Thomas A. Edison's Workshop

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The public has been treated frequently of late to descriptions, of a glowing character, concerning Mr. Thomas A. Edison and his workshops at Menlo Park, Nj.J., and the inventor's promises to demonstrate beyond cavil the practicability of the electric for purposes of general illumination have been spread broadcast over the world by means of "interviews" and other articles in various periodicals. By way of contrast to these assertions, it is perhaps worth calling attention to the experiences of an entirely disinterested gentleman who visited the Edison laboratory, at Menlo Park, yesterday, and subsequently paid a visit to the offices of the Edison Electric Light Company, in this City, both visits being in the interest of Western gentlemen who wished to obtain the refusal of the light for a well-known city in case its practicability should be demonstrated. He expected to find at Menlo Park an extensive laboratory, where a score of Edison's assistants would be seen engaged in experiments under the great electrician's directions. The glowing accounts published suggested visions of numberless bottles, whose labels indexed every chemical known to science, in the manipulation of which the visitor expected to discover every kind of chemical apparatus that would in any way be useful in electrical experiments. Instead of all this, he found a half-dozen small buildings, with but a few of the adjuncts he had imagined. In one building a single assistant was engaged testing telephones of a pattern which he was informed was intended for the English market, and had not yet been introduced here. A young man stood off a few yards, and from the other end of the wire yelled some nonsense about Mary's little lamb, which the obliging assistant informed the visitor was heard in a tone louder than it was spoken. The instrument was an adaptation of the English microphone, and the visitor speedily learned that in place of the supposed laboratory being filled with enthusiastic young men wrestling with science, its occupants were mechanics who attended strictly to the business of manufacturing and testing this kind of telephone. The activity was so fancifully described in the papers was explained. The room which he was told was the scene of the carbon-making appeared deserted, as indeed did every room which was expected to be lively with the work of getting out the electric lamps.

How many lights have you in operation?" he asked the guide.

"Somewhere about 70 or 80," was the reply.

"And how many lamps were lighted at the opening on New Year's night?"

"About the same number, but we are expecting to have 800 very soon."

"What is causing the delay?"

"We are getting them out as fast as possible, but the glass-blower is detaining us. He can't work very fast. We have advertised for more glass-blowers, but have received no answers yet."

The visitor, at the end of this conversation, reached the building occupied by the glassblower, a young Thuringian, who had been bred to the business from boyhood.

"How long does it take you to blow the glass for one lamp?" asked the visitor.

"I never figured it out, but I will make one for you."

It took him just three minutes by the watch.

"Does this end your part of the work?" was next asked.

"Oh, no; I put in the carbons and seal the lamps."

"Can you make a lamp complete in half an hour?"

"Oh, yes, easily."

"And you work 10 hours a day?"


According to the visitor's figuring there should have been no difficulty in getting out at least 20 lamps a day, or, say since Jan 1, 200. Two hundred and eighty lamps burning, it occurred to him, would have impressed people by this time with a firmer belief in the practicability of the thing.

Another disappointment was experienced. The visitor found three generators instead of one, of four-horse power each, maintaining the lights. Two, he was told, were to regulate the circuit; the third supplied the power in the field. On asked the guide if he was sure there were 80 lights burning, or had been at any time, he admitted that he did not know certainly, but he thought at least there had been 60 lighted at one time. At that rate, a single horse-power would maintain five lights, each equal to 10 candles. The visitor had read that the Brush light in the Cleveland (Ohio) public square maintained 16 lights of 1,200-candle power each with a 12-horse power engine, and ran their large works with it besides. On the cars returning from Menlo Park he fell in with a gentleman who had been there on New Year's night. THis gentleman said that he had counted every electric lamp in operation that night, and that there were but 34 all told, not including a number of coal-oil lamps that helped to dazzle the spectators. At the offices of the Edison Electric Light Company he was told that they were not yet prepared to sell privileges to anybody. They were not through experimenting, and until they had demonstrated the practicability of their light through the construction of a regular system, they did not propose to put it in the market.

A few weeks before New Years, the gentleman whose observations are given above chanced to ask a prominent electrician what he thought of the promised Edison exhibition, just then announced. "I will write it out for you." he replied. It was as follows:

"The Edison Electric Light Company will announce, with a grand flourish of trumpets, that the long-sought for light has been accomplished. A number of lamps will be set to burning, enough to make a showing, and the next day's newspapers will contain sensational accounts of the exhibition. No more lights were horse power than on the exhibition night will be added after Jan. 1. One excuse, and then another for deferring it will be given, and after a few more flashes in the pan, we shall hear but a very little more of Edison or his electric lamp. Every claim he makes has been tested and proved impracticable."

That Mr. Edison's failure to make good his enthusiastic promises speedily is having an effect on the public mind is everywhere admitted. The stock of the company named after the inventor is also feeling the effects of deferred expectations. In illustration of the latter statement the fact may be mentioned that the stock which in consequence of recent sensational publications went up to $3,300 per share on Dec. 30, 1879, was quoted yesterday at $1,500.