Edison, His Life and Inventions
by Frank Lewis Dyer and Thomas Commerford Martin
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Soon after the success of the lighting experiments and the installation at Menlo Park became known, Edison was besieged by persons from all parts of the world anxious to secure rights and concessions for their respective countries. Among these was Mr. Louis Rau, of Paris, who organized the French Edison Company, the pioneer Edison lighting corporation in Europe, and who, with the aid of Mr. Batchelor, established lamp-works and a machine-shop at Ivry sur-Seine, near Paris, in 1882. It was there that Mr. Nikola Tesla made his entree into the field of light and power, and began his own career as an inventor; and there also Mr. Etienne Fodor, general manager of the Hungarian General Electric Company at Budapest, received his early training. It was he who erected at Athens the first European Edison station on the now universal three-wire system. Another visitor from Europe, a little later, was Mr. Emil Rathenau, the present director of the great Allgemeine Elektricitaets Gesellschaft of Germany. He secured the rights for the empire, and organized the Berlin Edison system, now one of the largest in the world. Through his extraordinary energy and enterprise the business made enormous strides, and Mr. Rathenau has become one of the most conspicuous industrial figures in his native country. From Italy came Professor Colombo, later a cabinet minister, with his friend Signor Buzzi, of Milan. The rights were secured for the peninsula; Colombo and his friends organized the Italian Edison Company, and erected at Milan the first central station in that country. Mr. John W. Lieb, Jr., now a vice-president of the New York Edison Company, was sent over by Mr. Edison to steer the enterprise technically, and spent ten years in building it up, with such brilliant success that he was later decorated as Commander of the Order of the Crown of Italy by King Victor. Another young American enlisted into European service was Mr. E. G. Acheson, the inventor of carborundum, who built a number of plants in Italy and France before he returned home. Mr. Lieb has since become President of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers and the Association of Edison Illuminating Companies, while Doctor Acheson has been President of the American Electrochemical Society.

Switzerland sent Messrs. Turrettini, Biedermann, and Thury, all distinguished engineers, to negotiate for rights in the republic; and so it went with regard to all the other countries of Europe, as well as those of South America. It was a question of keeping such visitors away rather than of inviting them to take up the exploitation of the Edison system; for what time was not spent in personal interviews was required for the masses of letters from every country under the sun, all making inquiries, offering suggestions, proposing terms. Nor were the visitors merely those on business bent. There were the lion-hunters and celebrities, of whom Sarah Bernhardt may serve as a type. One visit of note was that paid by Lieut. G. W. De Long, who had an earnest and protracted conversation with Edison over the Arctic expedition he was undertaking with the aid of Mr. James Gordon Bennett, of the New York Herald. The Jeannette was being fitted out, and Edison told De Long that he would make and present him with a small dynamo machine, some incandescent lamps, and an arc lamp. While the little dynamo was being built all the men in the laboratory wrote their names on the paper insulation that was wound upon the iron core of the armature. As the Jeannette had no steam-engine on board that could be used for the purpose, Edison designed the dynamo so that it could be worked by man power and told Lieutenant De Long "it would keep the boys warm up in the Arctic," when they generated current with it. The ill-fated ship never returned from her voyage, but went down in the icy waters of the North, there to remain until some future cataclysm of nature, ten thousand years hence, shall reveal the ship and the first marine dynamo as curious relics of a remote civilization.

Edison also furnished De Long with a set of telephones provided with extensible circuits, so that parties on the ice-floes could go long distances from the ship and still keep in communication with her. So far as the writers can ascertain this is the first example of "field telephony." Another nautical experiment that he made at this time, suggested probably by the requirements of the Arctic expedition, was a buoy that was floated in New York harbor, and which contained a small Edison dynamo and two or three incandescent lamps. The dynamo was driven by the wave or tide motion through intermediate mechanism, and thus the lamps were lit up from time to time, serving as signals. These were the prototypes of the lighted buoys which have since become familiar, as in the channel off Sandy Hook.

One notable afternoon was that on which the New York board of aldermen took a special train out to Menlo Park to see the lighting system with its conductors underground in operation. The Edison Electric Illuminating Company was applying for a franchise, and the aldermen, for lack of scientific training and specific practical information, were very sceptical on the subject—as indeed they might well be. "Mr. Edison demonstrated personally the details and merits of the system to them. The voltage was increased to a higher pressure than usual, and all the incandescent lamps at Menlo Park did their best to win the approbation of the New York City fathers. After Edison had finished exhibiting all the good points of his system, he conducted his guests upstairs in the laboratory, where a long table was spread with the best things that one of the most prominent New York caterers could furnish. The laboratory witnessed high times that night, for all were in the best of humor, and many a bottle was drained in toasting the health of Edison and the aldermen." This was one of the extremely rare occasions on which Edison has addressed an audience; but the stake was worth the effort. The representatives of New York could with justice drink the health of the young inventor, whose system is one of the greatest boons the city has ever had conferred upon it.

Among other frequent visitors was Mr, Edison's father, "one of those amiable, patriarchal characters with a Horace Greeley beard, typical Americans of the old school," who would sometimes come into the laboratory with his two grandchildren, a little boy and girl called "Dash" and "Dot." He preferred to sit and watch his brilliant son at work "with an expression of satisfaction on his face that indicated a sense of happiness and content that his boy, born in that distant, humble home in Ohio, had risen to fame and brought such honor upon the name. It was, indeed, a pathetic sight to see a father venerate his son as the elder Edison did." Not less at home was Mr. Mackenzie, the Mt. Clemens station agent, the life of whose child Edison had saved when a train newsboy. The old Scotchman was one of the innocent, chartered libertines of the place, with an unlimited stock of good jokes and stories, but seldom of any practical use. On one occasion, however, when everything possible and impossible under the sun was being carbonized for lamp filaments, he allowed a handful of his bushy red beard to be taken for the purpose; and his laugh was the loudest when the Edison-Mackenzie hair lamps were brought up to incandescence—their richness in red rays being slyly attributed to the nature of the filamentary material! Oddly enough, a few years later, some inventor actually took out a patent for making incandescent lamps with carbonized hair for filaments!

Yet other visitors again haunted the place, and with the following reminiscence of one of them, from Mr. Edison himself, this part of the chapter must close: "At Menlo Park one cold winter night there came into the laboratory a strange man in a most pitiful condition. He was nearly frozen, and he asked if he might sit by the stove. In a few moments he asked for the head man, and I was brought forward. He had a head of abnormal size, with highly intellectual features and a very small and emaciated body. He said he was suffering very much, and asked if I had any morphine. As I had about everything in chemistry that could be bought, I told him I had. He requested that I give him some, so I got the morphine sulphate. He poured out enough to kill two men, when I told him that we didn't keep a hotel for suicides, and he had better cut the quantity down. He then bared his legs and arms, and they were literally pitted with scars, due to the use of hypodermic syringes. He said he had taken it for years, and it required a big dose to have any effect. I let him go ahead. In a short while he seemed like another man and began to tell stories, and there were about fifty of us who sat around listening until morning. He was a man of great intelligence and education. He said he was a Jew, but there was no distinctive feature to verify this assertion. He continued to stay around until he finished every combination of morphine with an acid that I had, probably ten ounces all told. Then he asked if he could have strychnine. I had an ounce of the sulphate. He took enough to kill a horse, and asserted it had as good an effect as morphine. When this was gone, the only thing I had left was a chunk of crude opium, perhaps two or three pounds. He chewed this up and disappeared. I was greatly disappointed, because I would have laid in another stock of morphine to keep him at the laboratory. About a week afterward he was found dead in a barn at Perth Amboy."

Returning to the work itself, note of which has already been made in this and preceding chapters, we find an interesting and unique reminiscence in Mr. Jehl's notes of the reversion to carbon as a filament in the lamps, following an exhibition of metallic-filament lamps given in the spring of 1879 to the men in the syndicate advancing the funds for these experiments: "They came to Menlo Park on a late afternoon train from New York. It was already dark when they were conducted into the machine-shop, where we had several platinum lamps installed in series. When Edison had finished explaining the principles and details of the lamp, he asked Kruesi to let the dynamo machine run. It was of the Gramme type, as our first dynamo of the Edison design was not yet finished. Edison then ordered the 'juice' to be turned on slowly. To-day I can see those lamps rising to a cherry red, like glowbugs, and hear Mr. Edison saying 'a little more juice,' and the lamps began to glow. 'A little more' is the command again, and then one of the lamps emits for an instant a light like a star in the distance, after which there is an eruption and a puff; and the machine-shop is in total darkness. We knew instantly which lamp had failed, and Batchelor replaced that by a good one, having a few in reserve near by. The operation was repeated two or three times with about the same results, after which the party went into the library until it was time to catch the train for New York."

Such an exhibition was decidedly discouraging, and it was not a jubilant party that returned to New York, but: "That night Edison remained in the laboratory meditating upon the results that the platinum lamp had given so far. I was engaged reading a book near a table in the front, while Edison was seated in a chair by a table near the organ. With his head turned downward, and that conspicuous lock of hair hanging loosely on one side, he looked like Napoleon in the celebrated picture, On the Eve of a Great Battle. Those days were heroic ones, for he then battled against mighty odds, and the prospects were dim and not very encouraging. In cases of emergency Edison always possessed a keen faculty of deciding immediately and correctly what to do; and the decision he then arrived at was predestined to be the turning-point that led him on to ultimate success.... After that exhibition we had a house-cleaning at the laboratory, and the metallic-filament lamps were stored away, while preparations were made for our experiments on carbon lamps."

Thus the work went on. Menlo Park has hitherto been associated in the public thought with the telephone, phonograph, and incandescent lamp; but it was there, equally, that the Edison dynamo and system of distribution were created and applied to their specific purposes. While all this study of a possible lamp was going on, Mr. Upton was busy calculating the economy of the "multiple arc" system, and making a great many tables to determine what resistance a lamp should have for the best results, and at what point the proposed general system would fall off in economy when the lamps were of the lower resistance that was then generally assumed to be necessary. The world at that time had not the shadow of an idea as to what the principles of a multiple arc system should be, enabling millions of lamps to be lighted off distributing circuits, each lamp independent of every other; but at Menlo Park at that remote period in the seventies Mr. Edison's mathematician was formulating the inventor's conception in clear, instructive figures; "and the work then executed has held its own ever since." From the beginning of his experiments on electric light, Mr. Edison had a well-defined idea of producing not only a practicable lamp, but also a SYSTEM of commercial electric lighting. Such a scheme involved the creation of an entirely new art, for there was nothing on the face of the earth from which to draw assistance or precedent, unless we except the elementary forms of dynamos then in existence. It is true, there were several types of machines in use for the then very limited field of arc lighting, but they were regarded as valueless as a part of a great comprehensive scheme which could supply everybody with light. Such machines were confessedly inefficient, although representing the farthest reach of a young art. A commission appointed at that time by the Franklin Institute, and including Prof. Elihu Thomson, investigated the merits of existing dynamos and reported as to the best of them: "The Gramme machine is the most economical as a means of converting motive force into electricity; it utilizes in the arc from 38 to 41 per cent. of the motive work produced, after deduction is made for friction and the resistance of the air." They reported also that the Brush arc lighting machine "produces in the luminous arc useful work equivalent to 31 per cent. of the motive power employed, or to 38 1/2 per cent. after the friction has been deducted." Commercial possibilities could not exist in the face of such low economy as this, and Mr. Edison realized that he would have to improve the dynamo himself if he wanted a better machine. The scientific world at that time was engaged in a controversy regarding the external and internal resistance of a circuit in which a generator was situated. Discussing the subject Mr. Jehl, in his biographical notes, says: "While this controversy raged in the scientific papers, and criticism and confusion seemed at its height, Edison and Upton discussed this question very thoroughly, and Edison declared he did not intend to build up a system of distribution in which the external resistance would be equal to the internal resistance. He said he was just about going to do the opposite; he wanted a large external resistance and a low internal one. He said he wanted to sell the energy outside of the station and not waste it in the dynamo and conductors, where it brought no profits.... In these later days, when these ideas of Edison are used as common property, and are applied in every modern system of distribution, it is astonishing to remember that when they were propounded they met with most vehement antagonism from the world at large." Edison, familiar with batteries in telegraphy, could not bring himself to believe that any substitute generator of electrical energy could be efficient that used up half its own possible output before doing an equal amount of outside work.

Undaunted by the dicta of contemporaneous science, Mr. Edison attacked the dynamo problem with his accustomed vigor and thoroughness. He chose the drum form for his armature, and experimented with different kinds of iron. Cores were made of cast iron, others of forged iron; and still others of sheets of iron of various thicknesses separated from each other by paper or paint. These cores were then allowed to run in an excited field, and after a given time their temperature was measured and noted. By such practical methods Edison found that the thin, laminated cores of sheet iron gave the least heat, and had the least amount of wasteful eddy currents. His experiments and ideas on magnetism at that period were far in advance of the time. His work and tests regarding magnetism were repeated later on by Hopkinson and Kapp, who then elucidated the whole theory mathematically by means of formulae and constants. Before this, however, Edison had attained these results by pioneer work, founded on his original reasoning, and utilized them in the construction of his dynamo, thus revolutionizing the art of building such machines.

After thorough investigation of the magnetic qualities of different kinds of iron, Edison began to make a study of winding the cores, first determining the electromotive force generated per turn of wire at various speeds in fields of different intensities. He also considered various forms and shapes for the armature, and by methodical and systematic research obtained the data and best conditions upon which he could build his generator. In the field magnets of his dynamo he constructed the cores and yoke of forged iron having a very large cross-section, which was a new thing in those days. Great attention was also paid to all the joints, which were smoothed down so as to make a perfect magnetic contact. The Edison dynamo, with its large masses of iron, was a vivid contrast to the then existing types with their meagre quantities of the ferric element. Edison also made tests on his field magnets by slowly raising the strength of the exciting current, so that he obtained figures similar to those shown by a magnetic curve, and in this way found where saturation commenced, and where it was useless to expend more current on the field. If he had asked Upton at the time to formulate the results of his work in this direction, for publication, he would have anticipated the historic work on magnetism that was executed by the two other investigators; Hopkinson and Kapp, later on.

The laboratory note-books of the period bear abundant evidence of the systematic and searching nature of these experiments and investigations, in the hundreds of pages of notes, sketches, calculations, and tables made at the time by Edison, Upton, Batchelor, Jehl, and by others who from time to time were intrusted with special experiments to elucidate some particular point. Mr. Jehl says: "The experiments on armature-winding were also very interesting. Edison had a number of small wooden cores made, at both ends of which we inserted little brass nails, and we wound the wooden cores with twine as if it were wire on an armature. In this way we studied armature-winding, and had matches where each of us had a core, while bets were made as to who would be the first to finish properly and correctly a certain kind of winding. Care had to be taken that the wound core corresponded to the direction of the current, supposing it were placed in a field and revolved. After Edison had decided this question, Upton made drawings and tables from which the real armatures were wound and connected to the commutator. To a student of to-day all this seems simple, but in those days the art of constructing dynamos was about as dark as air navigation is at present.... Edison also improved the armature by dividing it and the commutator into a far greater number of sections than up to that time had been the practice. He was also the first to use mica in insulating the commutator sections from each other."

In the mean time, during the progress of the investigations on the dynamo, word had gone out to the world that Edison expected to invent a generator of greater efficiency than any that existed at the time. Again he was assailed and ridiculed by the technical press, for had not the foremost electricians and physicists of Europe and America worked for years on the production of dynamos and arc lamps as they then existed? Even though this young man at Menlo Park had done some wonderful things for telegraphy and telephony; even if he had recorded and reproduced human speech, he had his limitations, and could not upset the settled dictum of science that the internal resistance must equal the external resistance.

Such was the trend of public opinion at the time, but "after Mr. Kruesi had finished the first practical dynamo, and after Mr. Upton had tested it thoroughly and verified his figures and results several times—for he also was surprised—Edison was able to tell the world that he had made a generator giving an efficiency of 90 per cent." Ninety per cent. as against 40 per cent. was a mighty hit, and the world would not believe it. Criticism and argument were again at their height, while Upton, as Edison's duellist, was kept busy replying to private and public challenges of the fact.... "The tremendous progress of the world in the last quarter of a century, owing to the revolution caused by the all-conquering march of 'Heavy Current Engineering,' is the outcome of Edison's work at Menlo Park that raised the efficiency of the dynamo from 40 per cent. to 90 per cent."

Mr. Upton sums it all up very precisely in his remarks upon this period: "What has now been made clear by accurate nomenclature was then very foggy in the text-books. Mr. Edison had completely grasped the effect of subdivision of circuits, and the influence of wires leading to such subdivisions, when it was most difficult to express what he knew in technical language. I remember distinctly when Mr. Edison gave me the problem of placing a motor in circuit in multiple arc with a fixed resistance; and I had to work out the problem entirely, as I could find no prior solution. There was nothing I could find bearing upon the counter electromotive force of the armature, and the effect of the resistance of the armature on the work given out by the armature. It was a wonderful experience to have problems given me out of the intuitions of a great mind, based on enormous experience in practical work, and applying to new lines of progress. One of the main impressions left upon me after knowing Mr. Edison for many years is the marvellous accuracy of his guesses. He will see the general nature of a result long before it can be reached by mathematical calculation. His greatness was always to be clearly seen when difficulties arose. They always made him cheerful, and started him thinking; and very soon would come a line of suggestions which would not end until the difficulty was met and overcome, or found insurmountable. I have often felt that Mr. Edison got himself purposely into trouble by premature publications and otherwise, so that he would have a full incentive to get himself out of the trouble."

This chapter may well end with a statement from Mr. Jehl, shrewd and observant, as a participator in all the early work of the development of the Edison lighting system: "Those who were gathered around him in the old Menlo Park laboratory enjoyed his confidence, and he theirs. Nor was this confidence ever abused. He was respected with a respect which only great men can obtain, and he never showed by any word or act that he was their employer in a sense that would hurt the feelings, as is often the case in the ordinary course of business life. He conversed, argued, and disputed with us all as if he were a colleague on the same footing. It was his winning ways and manners that attached us all so loyally to his side, and made us ever ready with a boundless devotion to execute any request or desire." Thus does a great magnet, run through a heap of sand and filings, exert its lines of force and attract irresistibly to itself the iron and steel particles that are its affinity, and having sifted them out, leaving the useless dust behind, hold them to itself with responsive tenacity.



IN writing about the old experimenting days at Menlo Park, Mr. F. R. Upton says: "Edison's day is twenty-four hours long, for he has always worked whenever there was anything to do, whether day or night, and carried a force of night workers, so that his experiments could go on continually. If he wanted material, he always made it a principle to have it at once, and never hesitated to use special messengers to get it. I remember in the early days of the electric light he wanted a mercury pump for exhausting the lamps. He sent me to Princeton to get it. I got back to Metuchen late in the day, and had to carry the pump over to the laboratory on my back that evening, set it up, and work all night and the next day getting results."

This characteristic principle of obtaining desired material in the quickest and most positive way manifested itself in the search that Edison instituted for the best kind of bamboo for lamp filaments, immediately after the discovery related in a preceding chapter. It is doubtful whether, in the annals of scientific research and experiment, there is anything quite analogous to the story of this search and the various expeditions that went out from the Edison laboratory in 1880 and subsequent years, to scour the earth for a material so apparently simple as a homogeneous strip of bamboo, or other similar fibre. Prolonged and exhaustive experiment, microscopic examination, and an intimate knowledge of the nature of wood and plant fibres, however, had led Edison to the conclusion that bamboo or similar fibrous filaments were more suitable than anything else then known for commercial incandescent lamps, and he wanted the most perfect for that purpose. Hence, the quickest way was to search the tropics until the proper material was found.

The first emissary chosen for this purpose was the late William H. Moore, of Rahway, New Jersey, who left New York in the summer of 1880, bound for China and Japan, these being the countries preeminently noted for the production of abundant species of bamboo. On arrival in the East he quickly left the cities behind and proceeded into the interior, extending his search far into the more remote country districts, collecting specimens on his way, and devoting much time to the study of the bamboo, and in roughly testing the relative value of its fibre in canes of one, two, three, four, and five year growths. Great bales of samples were sent to Edison, and after careful tests a certain variety and growth of Japanese bamboo was determined to be the most satisfactory material for filaments that had been found. Mr. Moore, who was continuing his searches in that country, was instructed to arrange for the cultivation and shipment of regular supplies of this particular species. Arrangements to this end were accordingly made with a Japanese farmer, who began to make immediate shipments, and who subsequently displayed so much ingenuity in fertilizing and cross-fertilizing that the homogeneity of the product was constantly improved. The use of this bamboo for Edison lamp filaments was continued for many years.

Although Mr. Moore did not meet with the exciting adventures of some subsequent explorers, he encountered numerous difficulties and novel experiences in his many months of travel through the hinterland of Japan and China. The attitude toward foreigners thirty years ago was not as friendly as it has since become, but Edison, as usual, had made a happy choice of messengers, as Mr. Moore's good nature and diplomacy attested. These qualities, together with his persistence and perseverance and faculty of intelligent discrimination in the matter of fibres, helped to make his mission successful, and gave to him the honor of being the one who found the bamboo which was adopted for use as filaments in commercial Edison lamps.

Although Edison had satisfied himself that bamboo furnished the most desirable material thus far discovered for incandescent-lamp filaments, he felt that in some part of the world there might be found a natural product of the same general character that would furnish a still more perfect and homogeneous material. In his study of this subject, and during the prosecution of vigorous and searching inquiries in various directions, he learned that Mr. John C. Brauner, then residing in Brooklyn, New York, had an expert knowledge of indigenous plants of the particular kind desired. During the course of a geological survey which he had made for the Brazilian Government, Mr. Brauner had examined closely the various species of palms which grow plentifully in that country, and of them there was one whose fibres he thought would be just what Edison wanted.

Accordingly, Mr. Brauner was sent for and dispatched to Brazil in December, 1880, to search for and send samples of this and such other palms, fibres, grasses, and canes as, in his judgment, would be suitable for the experiments then being carried on at Menlo Park. Landing at Para, he crossed over into the Amazonian province, and thence proceeded through the heart of the country, making his way by canoe on the rivers and their tributaries, and by foot into the forests and marshes of a vast and almost untrodden wilderness. In this manner Mr. Brauner traversed about two thousand miles of the comparatively unknown interior of Southern Brazil, and procured a large variety of fibrous specimens, which he shipped to Edison a few months later. When these fibres arrived in the United States they were carefully tested and a few of them found suitable but not superior to the Japanese bamboo, which was then being exclusively used in the manufacture of commercial Edison lamps.

Later on Edison sent out an expedition to explore the wilds of Cuba and Jamaica. A two months' investigation of the latter island revealed a variety of bamboo growths, of which a great number of specimens were obtained and shipped to Menlo Park; but on careful test they were found inferior to the Japanese bamboo, and hence rejected. The exploration of the glades and swamps of Florida by three men extended over a period of five months in a minute search for fibrous woods of the palmetto species. A great variety was found, and over five hundred boxes of specimens were shipped to the laboratory from time to time, but none of them tested out with entirely satisfactory results.

The use of Japanese bamboo for carbon filaments was therefore continued in the manufacture of lamps, although an incessant search was maintained for a still more perfect material. The spirit of progress, so pervasive in Edison's character, led him, however, to renew his investigations further afield by sending out two other men to examine the bamboo and similar growths of those parts of South America not covered by Mr. Brauner. These two men were Frank McGowan and C. F. Hanington, both of whom had been for nearly seven years in the employ of the Edison Electric Light Company in New York. The former was a stocky, rugged Irishman, possessing the native shrewdness and buoyancy of his race, coupled with undaunted courage and determination; and the latter was a veteran of the Civil War, with some knowledge of forest and field, acquired as a sportsman. They left New York in September, 1887, arriving in due time at Para, proceeding thence twenty-three hundred miles up the Amazon River to Iquitos. Nothing of an eventful nature occurred during this trip, but on arrival at Iquitos the two men separated; Mr. McGowan to explore on foot and by canoe in Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia, while Mr. Hanington returned by the Amazon River to Para. Thence Hanington went by steamer to Montevideo, and by similar conveyance up the River de la Plata and through Uruguay, Argentine, and Paraguay to the southernmost part of Brazil, collecting a large number of specimens of palms and grasses.

The adventures of Mr. McGowan, after leaving Iquitos, would fill a book if related in detail. The object of the present narrative and the space at the authors' disposal, however, do not permit of more than a brief mention of his experiences. His first objective point was Quito, about five hundred miles away, which he proposed to reach on foot and by means of canoeing on the Napo River through a wild and comparatively unknown country teeming with tribes of hostile natives. The dangers of the expedition were pictured to him in glowing colors, but spurning prophecies of dire disaster, he engaged some native Indians and a canoe and started on his explorations, reaching Quito in eighty-seven days, after a thorough search of the country on both sides of the Napo River. From Quito he went to Guayaquil, from there by steamer to Buenaventura, and thence by rail, twelve miles, to Cordova. From this point he set out on foot to explore the Cauca Valley and the Cordilleras.

Mr. McGowan found in these regions a great variety of bamboo, small and large, some species growing seventy-five to one hundred feet in height, and from six to nine inches in diameter. He collected a large number of specimens, which were subsequently sent to Orange for Edison's examination. After about fifteen months of exploration attended by much hardship and privation, deserted sometimes by treacherous guides, twice laid low by fevers, occasionally in peril from Indian attacks, wild animals and poisonous serpents, tormented by insect pests, endangered by floods, one hundred and nineteen days without meat, ninety-eight days without taking off his clothes, Mr. McGowan returned to America, broken in health but having faithfully fulfilled the commission intrusted to him. The Evening Sun, New York, obtained an interview with him at that time, and in its issue of May 2, 1889, gave more than a page to a brief story of his interesting adventures, and then commented editorially upon them, as follows:


"The narrative given elsewhere in the Evening Sun of the wanderings of Edison's missionary of science, Mr. Frank McGowan, furnishes a new proof that the romances of real life surpass any that the imagination can frame.

"In pursuit of a substance that should meet the requirements of the Edison incandescent lamp, Mr. McGowan penetrated the wilderness of the Amazon, and for a year defied its fevers, beasts, reptiles, and deadly insects in his quest of a material so precious that jealous Nature has hidden it in her most secret fastnesses.

"No hero of mythology or fable ever dared such dragons to rescue some captive goddess as did this dauntless champion of civilization. Theseus, or Siegfried, or any knight of the fairy books might envy the victories of Edison's irresistible lieutenant.

"As a sample story of adventure, Mr. McGowan's narrative is a marvel fit to be classed with the historic journeyings of the greatest travellers. But it gains immensely in interest when we consider that it succeeded in its scientific purpose. The mysterious bamboo was discovered, and large quantities of it were procured and brought to the Wizard's laboratory, there to suffer another wondrous change and then to light up our pleasure-haunts and our homes with a gentle radiance."

A further, though rather sad, interest attaches to the McGowan story, for only a short time had elapsed after his return to America when he disappeared suddenly and mysteriously, and in spite of long-continued and strenuous efforts to obtain some light on the subject, no clew or trace of him was ever found. He was a favorite among the Edison "oldtimers," and his memory is still cherished, for when some of the "boys" happen to get together, as they occasionally do, some one is almost sure to "wonder what became of poor 'Mac.'" He was last seen at Mouquin's famous old French restaurant on Fulton Street, New York, where he lunched with one of the authors of this book and the late Luther Stieringer. He sat with them for two or three hours discussing his wonderful trip, and telling some fascinating stories of adventure. Then the party separated at the Ann Street door of the restaurant, after making plans to secure the narrative in more detailed form for subsequent use—and McGowan has not been seen from that hour to this. The trail of the explorer was more instantly lost in New York than in the vast recesses of the Amazon swamps.

The next and last explorer whom Edison sent out in search of natural fibres was Mr. James Ricalton, of Maplewood, New Jersey, a school-principal, a well-known traveller, and an ardent student of natural science. Mr. Ricalton's own story of his memorable expedition is so interesting as to be worthy of repetition here:

"A village schoolmaster is not unaccustomed to door-rappings; for the steps of belligerent mothers are often thitherward bent seeking redress for conjured wrongs to their darling boobies.

"It was a bewildering moment, therefore, to the Maplewood teacher when, in answering a rap at the door one afternoon, he found, instead of an irate mother, a messenger from the laboratory of the world's greatest inventor bearing a letter requesting an audience a few hours later.

"Being the teacher to whom reference is made, I am now quite willing to confess that for the remainder of that afternoon, less than a problem in Euclid would have been sufficient to disqualify me for the remaining scholastic duties of the hour. I felt it, of course, to be no small honor for a humble teacher to be called to the sanctum of Thomas A. Edison. The letter, however, gave no intimation of the nature of the object for which I had been invited to appear before Mr. Edison....

"When I was presented to Mr. Edison his way of setting forth the mission he had designated for me was characteristic of how a great mind conceives vast undertakings and commands great things in few words. At this time Mr. Edison had discovered that the fibre of a certain bamboo afforded a very desirable carbon for the electric lamp, and the variety of bamboo used was a product of Japan. It was his belief that in other parts of the world other and superior varieties might be found, and to that end he had dispatched explorers to bamboo regions in the valleys of the great South American rivers, where specimens were found of extraordinary quality; but the locality in which these specimens were found was lost in the limitless reaches of those great river-bottoms. The great necessity for more durable carbons became a desideratum so urgent that the tireless inventor decided to commission another explorer to search the tropical jungles of the Orient.

"This brings me then to the first meeting of Edison, when he set forth substantially as follows, as I remember it twenty years ago, the purpose for which he had called me from my scholastic duties. With a quizzical gleam in his eye, he said: 'I want a man to ransack all the tropical jungles of the East to find a better fibre for my lamp; I expect it to be found in the palm or bamboo family. How would you like that job?' Suiting my reply to his love of brevity and dispatch, I said, 'That would suit me.' 'Can you go to-morrow?' was his next question. 'Well, Mr. Edison, I must first of all get a leave of absence from my Board of Education, and assist the board to secure a substitute for the time of my absence. How long will it take, Mr. Edison?' 'How can I tell? Maybe six months, and maybe five years; no matter how long, find it.' He continued: 'I sent a man to South America to find what I want; he found it; but lost the place where he found it, so he might as well never have found it at all.' Hereat I was enjoined to proceed forthwith to court the Board of Education for a leave of absence, which I did successfully, the board considering that a call so important and honorary was entitled to their unqualified favor, which they generously granted.

"I reported to Mr. Edison on the following day, when he instructed me to come to the laboratory at once to learn all the details of drawing and carbonizing fibres, which it would be necessary to do in the Oriental jungles. This I did, and, in the mean time, a set of suitable tools for this purpose had been ordered to be made in the laboratory. As soon as I learned my new trade, which I accomplished in a few days, Mr. Edison directed me to the library of the laboratory to occupy a few days in studying the geography of the Orient and, particularly, in drawing maps of the tributaries of the Ganges, the Irrawaddy, and the Brahmaputra rivers, and other regions which I expected to explore.

"It was while thus engaged that Mr. Edison came to me one day and said: 'If you will go up to the house' (his palatial home not far away) 'and look behind the sofa in the library you will find a joint of bamboo, a specimen of that found in South America; bring it down and make a study of it; if you find something equal to that I will be satisfied.' At the home I was guided to the library by an Irish servant-woman, to whom I communicated my knowledge of the definite locality of the sample joint. She plunged her arm, bare and herculean, behind the aforementioned sofa, and holding aloft a section of wood, called out in a mood of discovery: 'Is that it?' Replying in the affirmative, she added, under an impulse of innocent divination that whatever her wizard master laid hands upon could result in nothing short of an invention, 'Sure, sor, and what's he going to invint out o' that?'

"My kit of tools made, my maps drawn, my Oriental geography reviewed, I come to the point when matters of immediate departure are discussed; and when I took occasion to mention to my chief that, on the subject of life insurance, underwriters refuse to take any risks on an enterprise so hazardous, Mr. Edison said that, if I did not place too high a valuation on my person, he would take the risk himself. I replied that I was born and bred in New York State, but now that I had become a Jersey man I did not value myself at above fifteen hundred dollars. Edison laughed and said that he would assume the risk, and another point was settled. The next matter was the financing of the trip, about which Mr. Edison asked in a tentative way about the rates to the East. I told him the expense of such a trip could not be determined beforehand in detail, but that I had established somewhat of a reputation for economic travel, and that I did not believe any traveller could surpass me in that respect. He desired no further assurance in that direction, and thereupon ordered a letter of credit made out with authorization to order a second when the first was exhausted. Herein then are set forth in briefest space the preliminaries of a circuit of the globe in quest of fibre.

"It so happened that the day on which I set out fell on Washington's Birthday, and I suggested to my boys and girls at school that they make a line across the station platform near the school at Maplewood, and from this line I would start eastward around the world, and if good-fortune should bring me back I would meet them from the westward at the same line. As I had often made them 'toe the scratch,' for once they were only too well pleased to have me toe the line for them.

"This was done, and I sailed via England and the Suez Canal to Ceylon, that fair isle to which Sindbad the Sailor made his sixth voyage, picturesquely referred to in history as the 'brightest gem in the British Colonial Crown.' I knew Ceylon to be eminently tropical; I knew it to be rich in many varieties of the bamboo family, which has been called the king of the grasses; and in this family had I most hope of finding the desired fibre. Weeks were spent in this paradisiacal isle. Every part was visited. Native wood craftsmen were offered a premium on every new species brought in, and in this way nearly a hundred species were tested, a greater number than was found in any other country. One of the best specimens tested during the entire trip around the world was found first in Ceylon, although later in Burmah, it being indigenous to the latter country. It is a gigantic tree-grass or reed growing in clumps of from one to two hundred, often twelve inches in diameter, and one hundred and fifty feet high, and known as the giant bamboo (Bambusa gigantia). This giant grass stood the highest test as a carbon, and on account of its extraordinary size and qualities I extend it this special mention. With others who have given much attention to this remarkable reed, I believe that in its manifold uses the bamboo is the world's greatest dendral benefactor.

"From Ceylon I proceeded to India, touching the great peninsula first at Cape Comorin, and continuing northward by way of Pondicherry, Madura, and Madras; and thence to the tableland of Bangalore and the Western Ghauts, testing many kinds of wood at every point, but particularly the palm and bamboo families. From the range of the Western Ghauts I went to Bombay and then north by the way of Delhi to Simla, the summer capital of the Himalayas; thence again northward to the headwaters of the Sutlej River, testing everywhere on my way everything likely to afford the desired carbon.

"On returning from the mountains I followed the valleys of the Jumna and the Ganges to Calcutta, whence I again ascended the Sub-Himalayas to Darjeeling, where the numerous river-bottoms were sprinkled plentifully with many varieties of bamboo, from the larger sizes to dwarfed species covering the mountain slopes, and not longer than the grass of meadows. Again descending to the plains I passed eastward to the Brahmaputra River, which I ascended to the foot-hills in Assam; but finding nothing of superior quality in all this northern region I returned to Calcutta and sailed thence to Rangoon, in Burmah; and there, finding no samples giving more excellent tests in the lower reaches of the Irrawaddy, I ascended that river to Mandalay, where, through Burmese bamboo wiseacres, I gathered in from round about and tested all that the unusually rich Burmese flora could furnish. In Burmah the giant bamboo, as already mentioned, is found indigenous; but beside it no superior varieties were found. Samples tested at several points on the Malay Peninsula showed no new species, except at a point north of Singapore, where I found a species large and heavy which gave a test nearly equal to that of the giant bamboo in Ceylon.

"After completing the Malay Peninsula I had planned to visit Java and Borneo; but having found in the Malay Peninsula and in Ceylon a bamboo fibre which averaged a test from one to two hundred per cent. better than that in use at the lamp factory, I decided it was unnecessary to visit these countries or New Guinea, as my 'Eureka' had already been established, and that I would therefore set forth over the return hemisphere, searching China and Japan on the way. The rivers in Southern China brought down to Canton bamboos of many species, where this wondrously utilitarian reed enters very largely into the industrial life of that people, and not merely into the industrial life, but even into the culinary arts, for bamboo sprouts are a universal vegetable in China; but among all the bamboos of China I found none of superexcellence in carbonizing qualities. Japan came next in the succession of countries to be explored, but there the work was much simplified, from the fact that the Tokio Museum contains a complete classified collection of all the different species in the empire, and there samples could be obtained and tested.

"Now the last of the important bamboo-producing countries in the globe circuit had been done, and the 'home-lap' was in order; the broad Pacific was spanned in fourteen days; my natal continent in six; and on the 22d of February, on the same day, at the same hour, at the same minute, one year to a second, 'little Maude,' a sweet maid of the school, led me across the line which completed the circuit of the globe, and where I was greeted by the cheers of my boys and girls. I at once reported to Mr. Edison, whose manner of greeting my return was as characteristic of the man as his summary and matter-of-fact manner of my dispatch. His little catechism of curious inquiry was embraced in four small and intensely Anglo-Saxon words—with his usual pleasant smile he extended his hand and said: 'Did you get it?' This was surely a summing of a year's exploration not less laconic than Caesar's review of his Gallic campaign. When I replied that I had, but that he must be the final judge of what I had found, he said that during my absence he had succeeded in making an artificial carbon which was meeting the requirements satisfactorily; so well, indeed, that I believe no practical use was ever made of the bamboo fibres thereafter.

"I have herein given a very brief resume of my search for fibre through the Orient; and during my connection with that mission I was at all times not less astonished at Mr. Edison's quick perception of conditions and his instant decision and his bigness of conceptions, than I had always been with his prodigious industry and his inventive genius.

"Thinking persons know that blatant men never accomplish much, and Edison's marvellous brevity of speech along with his miraculous achievements should do much to put bores and garrulity out of fashion."

Although Edison had instituted such a costly and exhaustive search throughout the world for the most perfect of natural fibres, he did not necessarily feel committed for all time to the exclusive use of that material for his lamp filaments. While these explorations were in progress, as indeed long before, he had given much thought to the production of some artificial compound that would embrace not only the required homogeneity, but also many other qualifications necessary for the manufacture of an improved type of lamp which had become desirable by reason of the rapid adoption of his lighting system.

At the very time Mr. McGowan was making his explorations deep in South America, and Mr. Ricalton his swift trip around the world, Edison, after much investigation and experiment, had produced a compound which promised better results than bamboo fibres. After some changes dictated by experience, this artificial filament was adopted in the manufacture of lamps. No radical change was immediately made, however, but the product of the lamp factory was gradually changed over, during the course of a few years, from the use of bamboo to the "squirted" filament, as the new material was called. An artificial compound of one kind or another has indeed been universally adopted for the purpose by all manufacturers; hence the incandescing conductors in all carbon-filament lamps of the present day are made in that way. The fact remains, however, that for nearly nine years all Edison lamps (many millions in the aggregate) were made with bamboo filaments, and many of them for several years after that, until bamboo was finally abandoned in the early nineties, except for use in a few special types which were so made until about the end of 1908. The last few years have witnessed a remarkable advance in the manufacture of incandescent lamps in the substitution of metallic filaments for those of carbon. It will be remembered that many of the earlier experiments were based on the use of strips of platinum; while other rare metals were the subject of casual trial. No real success was attained in that direction, and for many years the carbon-filament lamp reigned supreme. During the last four or five years lamps with filaments made from tantalum and tungsten have been produced and placed on the market with great success, and are now largely used. Their price is still very high, however, as compared with that of the carbon lamp, which has been vastly improved in methods of construction, and whose average price of fifteen cents is only one-tenth of what it was when Edison first brought it out.

With the close of Mr. McGowan's and Mr. Ricalton's expeditions, there ended the historic world-hunt for natural fibres. From start to finish the investigations and searches made by Edison himself, and carried on by others under his direction, are remarkable not only from the fact that they entailed a total expenditure of about $100,000, (disbursed under his supervision by Mr. Upton), but also because of their unique inception and thoroughness they illustrate one of the strongest traits of his character—an invincible determination to leave no stone unturned to acquire that which he believes to be in existence, and which, when found, will answer the purpose that he has in mind.



IN Berlin, on December 11, 1908, with notable eclat, the seventieth birthday was celebrated of Emil Rathenau, the founder of the great Allgemein Elektricitaets Gesellschaft. This distinguished German, creator of a splendid industry, then received the congratulations of his fellow-countrymen, headed by Emperor William, who spoke enthusiastically of his services to electro-technics and to Germany. In his interesting acknowledgment, Mr. Rathenau told how he went to Paris in 1881, and at the electrical exhibition there saw the display of Edison's inventions in electric lighting "which have met with as little proper appreciation as his countless innovations in connection with telegraphy, telephony, and the entire electrical industry." He saw the Edison dynamo, and he saw the incandescent lamp, "of which millions have been manufactured since that day without the great master being paid the tribute to his invention." But what impressed the observant, thoroughgoing German was the breadth with which the whole lighting art had been elaborated and perfected, even at that early day. "The Edison system of lighting was as beautifully conceived down to the very details, and as thoroughly worked out as if it had been tested for decades in various towns. Neither sockets, switches, fuses, lamp-holders, nor any of the other accessories necessary to complete the installation were wanting; and the generating of the current, the regulation, the wiring with distributing boxes, house connections, meters, etc., all showed signs of astonishing skill and incomparable genius."

Such praise on such an occasion from the man who introduced incandescent electric lighting into Germany is significant as to the continued appreciation abroad of Mr. Edison's work. If there is one thing modern Germany is proud and jealous of, it is her leadership in electrical engineering and investigation. But with characteristic insight, Mr. Rathenau here placed his finger on the great merit that has often been forgotten. Edison was not simply the inventor of a new lamp and a new dynamo. They were invaluable elements, but far from all that was necessary. His was the mighty achievement of conceiving and executing in all its details an art and an industry absolutely new to the world. Within two years this man completed and made that art available in its essential, fundamental facts, which remain unchanged after thirty years of rapid improvement and widening application.

Such a stupendous feat, whose equal is far to seek anywhere in the history of invention, is worth studying, especially as the task will take us over much new ground and over very little of the territory already covered. Notwithstanding the enormous amount of thought and labor expended on the incandescent lamp problem from the autumn of 1878 to the winter of 1879, it must not be supposed for one moment that Edison's whole endeavor and entire inventive skill had been given to the lamp alone, or the dynamo alone. We have sat through the long watches of the night while Edison brooded on the real solution of the swarming problems. We have gazed anxiously at the steady fingers of the deft and cautious Batchelor, as one fragile filament after another refused to stay intact until it could be sealed into its crystal prison and there glow with light that never was before on land or sea. We have calculated armatures and field coils for the new dynamo with Upton, and held the stakes for Jehl and his fellows at their winding bees. We have seen the mineral and vegetable kingdoms rifled and ransacked for substances that would yield the best "filament." We have had the vague consciousness of assisting at a great development whose evidences to-day on every hand attest its magnitude. We have felt the fierce play of volcanic effort, lifting new continents of opportunity from the infertile sea, without any devastation of pre-existing fields of human toil and harvest. But it still remains to elucidate the actual thing done; to reduce it to concrete data, and in reducing, to unfold its colossal dimensions.

The lighting system that Edison contemplated in this entirely new departure from antecedent methods included the generation of electrical energy, or current, on a very large scale; its distribution throughout extended areas, and its division and subdivision into small units converted into light at innumerable points in every direction from the source of supply, each unit to be independent of every other and susceptible to immediate control by the user.

This was truly an altogether prodigious undertaking. We need not wonder that Professor Tyndall, in words implying grave doubt as to the possibility of any solution of the various problems, said publicly that he would much rather have the matter in Edison's hands than in his own. There were no precedents, nothing upon which to build or improve. The problems could only be answered by the creation of new devices and methods expressly worked out for their solution. An electric lamp answering certain specific requirements would, indeed, be the key to the situation, but its commercial adaptation required a multifarious variety of apparatus and devices. The word "system" is much abused in invention, and during the early days of electric lighting its use applied to a mere freakish lamp or dynamo was often ludicrous. But, after all, nothing short of a complete system could give real value to the lamp as an invention; nothing short of a system could body forth the new art to the public. Let us therefore set down briefly a few of the leading items needed for perfect illumination by electricity, all of which were part of the Edison programme:

First—To conceive a broad and fundamentally correct method of distributing the current, satisfactory in a scientific sense and practical commercially in its efficiency and economy. This meant, ready made, a comprehensive plan analogous to illumination by gas, with a network of conductors all connected together, so that in any given city area the lights could be fed with electricity from several directions, thus eliminating any interruption due to the disturbance on any particular section.

Second—To devise an electric lamp that would give about the same amount of light as a gas jet, which custom had proven to be a suitable and useful unit. This lamp must possess the quality of requiring only a small investment in the copper conductors reaching it. Each lamp must be independent of every other lamp. Each and all the lights must be produced and operated with sufficient economy to compete on a commercial basis with gas. The lamp must be durable, capable of being easily and safely handled by the public, and one that would remain capable of burning at full incandescence and candle-power a great length of time.

Third—To devise means whereby the amount of electrical energy furnished to each and every customer could be determined, as in the case of gas, and so that this could be done cheaply and reliably by a meter at the customer's premises.

Fourth—To elaborate a system or network of conductors capable of being placed underground or overhead, which would allow of being tapped at any intervals, so that service wires could be run from the main conductors in the street into each building. Where these mains went below the surface of the thoroughfare, as in large cities, there must be protective conduit or pipe for the copper conductors, and these pipes must allow of being tapped wherever necessary. With these conductors and pipes must also be furnished manholes, junction-boxes, connections, and a host of varied paraphernalia insuring perfect general distribution.

Fifth—To devise means for maintaining at all points in an extended area of distribution a practically even pressure of current, so that all the lamps, wherever located, near or far away from the central station, should give an equal light at all times, independent of the number that might be turned on; and safeguarding the lamps against rupture by sudden and violent fluctuations of current. There must also be means for thus regulating at the point where the current was generated the quality or pressure of the current throughout the whole lighting area, with devices for indicating what such pressure might actually be at various points in the area.

Sixth—To design efficient dynamos, such not being in existence at the time, that would convert economically the steam-power of high-speed engines into electrical energy, together with means for connecting and disconnecting them with the exterior consumption circuits; means for regulating, equalizing their loads, and adjusting the number of dynamos to be used according to the fluctuating demands on the central station. Also the arrangement of complete stations with steam and electric apparatus and auxiliary devices for insuring their efficient and continuous operation.

Seventh—To invent devices that would prevent the current from becoming excessive upon any conductors, causing fire or other injury; also switches for turning the current on and off; lamp-holders, fixtures, and the like; also means and methods for establishing the interior circuits that were to carry current to chandeliers and fixtures in buildings.

Here was the outline of the programme laid down in the autumn of 1878, and pursued through all its difficulties to definite accomplishment in about eighteen months, some of the steps being made immediately, others being taken as the art evolved. It is not to be imagined for one moment that Edison performed all the experiments with his own hands. The method of working at Menlo Park has already been described in these pages by those who participated. It would not only have been physically impossible for one man to have done all this work himself, in view of the time and labor required, and the endless detail; but most of the apparatus and devices invented or suggested by him as the art took shape required the handiwork of skilled mechanics and artisans of a high order of ability. Toward the end of 1879 the laboratory force thus numbered at least one hundred earnest men. In this respect of collaboration, Edison has always adopted a policy that must in part be taken to explain his many successes. Some inventors of the greatest ability, dealing with ideas and conceptions of importance, have found it impossible to organize or even to tolerate a staff of co-workers, preferring solitary and secret toil, incapable of team work, or jealous of any intrusion that could possibly bar them from a full and complete claim to the result when obtained. Edison always stood shoulder to shoulder with his associates, but no one ever questioned the leadership, nor was it ever in doubt where the inspiration originated. The real truth is that Edison has always been so ceaselessly fertile of ideas himself, he has had more than his whole staff could ever do to try them all out; he has sought co-operation, but no exterior suggestion. As a matter of fact a great many of the "Edison men" have made notable inventions of their own, with which their names are imperishably associated; but while they were with Edison it was with his work that they were and must be busied.

It was during this period of "inventing a system" that so much systematic and continuous work with good results was done by Edison in the design and perfection of dynamos. The value of his contributions to the art of lighting comprised in this work has never been fully understood or appreciated, having been so greatly overshadowed by his invention of the incandescent lamp, and of a complete system of distribution. It is a fact, however, that the principal improvements he made in dynamo-electric generators were of a radical nature and remain in the art. Thirty years bring about great changes, especially in a field so notably progressive as that of the generation of electricity; but different as are the dynamos of to-day from those of the earlier period, they embody essential principles and elements that Edison then marked out and elaborated as the conditions of success. There was indeed prompt appreciation in some well-informed quarters of what Edison was doing, evidenced by the sensation caused in the summer of 1881, when he designed, built, and shipped to Paris for the first Electrical Exposition ever held, the largest dynamo that had been built up to that time. It was capable of lighting twelve hundred incandescent lamps, and weighed with its engine twenty-seven tons, the armature alone weighing six tons. It was then, and for a long time after, the eighth wonder of the scientific world, and its arrival and installation in Paris were eagerly watched by the most famous physicists and electricians of Europe.

Edison's amusing description of his experience in shipping the dynamo to Paris when built may appropriately be given here: "I built a very large dynamo with the engine directly connected, which I intended for the Paris Exposition of 1881. It was one or two sizes larger than those I had previously built. I had only a very short period in which to get it ready and put it on a steamer to reach the Exposition in time. After the machine was completed we found the voltage was too low. I had to devise a way of raising the voltage without changing the machine, which I did by adding extra magnets. After this was done, we tested the machine, and the crank-shaft of the engine broke and flew clear across the shop. By working night and day a new crank-shaft was put in, and we only had three days left from that time to get it on board the steamer; and had also to run a test. So we made arrangements with the Tammany leader, and through him with the police, to clear the street—one of the New York crosstown streets—and line it with policemen, as we proposed to make a quick passage, and didn't know how much time it would take. About four hours before the steamer had to get it, the machine was shut down after the test, and a schedule was made out in advance of what each man had to do. Sixty men were put on top of the dynamo to get it ready, and each man had written orders as to what he was to perform. We got it all taken apart and put on trucks and started off. They drove the horses with a fire-bell in front of them to the French pier, the policemen lining the streets. Fifty men were ready to help the stevedores get it on the steamer—and we were one hour ahead of time."

This Exposition brings us, indeed, to a dramatic and rather pathetic parting of the ways. The hour had come for the old laboratory force that had done such brilliant and memorable work to disband, never again to assemble under like conditions for like effort, although its members all remained active in the field, and many have ever since been associated prominently with some department of electrical enterprise. The fact was they had done their work so well they must now disperse to show the world what it was, and assist in its industrial exploitation. In reality, they were too few for the demands that reached Edison from all parts of the world for the introduction of his system; and in the emergency the men nearest to him and most trusted were those upon whom he could best depend for such missionary work as was now required. The disciples full of fire and enthusiasm, as well as of knowledge and experience, were soon scattered to the four winds, and the rapidity with which the Edison system was everywhere successfully introduced is testimony to the good judgment with which their leader had originally selected them as his colleagues. No one can say exactly just how this process of disintegration began, but Mr. E. H. Johnson had already been sent to England in the Edison interests, and now the question arose as to what should be done with the French demands and the Paris Electrical Exposition, whose importance as a point of new departure in electrical industry was speedily recognized on both sides of the Atlantic. It is very interesting to note that as the earlier staff broke up, Edison became the centre of another large body, equally devoted, but more particularly concerned with the commercial development of his ideas. Mr. E. G. Acheson mentions in his personal notes on work at the laboratory, that in December of 1880, while on some experimental work, he was called to the new lamp factory started recently at Menlo Park, and there found Edison, Johnson, Batchelor, and Upton in conference, and "Edison informed me that Mr. Batchelor, who was in charge of the construction, development, and operation of the lamp factory, was soon to sail for Europe to prepare for the exhibit to be made at the Electrical Exposition to be held in Paris during the coming summer." These preparations overlap the reinforcement of the staff with some notable additions, chief among them being Mr. Samuel Insull, whose interesting narrative of events fits admirably into the story at this stage, and gives a vivid idea of the intense activity and excitement with which the whole atmosphere around Edison was then surcharged: "I first met Edison on March 1, 1881. I arrived in New York on the City of Chester about five or six in the evening, and went direct to 65 Fifth Avenue. I had come over to act as Edison's private secretary, the position having been obtained for me through the good offices of Mr. E. H. Johnson, whom I had known in London, and who wrote to Mr. U. H. Painter, of Washington, about me in the fall of 1880. Mr. Painter sent the letter on to Mr. Batchelor, who turned it over to Edison. Johnson returned to America late in the fall of 1880, and in January, 1881, cabled to me to come to this country. At the time he cabled for me Edison was still at Menlo Park, but when I arrived in New York the famous offices of the Edison Electric Light Company had been opened at '65' Fifth Avenue, and Edison had moved into New York with the idea of assisting in the exploitation of the Light Company's business.

"I was taken by Johnson direct from the Inman Steamship pier to 65 Fifth Avenue, and met Edison for the first time. There were three rooms on the ground floor at that time. The front one was used as a kind of reception-room; the room immediately behind it was used as the office of the president of the Edison Electric Light Company, Major S. B. Eaton. The rear room, which was directly back of the front entrance hall, was Edison's office, and there I first saw him. There was very little in the room except a couple of walnut roller-top desks—which were very generally used in American offices at that time. Edison received me with great cordiality. I think he was possibly disappointed at my being so young a man; I had only just turned twenty-one, and had a very boyish appearance. The picture of Edison is as vivid to me now as if the incident occurred yesterday, although it is now more than twenty-nine years since that first meeting. I had been connected with Edison's affairs in England as private secretary to his London agent for about two years; and had been taught by Johnson to look on Edison as the greatest electrical inventor of the day—a view of him, by-the-way, which has been greatly strengthened as the years have rolled by. Owing to this, and to the fact that I felt highly flattered at the appointment as his private secretary, I was naturally prepared to accept him as a hero. With my strict English ideas as to the class of clothes to be worn by a prominent man, there was nothing in Edison's dress to impress me. He wore a rather seedy black diagonal Prince Albert coat and waistcoat, with trousers of a dark material, and a white silk handkerchief around his neck, tied in a careless knot falling over the stiff bosom of a white shirt somewhat the worse for wear. He had a large wide-awake hat of the sombrero pattern then generally used in this country, and a rough, brown overcoat, cut somewhat similarly to his Prince Albert coat. His hair was worn quite long, and hanging carelessly over his fine forehead. His face was at that time, as it is now, clean shaven. He was full in face and figure, although by no means as stout as he has grown in recent years. What struck me above everything else was the wonderful intelligence and magnetism of his expression, and the extreme brightness of his eyes. He was far more modest than in my youthful picture of him. I had expected to find a man of distinction. His appearance, as a whole, was not what you would call 'slovenly,' it is best expressed by the word 'careless.'"

Mr. Insull supplements this pen-picture by another, bearing upon the hustle and bustle of the moment: "After a short conversation Johnson hurried me off to meet his family, and later in the evening, about eight o'clock, he and I returned to Edison's office; and I found myself launched without further ceremony into Edison's business affairs. Johnson had already explained to me that he was sailing the next morning, March 2d, on the S.S. Arizona, and that Mr. Edison wanted to spend the evening discussing matters in connection with his European affairs. It was assumed, inasmuch as I had just arrived from London, that I would be able to give more or less information on this subject. As Johnson was to sail the next morning at five o'clock, Edison explained that it would be necessary for him to have an understanding of European matters. Edison started out by drawing from his desk a check-book and stating how much money he had in the bank; and he wanted to know what European telephone securities were most salable, as he wished to raise the necessary funds to put on their feet the incandescent lamp factory, the Electric Tube works, and the necessary shops to build dynamos. All through the interview I was tremendously impressed with Edison's wonderful resourcefulness and grasp, and his immediate appreciation of any suggestion of consequence bearing on the subject under discussion.

"He spoke with very great enthusiasm of the work before him—namely, the development of his electric-lighting system; and his one idea seemed to be to raise all the money he could with the object of pouring it into the manufacturing side of the lighting business. I remember how extraordinarily I was impressed with him on this account, as I had just come from a circle of people in London who not only questioned the possibility of the success of Edison's invention, but often expressed doubt as to whether the work he had done could be called an invention at all. After discussing affairs with Johnson—who was receiving his final instructions from Edison—far into the night, and going down to the steamer to see Johnson aboard, I finished my first night's business with Edison somewhere between four and five in the morning, feeling thoroughly imbued with the idea that I had met one of the great master minds of the world. You must allow for my youthful enthusiasm, but you must also bear in mind Edison's peculiar gift of magnetism, which has enabled him during his career to attach so many men to him. I fell a victim to the spell at the first interview."

Events moved rapidly in those days. The next morning, Tuesday, Edison took his new fidus Achates with him to a conference with John Roach, the famous old ship-builder, and at it agreed to take the AEtna Iron works, where Roach had laid the foundations of his fame and fortune. These works were not in use at the time. They were situated on Goerck Street, New York, north of Grand Street, on the east side of the city, and there, very soon after, was established the first Edison dynamo-manufacturing establishment, known for many years as the Edison Machine Works. The same night Insull made his first visit to Menlo Park. Up to that time he had seen very little incandescent lighting, for the simple reason that there was very little to see. Johnson had had a few Edison lamps in London, lit up from primary batteries, as a demonstration; and in the summer of 1880 Swan had had a few series lamps burning in London. In New York a small gas-engine plant was being started at the Edison offices on Fifth Avenue. But out at Menlo Park there was the first actual electric-lighting central station, supplying distributed incandescent lamps and some electric motors by means of underground conductors imbedded in asphaltum and surrounded by a wooden box. Mr. Insull says: "The system employed was naturally the two-wire, as at that time the three-wire had not been thought of. The lamps were partly of the horseshoe filament paper-carbon type, and partly bamboo-filament lamps, and were of an efficiency of 95 to 100 watts per 16 c.p. I can never forget the impression that this first view of the electric-lighting industry produced on me. Menlo Park must always be looked upon as the birthplace of the electric light and power industry. At that time it was the only place where could be seen an electric light and power multiple arc distribution system, the operation of which seemed as successful to my youthful mind as the operation of one of the large metropolitan systems to-day. I well remember about ten o'clock that night going down to the Menlo Park depot and getting the station agent, who was also the telegraph operator, to send some cable messages for me to my London friends, announcing that I had seen Edison's incandescent lighting system in actual operation, and that so far as I could tell it was an accomplished fact. A few weeks afterward I received a letter from one of my London friends, who was a doubting Thomas, upbraiding me for coming so soon under the spell of the 'Yankee inventor.'"

It was to confront and deal with just this element of doubt in London and in Europe generally, that the dispatch of Johnson to England and of Batchelor to France was intended. Throughout the Edison staff there was a mingled feeling of pride in the work, resentment at the doubts expressed about it, and keen desire to show how excellent it was. Batchelor left for Paris in July, 1881—on his second trip to Europe that year—and the exhibit was made which brought such an instantaneous recognition of the incalculable value of Edison's lighting inventions, as evidenced by the awards and rewards immediately bestowed upon him. He was made an officer of the Legion of Honor, and Prof. George F. Barker cabled as follows from Paris, announcing the decision of the expert jury which passed upon the exhibits: "Accept my congratulations. You have distanced all competitors and obtained a diploma of honor, the highest award given in the Exposition. No person in any class in which you were an exhibitor received a like reward."

Nor was this all. Eminent men in science who had previously expressed their disbelief in the statements made as to the Edison system were now foremost in generous praise of his notable achievements, and accorded him full credit for its completion. A typical instance was M. Du Moncel, a distinguished electrician, who had written cynically about Edison's work and denied its practicability. He now recanted publicly in this language, which in itself shows the state of the art when Edison came to the front: "All these experiments achieved but moderate success, and when, in 1879, the new Edison incandescent carbon lamp was announced, many of the scientists, and I, particularly, doubted the accuracy of the reports which came from America. This horseshoe of carbonized paper seemed incapable to resist mechanical shocks and to maintain incandescence for any considerable length of time. Nevertheless, Mr. Edison was not discouraged, and despite the active opposition made to his lamp, despite the polemic acerbity of which he was the object, he did not cease to perfect it; and he succeeded in producing the lamps which we now behold exhibited at the Exposition, and are admired by all for their perfect steadiness."

The competitive lamps exhibited and tested at this time comprised those of Edison, Maxim, Swan, and Lane-Fox. The demonstration of Edison's success stimulated the faith of his French supporters, and rendered easier the completion of plans for the Societe Edison Continental, of Paris, formed to operate the Edison patents on the Continent of Europe. Mr. Batchelor, with Messrs. Acheson and Hipple, and one or two other assistants, at the close of the Exposition transferred their energies to the construction and equipment of machine-shops and lamp factories at Ivry-sur-Seine for the company, and in a very short time the installation of plants began in various countries—France, Italy, Holland, Belgium, etc.

All through 1881 Johnson was very busy, for his part, in England. The first "Jumbo" Edison dynamo had gone to Paris; the second and third went to London, where they were installed in 1881 by Mr. Johnson and his assistant, Mr. W. J. Hammer, in the three-thousand-light central station on Holborn Viaduct, the plant going into operation on January 12, 1882. Outside of Menlo Park this was the first regular station for incandescent lighting in the world, as the Pearl Street station in New York did not go into operation until September of the same year. This historic plant was hurriedly thrown together on Crown land, and would doubtless have been the nucleus of a great system but for the passage of the English electric lighting act of 1882, which at once throttled the industry by its absurd restrictive provisions, and which, though greatly modified, has left England ever since in a condition of serious inferiority as to development in electric light and power. The streets and bridges of Holborn Viaduct were lighted by lamps turned on and off from the station, as well as the famous City Temple of Dr. Joseph Parker, the first church in the world to be lighted by incandescent lamps—indeed, so far as can be ascertained, the first church to be illuminated by electricity in any form. Mr. W. J. Hammer, who supplies some very interesting notes on the installation, says: "I well remember the astonishment of Doctor Parker and his associates when they noted the difference of temperature as compared with gas. I was informed that the people would not go in the gallery in warm weather, owing to the great heat caused by the many gas jets, whereas on the introduction of the incandescent lamp there was no complaint." The telegraph operating-room of the General Post-Office, at St. Martin's-Le Grand and Newgate Street nearby, was supplied with four hundred lamps through the instrumentality of Mr. (Sir) W. H. Preece, who, having been seriously sceptical as to Mr. Edison's results, became one of his most ardent advocates, and did much to facilitate the introduction of the light. This station supplied its customers by a network of feeders and mains of the standard underground two-wire Edison tubing-conductors in sections of iron pipe—such as was used subsequently in New York, Milan, and other cities. It also had a measuring system for the current, employing the Edison electrolytic meter. Arc lamps were operated from its circuits, and one of the first sets of practicable storage batteries was used experimentally at the station. In connection with these batteries Mr. Hammer tells a characteristic anecdote of Edison: "A careless boy passing through the station whistling a tune and swinging carelessly a hammer in his hand, rapped a carboy of sulphuric acid which happened to be on the floor above a 'Jumbo' dynamo. The blow broke the glass carboy, and the acid ran down upon the field magnets of the dynamo, destroying the windings of one of the twelve magnets. This accident happened while I was taking a vacation in Germany, and a prominent scientific man connected with the company cabled Mr. Edison to know whether the machine would work if the coil was cut out. Mr. Edison sent the laconic reply: 'Why doesn't he try it and see?' Mr. E. H. Johnson was kept busy not only with the cares and responsibilities of this pioneer English plant, but by negotiations as to company formations, hearings before Parliamentary committees, and particularly by distinguished visitors, including all the foremost scientific men in England, and a great many well-known members of the peerage. Edison was fortunate in being represented by a man with so much address, intimate knowledge of the subject, and powers of explanation. As one of the leading English papers said at the time, with equal humor and truth: 'There is but one Edison, and Johnson is his prophet.'"

As the plant continued in operation, various details and ideas of improvement emerged, and Mr. Hammer says: "Up to the time of the construction of this plant it had been customary to place a single-pole switch on one wire and a safety fuse on the other; and the practice of putting fuses on both sides of a lighting circuit was first used here. Some of the first, if not the very first, of the insulated fixtures were used in this plant, and many of the fixtures were equipped with ball insulating joints, enabling the chandeliers—or 'electroliers'—to be turned around, as was common with the gas chandeliers. This particular device was invented by Mr. John B. Verity, whose firm built many of the fixtures for the Edison Company, and constructed the notable electroliers shown at the Crystal Palace Exposition of 1882."

We have made a swift survey of developments from the time when the system of lighting was ready for use, and when the staff scattered to introduce it. It will be readily understood that Edison did not sit with folded hands or drop into complacent satisfaction the moment he had reached the practical stage of commercial exploitation. He was not willing to say "Let us rest and be thankful," as was one of England's great Liberal leaders after a long period of reform. On the contrary, he was never more active than immediately after the work we have summed up at the beginning of this chapter. While he had been pursuing his investigations of the generator in conjunction with the experiments on the incandescent lamp, he gave much thought to the question of distribution of the current over large areas, revolving in his mind various plans for the accomplishment of this purpose, and keeping his mathematicians very busy working on the various schemes that suggested themselves from time to time. The idea of a complete system had been in his mind in broad outline for a long time, but did not crystallize into commercial form until the incandescent lamp was an accomplished fact. Thus in January, 1880, his first patent application for a "System of Electrical Distribution" was signed. It was filed in the Patent Office a few days later, but was not issued as a patent until August 30, 1887. It covered, fundamentally, multiple arc distribution, how broadly will be understood from the following extracts from the New York Electrical Review of September 10, 1887: "It would appear as if the entire field of multiple distribution were now in the hands of the owners of this patent.... The patent is about as broad as a patent can be, being regardless of specific devices, and laying a powerful grasp on the fundamental idea of multiple distribution from a number of generators throughout a metallic circuit."

Mr. Edison made a number of other applications for patents on electrical distribution during the year 1880. Among these was the one covering the celebrated "Feeder" invention, which has been of very great commercial importance in the art, its object being to obviate the "drop" in pressure, rendering lights dim in those portions of an electric-light system that were remote from the central station. [10]

[Footnote 10: For further explanation of "Feeder" patent, see Appendix.]

From these two patents alone, which were absolutely basic and fundamental in effect, and both of which were, and still are, put into actual use wherever central-station lighting is practiced, the reader will see that Mr. Edison's patient and thorough study, aided by his keen foresight and unerring judgment, had enabled him to grasp in advance with a master hand the chief and underlying principles of a true system—that system which has since been put into practical use all over the world, and whose elements do not need the touch or change of more modern scientific knowledge.

These patents were not by any means all that he applied for in the year 1880, which it will be remembered was the year in which he was perfecting the incandescent electric lamp and methods, to put into the market for competition with gas. It was an extraordinarily busy year for Mr. Edison and his whole force, which from time to time was increased in number. Improvement upon improvement was the order of the day. That which was considered good to-day was superseded by something better and more serviceable to-morrow. Device after device, relating to some part of the entire system, was designed, built, and tried, only to be rejected ruthlessly as being unsuitable; but the pursuit was not abandoned. It was renewed over and over again in innumerable ways until success had been attained.

During the year 1880 Edison had made application for sixty patents, of which thirty-two were in relation to incandescent lamps; seven covered inventions relating to distributing systems (including the two above particularized); five had reference to inventions of parts, such as motors, sockets, etc.; six covered inventions relating to dynamo-electric machines; three related to electric railways, and seven to miscellaneous apparatus, such as telegraph relays, magnetic ore separators, magneto signalling apparatus, etc.

The list of Mr. Edison's patents (see Appendices) is not only a monument to his life's work, but serves to show what subjects he has worked on from year to year since 1868. The reader will see from an examination of this list that the years 1880, 1881, 1882, and 1883 were the most prolific periods of invention. It is worth while to scrutinize this list closely to appreciate the wide range of his activities. Not that his patents cover his entire range of work by any means, for his note-books reveal a great number of major and minor inventions for which he has not seen fit to take out patents. Moreover, at the period now described Edison was the victim of a dishonest patent solicitor, who deprived him of a number of patents in the following manner:

"Around 1881-82 I had several solicitors attending to different classes of work. One of these did me a most serious injury. It was during the time that I was developing my electric-lighting system, and I was working and thinking very hard in order to cover all the numerous parts, in order that it would be complete in every detail. I filed a great many applications for patents at that time, but there were seventy-eight of the inventions I made in that period that were entirely lost to me and my company by reason of the dishonesty of this patent solicitor. Specifications had been drawn, and I had signed and sworn to the application for patents for these seventy-eight inventions, and naturally I supposed they had been filed in the regular way.

"As time passed I was looking for some action of the Patent Office, as usual, but none came. I thought it very strange, but had no suspicions until I began to see my inventions recorded in the Patent Office Gazette as being patented by others. Of course I ordered an investigation, and found that the patent solicitor had drawn from the company the fees for filing all these applications, but had never filed them. All the papers had disappeared, however, and what he had evidently done was to sell them to others, who had signed new applications and proceeded to take out patents themselves on my inventions. I afterward found that he had been previously mixed up with a somewhat similar crooked job in connection with telephone patents.

"I am free to confess that the loss of these seventy-eight inventions has left a sore spot in me that has never healed. They were important, useful, and valuable, and represented a whole lot of tremendous work and mental effort, and I had had a feeling of pride in having overcome through them a great many serious obstacles, One of these inventions covered the multipolar dynamo. It was an elaborated form of the type covered by my patent No. 219,393 which had a ring armature. I modified and improved on this form and had a number of pole pieces placed all around the ring, with a modified form of armature winding. I built one of these machines and ran it successfully in our early days at the Goerck Street shop.

"It is of no practical use to mention the man's name. I believe he is dead, but he may have left a family. The occurrence is a matter of the old Edison Company's records."

It will be seen from an examination of the list of patents in the Appendix that Mr. Edison has continued year after year adding to his contributions to the art of electric lighting, and in the last twenty-eight years—1880-1908—has taken out no fewer than three hundred and seventy-five patents in this branch of industry alone. These patents may be roughly tabulated as follows:

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