunch you ever had.' When we arrived in Hoboken, we took the downtown ferry across the Hudson, and when we arrived on the Manhattan side Mr. Edison led the way to Smith & McNell's, opposite Washington Market, and well known to old New Yorkers. We went inside and as soon as the waiter appeared Mr. Edison ordered apple dumplings and a cup of coffee for himself. He consumed his share of the lunch with the greatest possible pleasure. Then, as soon as he had finished, he went to the cigar counter and purchased cigars. As we walked to keep the appointment he gave me the following reminiscence: When he left Boston and decided to come to New York he had only money enough for the trip. After leaving the boat his first thought was of breakfast; but he was without money to obtain it. However, in passing a wholesale tea-house he saw a man tasting tea, so he went in and asked the 'taster' if he might have some of the tea. This the man gave him, and thus he obtained his first breakfast in New York. He knew a telegraph operator here, and on him he depended for a loan to tide him over until such time as he should secure a position. During the day he succeeded in locating this operator, but found that he also was out of a job, and that the best he could do was to loan him one dollar, which he did. This small sum of money represented both food and lodging until such time as work could be obtained. Edison said that as the result of the time consumed and the exercise in walking while he found his friend, he was extremely hungry, and that he gave most serious consideration as to what he should buy in the way of food, and what particular kind of food would be most satisfying and filling. The result was that at Smith & McNell's he decided on apple dumplings and a cup of coffee, than which he never ate anything more appetizing. It was not long before he was at work and was able to live in a normal manner."
During the Civil War, with its enormous increase in the national debt and the volume of paper money, gold had gone to a high premium; and, as ever, by its fluctuations in price the value of all other commodities was determined. This led to the creation of a "Gold Room" in Wall Street, where the precious metal could be dealt in; while for dealings in stocks there also existed the "Regular Board," the "Open Board," and the "Long Room." Devoted to one, but the leading object of speculation, the "Gold Room" was the very focus of all the financial and gambling activity of the time, and its quotations governed trade and commerce. At first notations in chalk on a blackboard sufficed, but seeing their inadequacy, Dr. S. S. Laws, vice-president and actual presiding officer of the Gold Exchange, devised and introduced what was popularly known as the "gold indicator." This exhibited merely the prevailing price of gold; but as its quotations changed from instant to instant, it was in a most literal sense "the cynosure of neighboring eyes." One indicator looked upon the Gold Room; the other opened toward the street. Within the exchange the face could easily be seen high up on the west wall of the room, and the machine was operated by Mr. Mersereau, the official registrar of the Gold Board.
Doctor Laws, who afterward became President of the State University of Missouri, was an inventor of unusual ability and attainments. In his early youth he had earned his livelihood in a tool factory; and, apparently with his savings, he went to Princeton, where he studied electricity under no less a teacher than the famous Joseph Henry. At the outbreak of the war in 1861 he was president of one of the Presbyterian synodical colleges in the South, whose buildings passed into the hands of the Government. Going to Europe, he returned to New York in 1863, and, becoming interested with a relative in financial matters, his connection with the Gold Exchange soon followed, when it was organized. The indicating mechanism he now devised was electrical, controlled at central by two circuit-closing keys, and was a prototype of all the later and modern step-by-step printing telegraphs, upon which the distribution of financial news depends. The "fraction" drum of the indicator could be driven in either direction, known as the advance and retrograde movements, and was divided and marked in eighths. It geared into a "unit" drum, just as do speed-indicators and cyclometers. Four electrical pulsations were required to move the drum the distance between the fractions. The general operation was simple, and in normally active times the mechanism and the registrar were equal to all emergencies. But it is obvious that the record had to be carried away to the brokers' offices and other places by messengers; and the delay, confusion, and mistakes soon suggested to Doctor Laws the desirability of having a number of indicators at such scattered points, operated by a master transmitter, and dispensing with the regiments of noisy boys. He secured this privilege of distribution, and, resigning from the exchange, devoted his exclusive attention to the "Gold Reporting Telegraph," which he patented, and for which, at the end of 1866, he had secured fifty subscribers. His indicators were small oblong boxes, in the front of which was a long slot, allowing the dials as they travelled past, inside, to show the numerals constituting the quotation; the dials or wheels being arranged in a row horizontally, overlapping each other, as in modern fare registers which are now seen on most trolley cars. It was not long before there were three hundred subscribers; but the very success of this device brought competition and improvement. Mr. E. A. Callahan, an ingenious printing-telegraph operator, saw that there were unexhausted possibilities in the idea, and his foresight and inventiveness made him the father of the "ticker," in connection with which he was thus, like Laws, one of the first to grasp and exploit the underlying principle of the "central station" as a universal source of supply. The genesis of his invention Mr. Callahan has told in an interesting way: "In 1867, on the site of the present Mills Building on Broad Street, opposite the Stock Exchange of today, was an old building which had been cut up to subserve the necessities of its occupants, all engaged in dealing in gold and stocks. It had one main entrance from the street to a hallway, from which entrance to the offices of two prominent broker firms was obtained. Each firm had its own army of boys, numbering from twelve to fifteen, whose duties were to ascertain the latest quotations from the different exchanges. Each boy devoted his attention to some particularly active stock. Pushing each other to get into these narrow quarters, yelling out the prices at the door, and pushing back for later ones, the hustle made this doorway to me a most undesirable refuge from an April shower. I was simply whirled into the street. I naturally thought that much of this noise and confusion might be dispensed with, and that the prices might be furnished through some system of telegraphy which would not require the employment of skilled operators. The conception of the stock ticker dates from this incident."
Mr. Callahan's first idea was to distribute gold quotations, and to this end he devised an "indicator." It consisted of two dials mounted separately, each revolved by an electromagnet, so that the desired figures were brought to an aperture in the case enclosing the apparatus, as in the Laws system. Each shaft with its dial was provided with two ratchet wheels, one the reverse of the other. One was used in connection with the propelling lever, which was provided with a pawl to fit into the teeth of the reversed ratchet wheel on its forward movement. It was thus made impossible for either dial to go by momentum beyond its limit. Learning that Doctor Laws, with the skilful aid of F. L. Pope, was already active in the same direction, Mr. Callahan, with ready wit, transformed his indicator into a "ticker" that would make a printed record. The name of the "ticker" came through the casual remark of an observer to whom the noise was the most striking feature of the mechanism. Mr. Callahan removed the two dials, and, substituting type wheels, turned the movements face to face, so that each type wheel could imprint its characters upon a paper tape in two lines. Three wires stranded together ran from the central office to each instrument. Of these one furnished the current for the alphabet wheel, one for the figure wheel, and one for the mechanism that took care of the inking and printing on the tape. Callahan made the further innovation of insulating his circuit wires, although the cost was then forty times as great as that of bare wire. It will be understood that electromagnets were the ticker's actuating agency. The ticker apparatus was placed under a neat glass shade and mounted on a shelf. Twenty-five instruments were energized from one circuit, and the quotations were supplied from a "central" at 18 New Street. The Gold & Stock Telegraph Company was promptly organized to supply to brokers the system, which was very rapidly adopted throughout the financial district of New York, at the southern tip of Manhattan Island. Quotations were transmitted by the Morse telegraph from the floor of the Stock Exchange to the "central," and thence distributed to the subscribers. Success with the "stock" news system was instantaneous.
It was at this juncture that Edison reached New York, and according to his own statement found shelter at night in the battery-room of the Gold Indicator Company, having meantime applied for a position as operator with the Western Union. He had to wait a few days, and during this time he seized the opportunity to study the indicators and the complicated general transmitter in the office, controlled from the keyboard of the operator on the floor of the Gold Exchange. What happened next has been the basis of many inaccurate stories, but is dramatic enough as told in Mr. Edison's own version: "On the third day of my arrival and while sitting in the office, the complicated general instrument for sending on all the lines, and which made a very great noise, suddenly came to a stop with a crash. Within two minutes over three hundred boys—a boy from every broker in the street—rushed up-stairs and crowded the long aisle and office, that hardly had room for one hundred, all yelling that such and such a broker's wire was out of order and to fix it at once. It was pandemonium, and the man in charge became so excited that he lost control of all the knowledge he ever had. I went to the indicator, and, having studied it thoroughly, knew where the trouble ought to be, and found it. One of the innumerable contact springs had broken off and had fallen down between the two gear wheels and stopped the instrument; but it was not very noticeable. As I went out to tell the man in charge what the matter was, Doctor Laws appeared on the scene, the most excited person I had seen. He demanded of the man the cause of the trouble, but the man was speechless. I ventured to say that I knew what the trouble was, and he said, 'Fix it! Fix it! Be quick!' I removed the spring and set the contact wheels at zero; and the line, battery, and inspecting men all scattered through the financial district to set the instruments. In about two hours things were working again. Doctor Laws came in to ask my name and what I was doing. I told him, and he asked me to come to his private office the following day. His office was filled with stacks of books all relating to metaphysics and kindred matters. He asked me a great many questions about the instruments and his system, and I showed him how he could simplify things generally. He then requested that I should call next day. On arrival, he stated at once that he had decided to put me in charge of the whole plant, and that my salary would be $300 per month! This was such a violent jump from anything I had ever seen before, that it rather paralyzed me for a while, I thought it was too much to be lasting, but I determined to try and live up to that salary if twenty hours a day of hard work would do it. I kept this position, made many improvements, devised several stock tickers, until the Gold & Stock Telegraph Company consolidated with the Gold Indicator Company." Certainly few changes in fortune have been more sudden and dramatic in any notable career than this which thus placed an ill-clad, unkempt, half-starved, eager lad in a position of such responsibility in days when the fluctuations in the price of gold at every instant meant fortune or ruin to thousands.
Edison, barely twenty-one years old, was a keen observer of the stirring events around him. "Wall Street" is at any time an interesting study, but it was never at a more agitated and sensational period of its history than at this time. Edison's arrival in New York coincided with an active speculation in gold which may, indeed, be said to have provided him with occupation; and was soon followed by the attempt of Mr. Jay Gould and his associates to corner the gold market, precipitating the panic of Black Friday, September 24, 1869. Securing its import duties in the precious metal and thus assisting to create an artificial stringency in the gold market, the Government had made it a practice to relieve the situation by selling a million of gold each month. The metal was thus restored to circulation. In some manner, President Grant was persuaded that general conditions and the movement of the crops would be helped if the sale of gold were suspended for a time; and, this put into effect, he went to visit an old friend in Pennsylvania remote from railroads and telegraphs. The Gould pool had acquired control of $10,000,000 in gold, and drove the price upward rapidly from 144 toward their goal of 200. On Black Friday they purchased another $28,000,000 at 160, and still the price went up. The financial and commercial interests of the country were in panic; but the pool persevered in its effort to corner gold, with a profit of many millions contingent on success. Yielding to frantic requests, President Grant, who returned to Washington, caused Secretary Boutwell, of the Treasury, to throw $4,000,000 of gold into the market. Relief was instantaneous, the corner was broken, but the harm had been done. Edison's remarks shed a vivid side-light on this extraordinary episode: "On Black Friday," he says, "we had a very exciting time with the indicators. The Gould and Fisk crowd had cornered gold, and had run the quotations up faster than the indicator could follow. The indicator was composed of several wheels; on the circumference of each wheel were the numerals; and one wheel had fractions. It worked in the same way as an ordinary counter; one wheel made ten revolutions, and at the tenth it advanced the adjacent wheel; and this in its turn having gone ten revolutions, advanced the next wheel, and so on. On the morning of Black Friday the indicator was quoting 150 premium, whereas the bids by Gould's agents in the Gold Room were 165 for five millions or any part. We had a paper-weight at the transmitter (to speed it up), and by one o'clock reached the right quotation. The excitement was prodigious. New Street, as well as Broad Street, was jammed with excited people. I sat on the top of the Western Union telegraph booth to watch the surging, crazy crowd. One man came to the booth, grabbed a pencil, and attempted to write a message to Boston. The first stroke went clear off the blank; he was so excited that he had the operator write the message for him. Amid great excitement Speyer, the banker, went crazy and it took five men to hold him; and everybody lost their head. The Western Union operator came to me and said: 'Shake, Edison, we are O. K. We haven't got a cent.' I felt very happy because we were poor. These occasions are very enjoyable to a poor man; but they occur rarely."
There is a calm sense of detachment about this description that has been possessed by the narrator even in the most anxious moments of his career. He was determined to see all that could be seen, and, quitting his perch on the telegraph booth, sought the more secluded headquarters of the pool forces. "A friend of mine was an operator who worked in the office of Belden & Company, 60 Broadway, which were headquarters for Fisk. Mr. Gould was up-town in the Erie offices in the Grand Opera House. The firm on Broad Street, Smith, Gould & Martin, was the other branch. All were connected with wires. Gould seemed to be in charge, Fisk being the executive down-town. Fisk wore a velvet corduroy coat and a very peculiar vest. He was very chipper, and seemed to be light-hearted and happy. Sitting around the room were about a dozen fine-looking men. All had the complexion of cadavers. There was a basket of champagne. Hundreds of boys were rushing in paying checks, all checks being payable to Belden & Company. When James Brown, of Brown Brothers & Company, broke the corner by selling five million gold, all payments were repudiated by Smith, Gould & Martin; but they continued to receive checks at Belden & Company's for some time, until the Street got wind of the game. There was some kind of conspiracy with the Government people which I could not make out, but I heard messages that opened my eyes as to the ramifications of Wall Street. Gold fell to 132, and it took us all night to get the indicator back to that quotation. All night long the streets were full of people. Every broker's office was brilliantly lighted all night, and all hands were at work. The clearing-house for gold had been swamped, and all was mixed up. No one knew if he was bankrupt or not."
Edison in those days rather liked the modest coffee-shops, and mentions visiting one. "When on the New York No. 1 wire, that I worked in Boston, there was an operator named Jerry Borst at the other end. He was a first-class receiver and rapid sender. We made up a scheme to hold this wire, so he changed one letter of the alphabet and I soon got used to it; and finally we changed three letters. If any operator tried to receive from Borst, he couldn't do it, so Borst and I always worked together. Borst did less talking than any operator I ever knew. Never having seen him, I went while in New York to call upon him. I did all the talking. He would listen, stroke his beard, and say nothing. In the evening I went over to an all-night lunch-house in Printing House Square in a basement—Oliver's. Night editors, including Horace Greeley, and Henry Raymond, of the New York Times, took their midnight lunch there. When I went with Borst and another operator, they pointed out two or three men who were then celebrated in the newspaper world. The night was intensely hot and close. After getting our lunch and upon reaching the sidewalk, Borst opened his mouth, and said: 'That's a great place; a plate of cakes, a cup of coffee, and a Russian bath, for ten cents.' This was about fifty per cent. of his conversation for two days."
The work of Edison on the gold-indicator had thrown him into close relationship with Mr. Franklin L. Pope, the young telegraph engineer then associated with Doctor Laws, and afterward a distinguished expert and technical writer, who became President of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers in 1886. Each recognized the special ability of the other, and barely a week after the famous events of Black Friday the announcement of their partnership appeared in the Telegrapher of October 1, 1869. This was the first "professional card," if it may be so described, ever issued in America by a firm of electrical engineers, and is here reproduced. It is probable that the advertisement, one of the largest in the Telegrapher, and appearing frequently, was not paid for at full rates, as the publisher, Mr. J. N. Ashley, became a partner in the firm, and not altogether a "sleeping one" when it came to a division of profits, which at times were considerable. In order to be nearer his new friend Edison boarded with Pope at Elizabeth, New Jersey, for some time, living "the strenuous life" in the performance of his duties. Associated with Pope and Ashley, he followed up his work on telegraph printers with marked success. "While with them I devised a printer to print gold quotations instead of indicating them. The lines were started, and the whole was sold out to the Gold & Stock Telegraph Company. My experimenting was all done in the small shop of a Doctor Bradley, located near the station of the Pennsylvania Railroad in Jersey City. Every night I left for Elizabeth on the 1 A.M. train, then walked half a mile to Mr. Pope's house and up at 6 A.M. for breakfast to catch the 7 A.M. train. This continued all winter, and many were the occasions when I was nearly frozen in the Elizabeth walk." This Doctor Bradley appears to have been the first in this country to make electrical measurements of precision with the galvanometer, but was an old-school experimenter who would work for years on an instrument without commercial value. He was also extremely irascible, and when on one occasion the connecting wire would not come out of one of the binding posts of a new and costly galvanometer, he jerked the instrument to the floor and then jumped on it. He must have been, however, a man of originality, as evidenced by his attempt to age whiskey by electricity, an attempt that has often since been made. "The hobby he had at the time I was there," says Edison, "was the aging of raw whiskey by passing strong electric currents through it. He had arranged twenty jars with platinum electrodes held in place by hard rubber. When all was ready, he filled the cells with whiskey, connected the battery, locked the door of the small room in which they were placed, and gave positive orders that no one should enter. He then disappeared for three days. On the second day we noticed a terrible smell in the shop, as if from some dead animal. The next day the doctor arrived and, noticing the smell, asked what was dead. We all thought something had got into his whiskey-room and died. He opened it and was nearly overcome. The hard rubber he used was, of course, full of sulphur, and this being attacked by the nascent hydrogen, had produced sulphuretted hydrogen gas in torrents, displacing all of the air in the room. Sulphuretted hydrogen is, as is well known, the gas given off by rotten eggs."
Another glimpse of this period of development is afforded by an interesting article on the stock-reporting telegraph in the Electrical World of March 4, 1899, by Mr. Ralph W. Pope, the well-known Secretary of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, who had as a youth an active and intimate connection with that branch of electrical industry. In the course of his article he mentions the curious fact that Doctor Laws at first, in receiving quotations from the Exchanges, was so distrustful of the Morse system that he installed long lines of speaking-tube as a more satisfactory and safe device than a telegraph wire. As to the relations of that time Mr. Pope remarks: "The rivalry between the two concerns resulted in consolidation, Doctor Laws's enterprise being absorbed by the Gold & Stock Telegraph Company, while the Laws stock printer was relegated to the scrap-heap and the museum. Competition in the field did not, however, cease. Messrs. Pope and Edison invented a one-wire printer, and started a system of 'gold printers' devoted to the recording of gold quotations and sterling exchange only. It was intended more especially for importers and exchange brokers, and was furnished at a lower price than the indicator service.... The building and equipment of private telegraph lines was also entered upon. This business was also subsequently absorbed by the Gold & Stock Telegraph Company, which was probably at this time at the height of its prosperity. The financial organization of the company was peculiar and worthy of attention. Each subscriber for a machine paid in $100 for the privilege of securing an instrument. For the service he paid $25 weekly. In case he retired or failed, he could transfer his 'right,' and employees were constantly on the alert for purchasable rights, which could be disposed of at a profit. It was occasionally worth the profit to convince a man that he did not actually own the machine which had been placed in his office.... The Western Union Telegraph Company secured a majority of its stock, and Gen. Marshall Lefferts was elected president. A private-line department was established, and the business taken over from Pope, Edison, and Ashley was rapidly enlarged."
At this juncture General Lefferts, as President of the Gold & Stock Telegraph Company, requested Edison to go to work on improving the stock ticker, furnishing the money; and the well-known "Universal" ticker, in wide-spread use in its day, was one result. Mr. Edison gives a graphic picture of the startling effect on his fortunes: "I made a great many inventions; one was the special ticker used for many years outside of New York in the large cities. This was made exceedingly simple, as they did not have the experts we had in New York to handle anything complicated. The same ticker was used on the London Stock Exchange. After I had made a great number of inventions and obtained patents, the General seemed anxious that the matter should be closed up. One day I exhibited and worked a successful device whereby if a ticker should get out of unison in a broker's office and commence to print wild figures, it could be brought to unison from the central station, which saved the labor of many men and much trouble to the broker. He called me into his office, and said: 'Now, young man, I want to close up the matter of your inventions. How much do you think you should receive?' I had made up my mind that, taking into consideration the time and killing pace I was working at, I should be entitled to $5000, but could get along with $3000. When the psychological moment arrived, I hadn't the nerve to name such a large sum, so I said: 'Well, General, suppose you make me an offer.' Then he said: 'How would $40,000 strike you?' This caused me to come as near fainting as I ever got. I was afraid he would hear my heart beat. I managed to say that I thought it was fair. 'All right, I will have a contract drawn; come around in three days and sign it, and I will give you the money.' I arrived on time, but had been doing some considerable thinking on the subject. The sum seemed to be very large for the amount of work, for at that time I determined the value by the time and trouble, and not by what the invention was worth to others. I thought there was something unreal about it. However, the contract was handed to me. I signed without reading it." Edison was then handed the first check he had ever received, one for $40,000 drawn on the Bank of New York, at the corner of William and Wall Streets. On going to the bank and passing in the check at the wicket of the paying teller, some brief remarks were made to him, which in his deafness he did not understand. The check was handed back to him, and Edison, fancying for a moment that in some way he had been cheated, went outside "to the large steps to let the cold sweat evaporate." He then went back to the General, who, with his secretary, had a good laugh over the matter, told him the check must be endorsed, and sent with him a young man to identify him. The ceremony of identification performed with the paying teller, who was quite merry over the incident, Edison was given the amount in bundles of small bills "until there certainly seemed to be one cubic foot." Unaware that he was the victim of a practical joke, Edison proceeded gravely to stow away the money in his overcoat pockets and all his other pockets. He then went to Newark and sat up all night with the money for fear it might be stolen. Once more he sought help next morning, when the General laughed heartily, and, telling the clerk that the joke must not be carried any further, enabled him to deposit the currency in the bank and open an account.
Thus in an inconceivably brief time had Edison passed from poverty to independence; made a deep impression as to his originality and ability on important people, and brought out valuable inventions; lifting himself at one bound out of the ruck of mediocrity, and away from the deadening drudgery of the key. Best of all he was enterprising, one of the leaders and pioneers for whom the world is always looking; and, to use his own criticism of himself, he had "too sanguine a temperament to keep money in solitary confinement." With quiet self-possession he seized his opportunity, began to buy machinery, rented a shop and got work for it. Moving quickly into a larger shop, Nos. 10 and 12 Ward Street, Newark, New Jersey, he secured large orders from General Lefferts to build stock tickers, and employed fifty men. As business increased he put on a night force, and was his own foreman on both shifts. Half an hour of sleep three or four times in the twenty-four hours was all he needed in those days, when one invention succeeded another with dazzling rapidity, and when he worked with the fierce, eruptive energy of a great volcano, throwing out new ideas incessantly with spectacular effect on the arts to which they related. It has always been a theory with Edison that we sleep altogether too much; but on the other hand he never, until long past fifty, knew or practiced the slightest moderation in work or in the use of strong coffee and black cigars. He has, moreover, while of tender and kindly disposition, never hesitated to use men up as freely as a Napoleon or Grant; seeing only the goal of a complete invention or perfected device, to attain which all else must become subsidiary. He gives a graphic picture of his first methods as a manufacturer: "Nearly all my men were on piece work, and I allowed them to make good wages, and never cut until the pay became absurdly high as they got more expert. I kept no books. I had two hooks. All the bills and accounts I owed I jabbed on one hook; and memoranda of all owed to myself I put on the other. When some of the bills fell due, and I couldn't deliver tickers to get a supply of money, I gave a note. When the notes were due, a messenger came around from the bank with the note and a protest pinned to it for $1.25. Then I would go to New York and get an advance, or pay the note if I had the money. This method of giving notes for my accounts and having all notes protested I kept up over two years, yet my credit was fine. Every store I traded with was always glad to furnish goods, perhaps in amazed admiration of my system of doing business, which was certainly new." After a while Edison got a bookkeeper, whose vagaries made him look back with regret on the earlier, primitive method. "The first three months I had him go over the books to find out how much we had made. He reported $3000. I gave a supper to some of my men to celebrate this, only to be told two days afterward that he had made a mistake, and that we had lost $500; and then a few days after that he came to me again and said he was all mixed up, and now found that we had made over $7000." Edison changed bookkeepers, but never thereafter counted anything real profit until he had paid all his debts and had the profits in the bank.
The factory work at this time related chiefly to stock tickers, principally the "Universal," of which at one time twelve hundred were in use. Edison's connection with this particular device was very close while it lasted. In a review of the ticker art, Mr. Callahan stated, with rather grudging praise, that "a ticker at the present time (1901) would be considered as impracticable and unsalable if it were not provided with a unison device," and he goes on to remark: "The first unison on stock tickers was one used on the Laws printer.  It was a crude and unsatisfactory piece of mechanism and necessitated doubling of the battery in order to bring it into action. It was short-lived. The Edison unison comprised a lever with a free end travelling in a spiral or worm on the type-wheel shaft until it met a pin at the end of the worm, thus obstructing the shaft and leaving the type-wheels at the zero-point until released by the printing lever. This device is too well known to require a further description. It is not applicable to any instrument using two independently moving type-wheels; but on nearly if not all other instruments will be found in use." The stock ticker has enjoyed the devotion of many brilliant inventors—G. M. Phelps, H. Van Hoevenbergh, A. A. Knudson, G. B. Scott, S. D. Field, John Burry—and remains in extensive use as an appliance for which no substitute or competitor has been found. In New York the two great stock exchanges have deemed it necessary to own and operate a stock-ticker service for the sole benefit of their members; and down to the present moment the process of improvement has gone on, impelled by the increasing volume of business to be reported. It is significant of Edison's work, now dimmed and overlaid by later advances, that at the very outset he recognized the vital importance of interchangeability in the construction of this delicate and sensitive apparatus. But the difficulties of these early days were almost insurmountable. Mr. R. W. Pope says of the "Universal" machines that they were simple and substantial and generally satisfactory, but adds: "These instruments were supposed to have been made with interchangeable parts; but as a matter of fact the instances in which these parts would fit were very few. The instruction-book prepared for the use of inspectors stated that 'The parts should not be tinkered nor bent, as they are accurately made and interchangeable.' The difficulties encountered in fitting them properly doubtless gave rise to a story that Mr. Edison had stated that there were three degrees of interchangeability. This was interpreted to mean: First, the parts will fit; second, they will almost fit; third, they do not fit, and can't be made to fit."
[Footnote 2: This I invented as well.—T. A. E.]
This early shop affords an illustration of the manner in which Edison has made a deep impression on the personnel of the electrical arts. At a single bench there worked three men since rich or prominent. One was Sigmund Bergmann, for a time partner with Edison in his lighting developments in the United States, and now head and principal owner of electrical works in Berlin employing ten thousand men. The next man adjacent was John Kruesi, afterward engineer of the great General Electric Works at Schenectady. A third was Schuckert, who left the bench to settle up his father's little estate at Nuremberg, stayed there and founded electrical factories, which became the third largest in Germany, their proprietor dying very wealthy. "I gave them a good training as to working hours and hustling," says their quondam master; and this is equally true as applied to many scores of others working in companies bearing the Edison name or organized under Edison patents. It is curiously significant in this connection that of the twenty-one presidents of the national society, the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, founded in 1884, eight have been intimately associated with Edison—namely, Norvin Green and F. L. Pope, as business colleagues of the days of which we now write; while Messrs. Frank J. Sprague, T. C. Martin, A. E. Kennelly, S. S. Wheeler, John W. Lieb, Jr., and Louis A. Ferguson have all been at one time or another in the Edison employ. The remark was once made that if a famous American teacher sat at one end of a log and a student at the other end, the elements of a successful university were present. It is equally true that in Edison and the many men who have graduated from his stern school of endeavor, America has had its foremost seat of electrical engineering.
AUTOMATIC, DUPLEX, AND QUADRUPLEX TELEGRAPHY
WORK of various kinds poured in upon the young manufacturer, busy also with his own schemes and inventions, which soon began to follow so many distinct lines of inquiry that it ceases to be easy or necessary for the historian to treat them all in chronological sequence. Some notion of his ceaseless activity may be formed from the fact that he started no fewer than three shops in Newark during 1870-71, and while directing these was also engaged by the men who controlled the Automatic Telegraph Company of New York, which had a circuit to Washington, to help it out of its difficulties. "Soon after starting the large shop (10 and 12 Ward Street, Newark), I rented shop-room to the inventor of a new rifle. I think it was the Berdan. In any event, it was a rifle which was subsequently adopted by the British Army. The inventor employed a tool-maker who was the finest and best tool-maker I had ever seen. I noticed that he worked pretty near the whole of the twenty-four hours. This kind of application I was looking for. He was getting $21.50 per week, and was also paid for overtime. I asked him if he could run the shop. 'I don't know; try me!' he said. 'All right, I will give you $60 per week to run both shifts.' He went at it. His executive ability was greater than that of any other man I have yet seen. His memory was prodigious, conversation laconic, and movements rapid. He doubled the production inside three months, without materially increasing the pay-roll, by increasing the cutting speeds of tools, and by the use of various devices. When in need of rest he would lie down on a work-bench, sleep twenty or thirty minutes, and wake up fresh. As this was just what I could do, I naturally conceived a great pride in having such a man in charge of my work. But almost everything has trouble connected with it. He disappeared one day, and although I sent men everywhere that it was likely he could be found, he was not discovered. After two weeks he came into the factory in a terrible condition as to clothes and face. He sat down and, turning to me, said: 'Edison, it's no use, this is the third time; I can't stand prosperity. Put my salary back and give me a job.' I was very sorry to learn that it was whiskey that spoiled such a career. I gave him an inferior job and kept him for a long time."
Edison had now entered definitely upon that career as an inventor which has left so deep an imprint on the records of the United States Patent Office, where from his first patent in 1869 up to the summer of 1910 no fewer than 1328 separate patents have been applied for in his name, averaging thirty-two every year, and one about every eleven days; with a substantially corresponding number issued. The height of this inventive activity was attained about 1882, in which year no fewer than 141 patents were applied for, and seventy-five granted to him, or nearly nine times as many as in 1876, when invention as a profession may be said to have been adopted by this prolific genius. It will be understood, of course, that even these figures do not represent the full measure of actual invention, as in every process and at every step there were many discoveries that were not brought to patent registration, but remained "trade secrets." And furthermore, that in practically every case the actual patented invention followed from one to a dozen or more gradually developing forms of the same idea.
An Englishman named George Little had brought over a system of automatic telegraphy which worked well on a short line, but was a failure when put upon the longer circuits for which automatic methods are best adapted. The general principle involved in automatic or rapid telegraphs, except the photographic ones, is that of preparing the message in advance, for dispatch, by perforating narrow strips of paper with holes—work which can be done either by hand-punches or by typewriter apparatus. A certain group of perforations corresponds to a Morse group of dots and dashes for a letter of the alphabet. When the tape thus made ready is run rapidly through a transmitting machine, electrical contact occurs wherever there is a perforation, permitting the current from the battery to flow into the line and thus transmit signals correspondingly. At the distant end these signals are received sometimes on an ink-writing recorder as dots and dashes, or even as typewriting letters; but in many of the earlier systems, like that of Bain, the record at the higher rates of speed was effected by chemical means, a tell-tale stain being made on the travelling strip of paper by every spurt of incoming current. Solutions of potassium iodide were frequently used for this purpose, giving a sharp, blue record, but fading away too rapidly.
The Little system had perforating apparatus operated by electromagnets; its transmitting machine was driven by a small electromagnetic motor; and the record was made by electrochemical decomposition, the writing member being a minute platinum roller instead of the more familiar iron stylus. Moreover, a special type of wire had been put up for the single circuit of two hundred and eighty miles between New York and Washington. This is believed to have been the first "compound" wire made for telegraphic or other signalling purposes, the object being to secure greater lightness with textile strength and high conductivity. It had a steel core, with a copper ribbon wound spirally around it, and tinned to the core wire. But the results obtained were poor, and in their necessity the parties in interest turned to Edison.
Mr. E. H. Johnson tells of the conditions: "Gen. W. J. Palmer and some New York associates had taken up the Little automatic system and had expended quite a sum in its development, when, thinking they had reduced it to practice, they got Tom Scott, of the Pennsylvania Railroad to send his superintendent of telegraph over to look into and report upon it. Of course he turned it down. The syndicate was appalled at this report, and in this extremity General Palmer thought of the man who had impressed him as knowing it all by the telling of telegraphic tales as a means of whiling away lonesome hours on the plains of Colorado, where they were associated in railroad-building. So this man—it was I—was sent for to come to New York and assuage their grief if possible. My report was that the system was sound fundamentally, that it contained the germ of a good thing, but needed working out. Associated with General Palmer was one Col. Josiah C. Reiff, then Eastern bond agent for the Kansas Pacific Railroad. The Colonel was always resourceful, and didn't fail in this case. He knew of a young fellow who was doing some good work for Marshall Lefferts, and who it was said was a genius at invention, and a very fiend for work. His name was Edison, and he had a shop out at Newark, New Jersey. He came and was put in my care for the purpose of a mutual exchange of ideas and for a report by me as to his competency in the matter. This was my introduction to Edison. He confirmed my views of the automatic system. He saw its possibilities, as well as the chief obstacles to be overcome—viz., the sluggishness of the wire, together with the need of mechanical betterment of the apparatus; and he agreed to take the job on one condition—namely, that Johnson would stay and help, as 'he was a man with ideas.' Mr. Johnson was accordingly given three months' leave from Colorado railroad-building, and has never seen Colorado since."
Applying himself to the difficulties with wonted energy, Edison devised new apparatus, and solved the problem to such an extent that he and his assistants succeeded in transmitting and recording one thousand words per minute between New York and Washington, and thirty-five hundred words per minute to Philadelphia. Ordinary manual transmission by key is not in excess of forty to fifty words a minute. Stated very briefly, Edison's principal contribution to the commercial development of the automatic was based on the observation that in a line of considerable length electrical impulses become enormously extended, or sluggish, due to a phenomenon known as self-induction, which with ordinary Morse work is in a measure corrected by condensers. But in the automatic the aim was to deal with impulses following each other from twenty-five to one hundred times as rapidly as in Morse lines, and to attempt to receive and record intelligibly such a lightning-like succession of signals would have seemed impossible. But Edison discovered that by utilizing a shunt around the receiving instrument, with a soft iron core, the self-induction would produce a momentary and instantaneous reversal of the current at the end of each impulse, and thereby give an absolutely sharp definition to each signal. This discovery did away entirely with sluggishness, and made it possible to secure high speeds over lines of comparatively great lengths. But Edison's work on the automatic did not stop with this basic suggestion, for he took up and perfected the mechanical construction of the instruments, as well as the perforators, and also suggested numerous electrosensitive chemicals for the receivers, so that the automatic telegraph, almost entirely by reason of his individual work, was placed on a plane of commercial practicability. The long line of patents secured by him in this art is an interesting exhibit of the development of a germ to a completed system, not, as is usually the case, by numerous inventors working over considerable periods of time, but by one man evolving the successive steps at a white heat of activity.
This system was put in commercial operation, but the company, now encouraged, was quite willing to allow Edison to work out his idea of an automatic that would print the message in bold Roman letters instead of in dots and dashes; with consequent gain in speed in delivery of the message after its receipt in the operating-room, it being obviously necessary in the case of any message received in Morse characters to copy it in script before delivery to the recipient. A large shop was rented in Newark, equipped with $25,000 worth of machinery, and Edison was given full charge. Here he built their original type of apparatus, as improved, and also pushed his experiments on the letter system so far that at a test, between New York and Philadelphia, three thousand words were sent in one minute and recorded in Roman type. Mr. D. N. Craig, one of the early organizers of the Associated Press, became interested in this company, whose president was Mr. George Harrington, formerly Assistant Secretary of the United States Treasury.
Mr. Craig brought with him at this time—the early seventies—from Milwaukee a Mr. Sholes, who had a wooden model of a machine to which had been given the then new and unfamiliar name of "typewriter." Craig was interested in the machine, and put the model in Edison's hands to perfect. "This typewriter proved a difficult thing," says Edison, "to make commercial. The alignment of the letters was awful. One letter would be one-sixteenth of an inch above the others; and all the letters wanted to wander out of line. I worked on it till the machine gave fair results.  Some were made and used in the office of the Automatic company. Craig was very sanguine that some day all business letters would be written on a typewriter. He died before that took place; but it gradually made its way. The typewriter I got into commercial shape is now known as the Remington. About this time I got an idea I could devise an apparatus by which four messages could simultaneously be sent over a single wire without interfering with each other. I now had five shops, and with experimenting on this new scheme I was pretty busy; at least I did not have ennui."
[Footnote 3: See illustration on opposite page, showing reproduction of the work done with this machine.]
A very interesting picture of Mr. Edison at this time is furnished by Mr. Patrick B. Delany, a well-known inventor in the field of automatic and multiplex telegraphy, who at that time was a chief operator of the Franklin Telegraph Company at Philadelphia. His remark about Edison that "his ingenuity inspired confidence, and wavering financiers stiffened up when it became known that he was to develop the automatic" is a noteworthy evidence of the manner in which the young inventor had already gained a firm footing. He continues: "Edward H. Johnson was brought on from the Denver & Rio Grande Railway to assist in the practical introduction of automatic telegraphy on a commercial basis, and about this time, in 1872, I joined the enterprise. Fairly good results were obtained between New York and Washington, and Edison, indifferent to theoretical difficulties, set out to prove high speeds between New York and Charleston, South Carolina, the compound wire being hitched up to one of the Southern & Atlantic wires from Washington to Charleston for the purpose of experimentation. Johnson and I went to the Charleston end to carry out Edison's plans, which were rapidly unfolded by telegraph every night from a loft on lower Broadway, New York. We could only get the wire after all business was cleared, usually about midnight, and for months, in the quiet hours, that wire was subjected to more electrical acrobatics than any other wire ever experienced. When the experiments ended, Edison's system was put into regular commercial operation between New York and Washington; and did fine work. If the single wire had not broken about every other day, the venture would have been a financial success; but moisture got in between the copper ribbon and the steel core, setting up galvanic action which made short work of the steel. The demonstration was, however, sufficiently successful to impel Jay Gould to contract to pay about $4,000,000 in stock for the patents. The contract was never completed so far as the $4,000,000 were concerned, but Gould made good use of it in getting control of the Western Union."
One of the most important persons connected with the automatic enterprise was Mr. George Harrington, to whom we have above referred, and with whom Mr. Edison entered into close confidential relations, so that the inventions made were held jointly, under a partnership deed covering "any inventions or improvements that may be useful or desired in automatic telegraphy." Mr. Harrington was assured at the outset by Edison that while the Little perforator would give on the average only seven or eight words per minute, which was not enough for commercial purposes, he could devise one giving fifty or sixty words, and that while the Little solution for the receiving tape cost $15 to $17 per gallon, he could furnish a ferric solution costing only five or six cents per gallon. In every respect Edison "made good," and in a short time the system was a success, "Mr. Little having withdrawn his obsolete perforator, his ineffective resistance, his costly chemical solution, to give place to Edison's perforator, Edison's resistance and devices, and Edison's solution costing a few cents per gallon. But," continues Mr. Harrington, in a memorable affidavit, "the inventive efforts of Mr. Edison were not confined to automatic telegraphy, nor did they cease with the opening of that line to Washington." They all led up to the quadruplex.
Flattered by their success, Messrs. Harrington and Reiff, who owned with Edison the foreign patents for the new automatic system, entered into an arrangement with the British postal telegraph authorities for a trial of the system in England, involving its probable adoption if successful. Edison was sent to England to make the demonstration, in 1873, reporting there to Col. George E. Gouraud, who had been an associate in the United States Treasury with Mr. Harrington, and was now connected with the new enterprise. With one small satchel of clothes, three large boxes of instruments, and a bright fellow-telegrapher named Jack Wright, he took voyage on the Jumping Java, as she was humorously known, of the Cunard line. The voyage was rough and the little Java justified her reputation by jumping all over the ocean. "At the table," says Edison, "there were never more than ten or twelve people. I wondered at the time how it could pay to run an ocean steamer with so few people; but when we got into calm water and could see the green fields, I was astounded to see the number of people who appeared. There were certainly two or three hundred. I learned afterward that they were mostly going to the Vienna Exposition. Only two days could I get on deck, and on one of these a gentleman had a bad scalp wound from being thrown against the iron wall of a small smoking-room erected over a freight hatch."
Arrived in London, Edison set up his apparatus at the Telegraph Street headquarters, and sent his companion to Liverpool with the instruments for that end. The condition of the test was that he was to send from Liverpool and receive in London, and to record at the rate of one thousand words per minute, five hundred words to be sent every half hour for six hours. Edison was given a wire and batteries to operate with, but a preliminary test soon showed that he was going to fail. Both wire and batteries were poor, and one of the men detailed by the authorities to watch the test remarked quietly, in a friendly way: "You are not going to have much show. They are going to give you an old Bridgewater Canal wire that is so poor we don't work it, and a lot of 'sand batteries' at Liverpool."  The situation was rather depressing to the young American thus encountering, for the first time, the stolid conservatism and opposition to change that characterizes so much of official life and methods in Europe. "I thanked him," says Edison, "and hoped to reciprocate somehow. I knew I was in a hole. I had been staying at a little hotel in Covent Garden called the Hummums! and got nothing but roast beef and flounders, and my imagination was getting into a coma. What I needed was pastry. That night I found a French pastry shop in High Holborn Street and filled up. My imagination got all right. Early in the morning I saw Gouraud, stated my case, and asked if he would stand for the purchase of a powerful battery to send to Liverpool. He said 'Yes.' I went immediately to Apps on the Strand and asked if he had a powerful battery. He said he hadn't; that all that he had was Tyndall's Royal Institution battery, which he supposed would not serve. I saw it—one hundred cells—and getting the price—one hundred guineas—hurried to Gouraud. He said 'Go ahead.' I telegraphed to the man in Liverpool. He came on, got the battery to Liverpool, set up and ready, just two hours before the test commenced. One of the principal things that made the system a success was that the line was put to earth at the sending end through a magnet, and the extra current from this, passed to the line, served to sharpen the recording waves. This new battery was strong enough to pass a powerful current through the magnet without materially diminishing the strength of the line current."
[Footnote 4: The sand battery is now obsolete. In this type, the cell containing the elements was filled with sand, which was kept moist with an electrolyte.]
The test under these more favorable circumstances was a success. "The record was as perfect as copper plate, and not a single remark was made in the 'time lost' column." Edison was now asked if he thought he could get a greater speed through submarine cables with this system than with the regular methods, and replied that he would like a chance to try it. For this purpose, twenty-two hundred miles of Brazilian cable then stored under water in tanks at the Greenwich works of the Telegraph Construction & Maintenance Company, near London, was placed at his disposal from 8 P.M. until 6 A.M. "This just suited me, as I preferred night-work. I got my apparatus down and set up, and then to get a preliminary idea of what the distortion of the signal would be, I sent a single dot, which should have been recorded upon my automatic paper by a mark about one-thirty-second of an inch long. Instead of that it was twenty-seven feet long! If I ever had any conceit, it vanished from my boots up. I worked on this cable more than two weeks, and the best I could do was two words per minute, which was only one-seventh of what the guaranteed speed of the cable should be when laid. What I did not know at the time was that a coiled cable, owing to induction, was infinitely worse than when laid out straight, and that my speed was as good as, if not better than, with the regular system; but no one told me this." While he was engaged on these tests Colonel Gouraud came down one night to visit him at the lonely works, spent a vigil with him, and toward morning wanted coffee. There was only one little inn near by, frequented by longshoremen and employees from the soap-works and cement-factories—a rough lot—and there at daybreak they went as soon as the other customers had left for work. "The place had a bar and six bare tables, and was simply infested with roaches. The only things that I ever could get were coffee made from burnt bread, with brown molasses-cake. I ordered these for Gouraud. The taste of the coffee, the insects, etc., were too much. He fainted. I gave him a big dose of gin, and this revived him. He went back to the works and waited until six when the day men came, and telegraphed for a carriage. He lost all interest in the experiments after that, and I was ordered back to America." Edison states, however, that the automatic was finally adopted in England and used for many years; indeed, is still in use there. But they took whatever was needed from his system, and he "has never had a cent from them."
Arduous work was at once resumed at home on duplex and quadruplex telegraphy, just as though there had been no intermission or discouragement over dots twenty-seven feet long. A clue to his activity is furnished in the fact that in 1872 he had applied for thirty-eight patents in the class of telegraphy, and twenty-five in 1873; several of these being for duplex methods, on which he had experimented. The earlier apparatus had been built several years prior to this, as shown by a curious little item of news that appeared in the Telegrapher of January 30, 1869: "T. A. Edison has resigned his situation in the Western Union office, Boston, and will devote his time to bringing out his inventions." Oh, the supreme, splendid confidence of youth! Six months later, as we have seen, he had already made his mark, and the same journal, in October, 1869, could say: "Mr. Edison is a young man of the highest order of mechanical talent, combined with good scientific electrical knowledge and experience. He has already invented and patented a number of valuable and useful inventions, among which may be mentioned the best instrument for double transmission yet brought out." Not bad for a novice of twenty-two. It is natural, therefore, after his intervening work on indicators, stock tickers, automatic telegraphs, and typewriters, to find him harking back to duplex telegraphy, if, indeed, he can be said to have dropped it in the interval. It has always been one of the characteristic features of Edison's method of inventing that work in several lines has gone forward at the same time. No one line of investigation has ever been enough to occupy his thoughts fully; or to express it otherwise, he has found rest in turning from one field of work to another, having absolutely no recreations or hobbies, and not needing them. It may also be said that, once entering it, Mr. Edison has never abandoned any field of work. He may change the line of attack; he may drop the subject for a time; but sooner or later the note-books or the Patent Office will bear testimony to the reminiscent outcropping of latent thought on the matter. His attention has shifted chronologically, and by process of evolution, from one problem to another, and some results are found to be final; but the interest of the man in the thing never dies out. No one sees more vividly than he the fact that in the interplay of the arts one industry shapes and helps another, and that no invention lives to itself alone.
The path to the quadruplex lay through work on the duplex, which, suggested first by Moses G. Farmer in 1852, had been elaborated by many ingenious inventors, notably in this country by Stearns, before Edison once again applied his mind to it. The different methods of such multiple transmission—namely, the simultaneous dispatch of the two communications in opposite directions over the same wire, or the dispatch of both at once in the same direction—gave plenty of play to ingenuity. Prescott's Elements of the Electric Telegraph, a standard work in its day, described "a method of simultaneous transmission invented by T. A. Edison, of New Jersey, in 1873," and says of it: "Its peculiarity consists in the fact that the signals are transmitted in one direction by reversing the polarity of a constant current, and in the opposite direction by increasing or decreasing the strength of the same current." Herein lay the germ of the Edison quadruplex. It is also noted that "In 1874 Edison invented a method of simultaneous transmission by induced currents, which has given very satisfactory results in experimental trials." Interest in the duplex as a field of invention dwindled, however, as the quadruplex loomed up, for while the one doubled the capacity of a circuit, the latter created three "phantom wires," and thus quadruplexed the working capacity of any line to which it was applied. As will have been gathered from the above, the principle embodied in the quadruplex is that of working over the line with two currents from each end that differ from each other in strength or nature, so that they will affect only instruments adapted to respond to just such currents and no others; and by so arranging the receiving apparatus as not to be affected by the currents transmitted from its own end of the line. Thus by combining instruments that respond only to variation in the strength of current from the distant station, with instruments that respond only to the change in the direction of current from the distant station, and by grouping a pair of these at each end of the line, the quadruplex is the result. Four sending and four receiving operators are kept busy at each end, or eight in all. Aside from other material advantages, it is estimated that at least from $15,000,000 to $20,000,000 has been saved by the Edison quadruplex merely in the cost of line construction in America.
The quadruplex has not as a rule the same working efficiency that four separate wires have. This is due to the fact that when one of the receiving operators is compelled to "break" the sending operator for any reason, the "break" causes the interruption of the work of eight operators, instead of two, as would be the case on a single wire. The working efficiency of the quadruplex, therefore, with the apparatus in good working condition, depends entirely upon the skill of the operators employed to operate it. But this does not reflect upon or diminish the ingenuity required for its invention. Speaking of the problem involved, Edison said some years later to Mr. Upton, his mathematical assistant, that "he always considered he was only working from one room to another. Thus he was not confused by the amount of wire and the thought of distance."
The immense difficulties of reducing such a system to practice may be readily conceived, especially when it is remembered that the "line" itself, running across hundreds of miles of country, is subject to all manner of atmospheric conditions, and varies from moment to moment in its ability to carry current, and also when it is borne in mind that the quadruplex requires at each end of the line a so-called "artificial line," which must have the exact resistance of the working line and must be varied with the variations in resistance of the working line. At this juncture other schemes were fermenting in his brain; but the quadruplex engrossed him. "This problem was of most difficult and complicated kind, and I bent all my energies toward its solution. It required a peculiar effort of the mind, such as the imagining of eight different things moving simultaneously on a mental plane, without anything to demonstrate their efficiency." It is perhaps hardly to be wondered at that when notified he would have to pay 12 1/2 per cent. extra if his taxes in Newark were not at once paid, he actually forgot his own name when asked for it suddenly at the City Hall, lost his place in the line, and, the fatal hour striking, had to pay the surcharge after all!
So important an invention as the quadruplex could not long go begging, but there were many difficulties connected with its introduction, some of which are best described in Mr. Edison's own words: "Around 1873 the owners of the Automatic Telegraph Company commenced negotiations with Jay Gould for the purchase of the wires between New York and Washington, and the patents for the system, then in successful operation. Jay Gould at that time controlled the Atlantic & Pacific Telegraph Company, and was competing with the Western Union and endeavoring to depress Western Union stock on the Exchange. About this time I invented the quadruplex. I wanted to interest the Western Union Telegraph Company in it, with a view of selling it, but was unsuccessful until I made an arrangement with the chief electrician of the company, so that he could be known as a joint inventor and receive a portion of the money. At that time I was very short of money, and needed it more than glory. This electrician appeared to want glory more than money, so it was an easy trade. I brought my apparatus over and was given a separate room with a marble-tiled floor, which, by-the-way, was a very hard kind of floor to sleep on, and started in putting on the finishing touches.
"After two months of very hard work, I got a detail at regular times of eight operators, and we got it working nicely from one room to another over a wire which ran to Albany and back. Under certain conditions of weather, one side of the quadruplex would work very shakily, and I had not succeeded in ascertaining the cause of the trouble. On a certain day, when there was a board meeting of the company, I was to make an exhibition test. The day arrived. I had picked the best operators in New York, and they were familiar with the apparatus. I arranged that if a storm occurred, and the bad side got shaky, they should do the best they could and draw freely on their imaginations. They were sending old messages. About 1, o'clock everything went wrong, as there was a storm somewhere near Albany, and the bad side got shaky. Mr. Orton, the president, and Wm. H. Vanderbilt and the other directors came in. I had my heart trying to climb up around my oesophagus. I was paying a sheriff five dollars a day to withhold judgment which had been entered against me in a case which I had paid no attention to; and if the quadruplex had not worked before the president, I knew I was to have trouble and might lose my machinery. The New York Times came out next day with a full account. I was given $5000 as part payment for the invention, which made me easy, and I expected the whole thing would be closed up. But Mr. Orton went on an extended tour just about that time. I had paid for all the experiments on the quadruplex and exhausted the money, and I was again in straits. In the mean time I had introduced the apparatus on the lines of the company, where it was very successful.
"At that time the general superintendent of the Western Union was Gen. T. T. Eckert (who had been Assistant Secretary of War with Stanton). Eckert was secretly negotiating with Gould to leave the Western Union and take charge of the Atlantic & Pacific—Gould's company. One day Eckert called me into his office and made inquiries about money matters. I told him Mr. Orton had gone off and left me without means, and I was in straits. He told me I would never get another cent, but that he knew a man who would buy it. I told him of my arrangement with the electrician, and said I could not sell it as a whole to anybody; but if I got enough for it, I would sell all my interest in any SHARE I might have. He seemed to think his party would agree to this. I had a set of quadruplex over in my shop, 10 and 12 Ward Street, Newark, and he arranged to bring him over next evening to see the apparatus. So the next morning Eckert came over with Jay Gould and introduced him to me. This was the first time I had ever seen him. I exhibited and explained the apparatus, and they departed. The next day Eckert sent for me, and I was taken up to Gould's house, which was near the Windsor Hotel, Fifth Avenue. In the basement he had an office. It was in the evening, and we went in by the servants' entrance, as Eckert probably feared that he was watched. Gould started in at once and asked me how much I wanted. I said: 'Make me an offer.' Then he said: 'I will give you $30,000.' I said: 'I will sell any interest I may have for that money,' which was something more than I thought I could get. The next morning I went with Gould to the office of his lawyers, Sherman & Sterling, and received a check for $30,000, with a remark by Gould that I had got the steamboat Plymouth Rock, as he had sold her for $30,000 and had just received the check. There was a big fight on between Gould's company and the Western Union, and this caused more litigation. The electrician, on account of the testimony involved, lost his glory. The judge never decided the case, but went crazy a few months afterward." It was obviously a characteristically shrewd move on the part of Mr. Gould to secure an interest in the quadruplex, as a factor in his campaign against the Western Union, and as a decisive step toward his control of that system, by the subsequent merger that included not only the Atlantic & Pacific Telegraph Company, but the American Union Telegraph Company.
Nor was Mr. Gould less appreciative of the value of Edison's automatic system. Referring to matters that will be taken up later in the narrative, Edison says: "After this Gould wanted me to help install the automatic system in the Atlantic & Pacific company, of which General Eckert had been elected president, the company having bought the Automatic Telegraph Company. I did a lot of work for this company making automatic apparatus in my shop at Newark. About this time I invented a district messenger call-box system, and organized a company called the Domestic Telegraph Company, and started in to install the system in New York. I had great difficulty in getting subscribers, having tried several canvassers, who, one after the other, failed to get subscribers. When I was about to give it up, a test operator named Brown, who was on the Automatic Telegraph wire between New York and Washington, which passed through my Newark shop, asked permission to let him try and see if he couldn't get subscribers. I had very little faith in his ability to get any, but I thought I would give him a chance, as he felt certain of his ability to succeed. He started in, and the results were surprising. Within a month he had procured two hundred subscribers, and the company was a success. I have never quite understood why six men should fail absolutely, while the seventh man should succeed. Perhaps hypnotism would account for it. This company was sold out to the Atlantic & Pacific company." As far back as 1872, Edison had applied for a patent on district messenger signal boxes, but it was not issued until January, 1874, another patent being granted in September of the same year. In this field of telegraph application, as in others, Edison was a very early comer, his only predecessor being the fertile and ingenious Callahan, of stock-ticker fame. The first president of the Gold & Stock Telegraph Company, Elisha W. Andrews, had resigned in 1870 in order to go to England to introduce the stock ticker in London. He lived in Englewood, New Jersey, and the very night he had packed his trunk the house was burglarized. Calling on his nearest friend the next morning for even a pair of suspenders, Mr. Andrews was met with regrets of inability, because the burglars had also been there. A third and fourth friend in the vicinity was appealed to with the same disheartening reply of a story of wholesale spoliation. Mr. Callahan began immediately to devise a system of protection for Englewood; but at that juncture a servant-girl who had been for many years with a family on the Heights in Brooklyn went mad suddenly and held an aged widow and her daughter as helpless prisoners for twenty-four hours without food or water. This incident led to an extension of the protective idea, and very soon a system was installed in Brooklyn with one hundred subscribers. Out of this grew in turn the district messenger system, for it was just as easy to call a messenger as to sound a fire-alarm or summon the police. To-day no large city in America is without a service of this character, but its function was sharply limited by the introduction of the telephone.
Returning to the automatic telegraph it is interesting to note that so long as Edison was associated with it as a supervising providence it did splendid work, which renders the later neglect of automatic or "rapid telegraphy" the more remarkable. Reid's standard Telegraph in America bears astonishing testimony on this point in 1880, as follows: "The Atlantic & Pacific Telegraph Company had twenty-two automatic stations. These included the chief cities on the seaboard, Buffalo, Chicago, and Omaha. The through business during nearly two years was largely transmitted in this way. Between New York and Boston two thousand words a minute have been sent. The perforated paper was prepared at the rate of twenty words per minute. Whatever its demerits this system enabled the Atlantic & Pacific company to handle a much larger business during 1875 and 1876 than it could otherwise have done with its limited number of wires in their then condition." Mr. Reid also notes as a very thorough test of the perfect practicability of the system, that it handled the President's message, December 3, 1876, of 12,600 words with complete success. This long message was filed at Washington at 1.05 and delivered in New York at 2.07. The first 9000 words were transmitted in forty-five minutes. The perforated strips were prepared in thirty minutes by ten persons, and duplicated by nine copyists. But to-day, nearly thirty-five years later, telegraphy in America is still practically on a basis of hand transmission!
Of this period and his association with Jay Gould, some very interesting glimpses are given by Edison. "While engaged in putting in the automatic system, I saw a great deal of Gould, and frequently went uptown to his office to give information. Gould had no sense of humor. I tried several times to get off what seemed to me a funny story, but he failed to see any humor in them. I was very fond of stories, and had a choice lot, always kept fresh, with which I could usually throw a man into convulsions. One afternoon Gould started in to explain the great future of the Union Pacific Railroad, which he then controlled. He got a map, and had an immense amount of statistics. He kept at it for over four hours, and got very enthusiastic. Why he should explain to me, a mere inventor, with no capital or standing, I couldn't make out. He had a peculiar eye, and I made up my mind that there was a strain of insanity somewhere. This idea was strengthened shortly afterward when the Western Union raised the monthly rental of the stock tickers. Gould had one in his house office, which he watched constantly. This he had removed, to his great inconvenience, because the price had been advanced a few dollars! He railed over it. This struck me as abnormal. I think Gould's success was due to abnormal development. He certainly had one trait that all men must have who want to succeed. He collected every kind of information and statistics about his schemes, and had all the data. His connection with men prominent in official life, of which I was aware, was surprising to me. His conscience seemed to be atrophied, but that may be due to the fact that he was contending with men who never had any to be atrophied. He worked incessantly until 12 or 1 o'clock at night. He took no pride in building up an enterprise. He was after money, and money only. Whether the company was a success or a failure mattered not to him. After he had hammered the Western Union through his opposition company and had tired out Mr. Vanderbilt, the latter retired from control, and Gould went in and consolidated his company and controlled the Western Union. He then repudiated the contract with the Automatic Telegraph people, and they never received a cent for their wires or patents, and I lost three years of very hard labor. But I never had any grudge against him, because he was so able in his line, and as long as my part was successful the money with me was a secondary consideration. When Gould got the Western Union I knew no further progress in telegraphy was possible, and I went into other lines." The truth is that General Eckert was a conservative—even a reactionary—and being prejudiced like many other American telegraph managers against "machine telegraphy," threw out all such improvements.
The course of electrical history has been variegated by some very remarkable litigation; but none was ever more extraordinary than that referred to here as arising from the transfer of the Automatic Telegraph Company to Mr. Jay Gould and the Atlantic & Pacific Telegraph Company. The terms accepted by Colonel Reiff from Mr. Gould, on December 30, 1874, provided that the purchasing telegraph company should increase its capital to $15,000,000, of which the Automatic interests were to receive $4,000,000 for their patents, contracts, etc. The stock was then selling at about 25, and in the later consolidation with the Western Union "went in" at about 60; so that the real purchase price was not less than $1,000,000 in cash. There was a private arrangement in writing with Mr. Gould that he was to receive one-tenth of the "result" to the Automatic group, and a tenth of the further results secured at home and abroad. Mr. Gould personally bought up and gave money and bonds for one or two individual interests on the above basis, including that of Harrington, who in his representative capacity executed assignments to Mr. Gould. But payments were then stopped, and the other owners were left without any compensation, although all that belonged to them in the shape of property and patents was taken over bodily into Atlantic & Pacific hands, and never again left them. Attempts at settlement were made in their behalf, and dragged wearily, due apparently to the fact that the plans were blocked by General Eckert, who had in some manner taken offence at a transaction effected without his active participation in all the details. Edison, who became under the agreement the electrician of the Atlantic & Pacific Telegraph Company, has testified to the unfriendly attitude assumed toward him by General Eckert, as president. In a graphic letter from Menlo Park to Mr. Gould, dated February 2, 1877, Edison makes a most vigorous and impassioned complaint of his treatment, "which, acting cumulatively, was a long, unbroken disappointment to me"; and he reminds Mr. Gould of promises made to him the day the transfer had been effected of Edison's interest in the quadruplex. The situation was galling to the busy, high-spirited young inventor, who, moreover, "had to live"; and it led to his resumption of work for the Western Union Telegraph Company, which was only too glad to get him back. Meantime, the saddened and perplexed Automatic group was left unpaid, and it was not until 1906, on a bill filed nearly thirty years before, that Judge Hazel, in the United States Circuit Court for the Southern District of New York, found strongly in favor of the claimants and ordered an accounting. The court held that there had been a most wrongful appropriation of the patents, including alike those relating to the automatic, the duplex, and the quadruplex, all being included in the general arrangement under which Mr. Gould had held put his tempting bait of $4,000,000. In the end, however, the complainant had nothing to show for all his struggle, as the master who made the accounting set the damages at one dollar!
Aside from the great value of the quadruplex, saving millions of dollars, for a share in which Edison received $30,000, the automatic itself is described as of considerable utility by Sir William Thomson in his juror report at the Centennial Exposition of 1876, recommending it for award. This leading physicist of his age, afterward Lord Kelvin, was an adept in telegraphy, having made the ocean cable talk, and he saw in Edison's "American Automatic," as exhibited by the Atlantic & Pacific company, a most meritorious and useful system. With the aid of Mr. E. H. Johnson he made exhaustive tests, carrying away with him to Glasgow University the surprising records that he obtained. His official report closes thus: "The electromagnetic shunt with soft iron core, invented by Mr. Edison, utilizing Professor Henry's discovery of electromagnetic induction in a single circuit to produce a momentary reversal of the line current at the instant when the battery is thrown off and so cut off the chemical marks sharply at the proper instant, is the electrical secret of the great speed he has achieved. The main peculiarities of Mr. Edison's automatic telegraph shortly stated in conclusion are: (1) the perforator; (2) the contact-maker; (3) the electromagnetic shunt; and (4) the ferric cyanide of iron solution. It deserves award as a very important step in land telegraphy." The attitude thus disclosed toward Mr. Edison's work was never changed, except that admiration grew as fresh inventions were brought forward. To the day of his death Lord Kelvin remained on terms of warmest friendship with his American co-laborer, with whose genius he thus first became acquainted at Philadelphia in the environment of Franklin.