Edison: His Life and Inventions HTML version

The Laboratory At Orange And The Staff
A LIVING interrogation-point and a born investigator from childhood, Edison has never
been without a laboratory of some kind for upward of half a century.
In youthful years, as already described in this book, he became ardently interested in
chemistry, and even at the early age of twelve felt the necessity for a special nook of his
own, where he could satisfy his unconvinced mind of the correctness or inaccuracy of
statements and experiments contained in the few technical books then at his command.
Ordinarily he was like other normal lads of his age --full of boyish, hearty enjoyments--
but withal possessed of an unquenchable spirit of inquiry and an insatiable desire for
knowledge. Being blessed with a wise and discerning mother, his aspirations were
encouraged; and he was allowed a corner in her cellar. It is fair to offer tribute here to her
bravery as well as to her wisdom, for at times she was in mortal terror lest the precocious
experimenter below should, in his inexperience, make some awful combination that
would explode and bring down the house in ruins on himself and the rest of the family.
Fortunately no such catastrophe happened, but young Edison worked away in his
embryonic laboratory, satisfying his soul and incidentally depleting his limited pocket-
money to the vanishing-point. It was, indeed, owing to this latter circumstance that in a
year or two his aspirations necessitated an increase of revenue; and a consequent
determination to earn some money for himself led to his first real commercial enterprise
as "candy butcher" on the Grand Trunk Railroad, already mentioned in a previous
chapter. It has also been related how his precious laboratory was transferred to the train;
how he and it were subsequently expelled; and how it was re-established in his home,
where he continued studies and experiments until the beginning of his career as a
telegraph operator.
The nomadic life of the next few years did not lessen his devotion to study; but it stood
seriously in the way of satisfying the ever-present craving for a laboratory. The lack of
such a place never prevented experimentation, however, as long as he had a dollar in his
pocket and some available "hole in the wall." With the turning of the tide of fortune that
suddenly carried him, in New York in 1869, from poverty to the opulence of $300 a
month, he drew nearer to a realization of his cherished ambition in having money, place,
and some time (stolen from sleep) for more serious experimenting. Thus matters
continued until, at about the age of twenty-two, Edison's inventions had brought him a
relatively large sum of money, and he became a very busy manufacturer, and lessee of a
large shop in Newark, New Jersey.
Now, for the first time since leaving that boyish laboratory in the old home at Port Huron,
Edison had a place of his own to work in, to think in; but no one in any way acquainted
with Newark as a swarming centre of miscellaneous and multitudinous industries would
recommend it as a cloistered retreat for brooding reverie and introspection, favorable to
creative effort. Some people revel in surroundings of hustle and bustle, and find therein