Edison: His Life and Inventions HTML version
Work And Invention In Boston
MILTON ADAMS was working in the office of the Franklin Telegraph Company in
Boston when he received Edison's appeal from Port Huron, and with characteristic
impetuosity at once made it his business to secure a position for his friend. There was no
opening in the Franklin office, so Adams went over to the Western Union office, and
asked the manager, Mr. George F. Milliken, if he did not want an operator who, like
young Lochinvar, came out of the West. "What kind of copy does he make?" was the
cautious response. "I passed Edison's letter through the window for his inspection.
Milliken read it, and a look of surprise came over his countenance as he asked me if he
could take it off the line like that. I said he certainly could, and that there was nobody
who could stick him. Milliken said that if he was that kind of an operator I could send for
him, and I wrote to Edison to come on, as I had a job for him in the main office of the
Western Union." Meantime Edison had secured his pass over the Grand Trunk Railroad,
and spent four days and nights on the journey, suffering extremes of cold and hunger.
Franklin's arrival in Philadelphia finds its parallel in the very modest debut of Adams's
friend in Boston.
It took only five minutes for Edison to get the "job," for Superintendent Milliken, a fine
type of telegraph official, saw quickly through the superficialities, and realized that it was
no ordinary young operator he was engaging. Edison himself tells the story of what
happened. "The manager asked me when I was ready to go to work. `Now,' I replied I
was then told to return at 5.30 P.M., and punctually at that hour I entered the main
operating-room and was introduced to the night manager. The weather being cold, and
being clothed poorly, my peculiar appearance caused much mirth, and, as I afterward
learned, the night operators had consulted together how they might `put up a job on the
jay from the woolly West.' I was given a pen and assigned to the New York No. 1 wire.
After waiting an hour, I was told to come over to a special table and take a special report
for the Boston Herald, the conspirators having arranged to have one of the fastest senders
in New York send the despatch and `salt' the new man. I sat down unsuspiciously at the
table, and the New York man started slowly. Soon he increased his speed, to which I
easily adapted my pace. This put my rival on his mettle, and he put on his best powers,
which, however, were soon reached. At this point I happened to look up, and saw the
operators all looking over my shoulder, with their faces shining with fun and excitement.
I knew then that they were trying to put up a job on me, but kept my own counsel. The
New York man then commenced to slur over his words, running them together and
sticking the signals; but I had been used to this style of telegraphy in taking report, and
was not in the least discomfited. Finally, when I thought the fun had gone far enough, and
having about completed the special, I quietly opened the key and remarked,
telegraphically, to my New York friend: `Say, young man, change off and send with your
other foot.' This broke the New York man all up, and he turned the job over to another
man to finish."