Boys' Life of Edison - W. H. Meadowcroft

Adventures of a Telegraph Operator

The first position that Edison took after leaving Canada so hurriedly was at Adrian, Michigan, and of what happened there he tells a story typical of his wanderings for several years to come.

"After leaving my first job at Stratford Junction I got a position as operator on the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern at Adrian, Michigan, in the division superintendent's office. As usual, I took the 'night trick,' which most operators disliked, but which I preferred, as it gave me more leisure to experiment. I had obtained from the station agent a small room, and had established a little shop of my own. One day the day operator wanted to get off, and I was on duty. About nine o'clock the superintendent handed me a despatch which he said was very important, and which I must get off at once. The wire at the time was very busy, and I asked if I should break in. I got orders to do so, and, acting under those orders of the superintendent, I broke in and tried to send the despatch; but the other operator would not permit it, and the struggle continued for ten minutes. Finally I got possession of the wire and sent the message. The superintendent of telegraph, who then lived in Adrian and went to his office in Toledo every day, happened that day to be in the Western Union office uptown—and it was the superintendent I was really struggling with! In about twenty minutes he arrived, livid with rage, and I was discharged on the spot. I informed him that the general superintendent had told me to break in and send the despatch, but the general superintendent then and there repudiated the whole thing. Their families were socially close, so I was sacrificed. My faith in human nature got a slight jar."

From Adrian Edison went to Toledo, Ohio, and secured a position at Fort Wayne, on the Pittsburg, Fort Wayne & Chicago Railroad. .This was a "day job," and he did not like it. Two months later he drifted to Indianapolis, arriving there in the fall of 1864, when for the first time he entered the employ of the Western Union Telegraph Company, with which in later years he entered into closer relationship. At this time, however, he was assigned to duty at Union Station, at a salary of seventy-five dollars a month.

He did not stay long in Indianapolis, however, leaving in February, 1865, and going from there to Cincinnati. This change was possibly caused by one of his early inventions, which has been spoken of by an expert as probably the most simple and ingenious arrangement of connections for a repeater.

His ambition was to take "press report," which would come over the wire quite fast, but finding, even after considerable practice, that he "broke" frequently, he adjusted two embossing Morse registers—one to receive the press matter and the other to repeat the dots and dashes at a lower speed, so that the message could be copied leisurely. Hence, he could not be rushed or "broken" in receiving; while he could turn out copy that was a marvel of neatness and clearness. This went well under ordinary conditions, but when an unusual pressure occurred he fell behind, and the newspapers complained of the slowness with which the reports were delivered to them. As to this device, Mr. Edison said recently:

"Together we took press for several nights, my companion keeping the apparatus in adjustment and I copying. The regular press operator would go to the theater or take a nap, only finishing the report after 1 a.m. One of the newspapers complained of bad copy toward the end of the report—that is, from 1 to 3 A.M.—and requested that the operators taking the report up to 1 a.m., which were ourselves, take it all, as the copy then was perfectly unobjectionable. This led to an investigation by the manager, and the scheme was forbidden.

"This instrument many years afterward was applied by me to transferring messages from one wire to any other wire simultaneously or after any interval of time. It consisted of a disk of paper, the indentations being formed in a volute spiral, exactly as in the disk phonograph to-day. It was this instrument which gave me the idea of the phonograph while working on the telephone."

Arriving in Cincinnati, Edison got employment in the Western Union Commercial Telegraph Department at sixty-dollars per month. Here he made the acquaintance of Milton F. Adams, referred to in the preceding chapter. Speaking of that time, Mr. Adams says:

"I can well recall when Edison drifted in to take a job. He was a youth of about eighteen years, decidedly unprepossessing in dress and rather uncouth in manner. I was twenty-one, and very dudish. He was quite thin in those days, and his nose was very prominent, giving a Napoleonic look to his face, although the curious resemblance did not strike me at the time. The boys did not take to him cheerfully, and he was lonesome. I sympathized with him, and we became close companions. As an operator he had no superiors, and very few equals. Most of the time he was 'monkeying' with the batteries and circuits, and devising things to make the work of telegraphy less irksome. He also relieved the monotony of office work by fitting up the battery circuits to play jokes on his fellow-operators, and to deal with the vermin that infested the premises. He arranged in the cellar what he called his 'rat paralyzer,' a very simple contrivance, consisting of two plates insulated from each other and connected with the main battery. They were so placed that when a rat passed over them the fore feet on the one plate and the hind feet on the other completed the circuit, and the rat departed this life, electrocuted."

Shortly after Edison's arrival in Cincinnati came the close of the Civil War and the assassination of President Lincoln. One of Edison's reminiscences is interesting as showing the mechanical way in which some telegraph operators do their work.

"I noticed," he says, "an immense crowd gathering in the street outside a newspaper office. I called the attention of the other operators to the crowd, and we sent a messenger boy to find the cause of the excitement. He returned in a few minutes and shouted, 'Lincoln's shot!' Instinctively the operators looked from one face to another to see which man had received the news. All the faces were blank, and every man said he had not taken a word about the shooting. 'Look over your files,' said the boss to the man handling the press stuff. For a few moments we waited in suspense, and then the man held up a sheet of paper containing a short account of the shooting of the President. The operator had worked so mechanically that he had handled the news without the slightest realization of its significance."

Edison's diversions in Cincinnati were characteristic of his life before and since. He read a great deal, but spent most of his leisure time experimenting. Occasionally he would indulge in some form of amusement, but this was not often. At this time he and Adams were dose friends, and Mr. Adams remarks:

"Edison and I were fond of tragedy. Forrest and John McCullough were playing at the National Theater, and when our capital was sufficient we would go to see those eminent tragedians alternate in Othello and Iago. Edison always enjoyed Othello greatly. Aside from an occasional visit to the Loewen Garten, 'over the Rhine,' with a glass of beer and a few pretzels consumed while listening to the excellent music of a German band, the theater was the sum and substance of our innocent dissipation."

While Edison was in Cincinnati there came one day a delegation of five trade-union operators from Cleveland to form a local branch in Cincinnati. The occasion was one of great conviviality. Night came and many of the operators were away. The Cleveland wire was in special need, and Edison, almost alone in the office, devoted himself to it all through the night and until three o'clock next morning, when he was relieved. He had been previously getting eighty dollars a month, and added to this by copying plays for a theater.

His rating was that of a "plug," or inferior operator, but having determined to become a first-class operator, he had kept up a practice of going to the office at night to take "press," acting willingly as a substitute for any operator who wanted to get off for a few hours—which often meant all night.

Thus he had been unconsciously preparing for the special ordeal which the conviviality of the trade-unionists had brought about. Speaking of that night's work, Edison says:

"My copy looked fine if viewed as a whole, as I could write a perfectly straight line across the wide sheet, which was not ruled. There were no flourishes, but the individual letters would not bear close inspection. When I missed understanding a word there was no time to think what it was, so I made an illegible one to fill in, trusting to the printers to sense it. I knew they could read anything, although Mr. Bloss, an editor of the Inquirer, made such bad copy that one of his editorials was pasted up on the notice board in the telegraph office with an offer of one dollar to any man who could 'read twenty consecutive words.' Nobody ever did it. When I got through I was too nervous to go home, and so I waited the rest of the night for the day manager, Mr. Stevens, to see what was to be the outcome of this union formation and of my efforts. He was an austere man, and I was afraid of him. I got the morning papers, which came out at 4 A.M., and the press report read perfectly, which surprised me greatly. I went to work on my regular day wire to Portsmouth, Ohio, and there was considerable excitement, but nothing was said to me, neither did Mr. Stevens examine the copy on the office hook, which I was watching with great interest. However, about 3 P.M. he went to the hook, grabbed the bunch and looked at it as a whole without examining it in detail, for which I was thankful. Then he jabbed it back on the hook, and I knew I was all right. He walked over to me, and said: 'Young man, I want you to work the Louisville wire nights; your salary will be one hundred and twenty-five dollars.' Thus I got from the plug classification to that of a first-class man."

Not long after this promotion was secured Edison started again on his wanderings. He went south, while his friend Adams went north, neither one having any difficulty in making the trip. He says: "The boys in those days had extraordinary facilities for travel. As a usual thing it was only necessary for them to board a train and tell the conductor they were operators. Then they could go as far as they liked. The number of operators was small, and they were in demand everywhere."

Edison's next stopping place was Memphis, Tennessee, where he got a position as operator. Here again he began to invent and improve on existing apparatus, with the result of being obliged once more to "move on." He tells the story as follows:

"I was not the inventor of the auto-repeater, but while in Memphis I worked on one. Learning that the chief operator, who was a protégé of the superintendent, was trying in some way to put New York and New Orleans together for the first time since the close of the war, I redoubled my efforts, and at two o'clock one morning I had them speaking to each other. The office of the Memphis Avalanche was in the same building. The paper got wind of it and sent messages. A column came out in the morning about it; but when I went to the office in the afternoon to report for duty I was discharged without explanation. The superintendent would not even give me a pass to Nashville, so I had to pay my fare. I had so little money left that I nearly starved at Decatur, Alabama, and had to stay three days before going on north to Nashville. Arrived in that city, I went to the telegraph office, got money enough to buy a little solid food, and secured a pass to Louisville. I had a companion with me who was also out of a job. I arrived at Louisville on a bitterly cold day, with ice in the gutters. I was wearing a linen duster and was not much to look at, but got a position at once, working on a press wire. My traveling companion was less successful on account of his 'record.' They had a limit even in those days when the telegraph service was so demoralized."

After the Civil War was over the telegraph service was in desperate condition, and some of Mr. Edison's reminiscences of these times are quite interesting. He says:

"The telegraph was still under military control, not having been turned over to the original owners, the Southern Telegraph Company. In addition to the regular force, there was an extra force of two or three operators, and some stranded ones, who were a burden to us, for board was high. One of these derelicts was a great source of worry to me personally. He would come in at all hours and either throw ink around or make a lot of noise. One night he built a fire in the grate and started to throw pistol cartridges into the flames. These would explode, and I was twice hit by the bullets, which left a black-and-blue mark. Another night he came in and got from some part of the building a lot of stationery with 'Confederate States' printed at the head. He was a fine operator, and wrote a beautiful hand. He would take a sheet of paper, write capital 'A,' and then take another sheet and make the 'A' differently; and so on through the alphabet, each time crumpling the paper up in his hand and throwing it on the floor. He would keep this up until the room was filled nearly flush with the table. Then he would quit.

"Everything at that time was 'wide open.' Disorganization reigned supreme. There was no head to anything. At night myself and a companion would go over to a gorgeously furnished faro-bank and get our midnight lunch. Everything was free. There were over twenty keno-rooms running. One of them that I visited was in a Baptist church, the man with the wheel being in the pulpit and the gamblers in the pews.

"While there, the manager of the telegraph office was arrested for something I never understood, and incarcerated in a military prison about half a mile from the office. The building was in plain sight from the office and four stories high. He was kept strictly incomunicado. One day, thinking he might be confined in a room facing the office, I put my arm out of the window and kept signaling dots and dashes by the movement of the arm. I tried this several times for two days. Finally he noticed it, and, putting his arm through the bars of the window, he established communication with me. He thus sent several messages to his friends, and was afterward set free."

Another curious story told by Edison concerns a fellow operator on night duty at Chattanooga Junction at the time he was at Memphis:

"When it was reported that Hood was marching on Nashville, one night a Jew came into the office about eleven o'clock in great excitement, having heard the Hood rumor. He, being a large sutler, wanted to send a message to save his goods. The operator said it was impossible—that orders had been given to send no private messages. Then the Jew wanted to bribe my friend, who steadfastly refused, for the reason, as he told the Jew, that he might be court-martialed and shot. Finally the Jew got up to eight hundred dollars. The operator swore him to secrecy and sent the message. Now, there was no such order about private messages, and the Jew, finding it out, complained to Captain Van Duzer, chief of telegraphs, who investigated the matter, and while he would not discharge the operator, laid him off indefinitely. Van Duzer was so lenient that if an operator was to wait three days and then go and sit on the stoop of Van Duzer's office all day he would be taken back. But Van Duzer swore that if the operator had taken eight hundred dollars and sent the message at the regular rate, which was twenty-five cents, it would have been all right, as the Jew would be punished for trying to bribe a military operator; but when the operator took the eight hundred dollars and then sent the message deadhead he couldn't stand it, and he would never relent."

A third typical story of this period relates to a cipher message for General Thomas. Mr. Edison narrates it as follows:

"When I was an operator in Cincinnati, working the Louisville wire nights for a time, one night a man over on the Pittsburg wire yelled out: 'D. I. cipher,' which meant that there was a cipher message from the War Department at Washington, and that it was coming, and he yelled out 'Louisville.' I started immediately to call up that place. It was just at the change of shift in the office. I could not get Louisville, and the cipher message began to come. It was taken by the operator on the other table, direct from the War Department. It was for General Thomas, at Nashville. I called for about twenty minutes and notified them that I could not get Louisville. I kept at it for about fifteen minutes longer, and notified them that there was still no answer from Louisville. They then notified the War Department that they could not get Louisville. Then we tried to get it by all kinds of round-about ways, but in no case could anybody get them at that office. Soon a message came from the War Department to send immediately for the manager of the Cincinnati office. He was brought to the office and several messages were exchanged, the contents of which, of course, I did not know, but the matter appeared to be very serious, as they were afraid of General Hood, of the Confederate Army, who was then attempting to march on Nashville; and it was important that this cipher of about twelve hundred words or so should be got through immediately to General Thomas. I kept on calling up to twelve or one o'clock, but no Louisville. About one o'clock the operator at the Indianapolis office got hold of an operator who happened to come into his office, which had a wire which ran from Indianapolis to Louisville along the railroad. He arranged with this operator to get a relay of horses, and the message was sent through Indianapolis to this operator, who had engaged horses to carry the despatches to Louisville and find out the trouble, and get the despatches through without delay to General Thomas. In those days the telegraph fraternity was rather demoralized, and the discipline was very lax. It was found out a couple of days afterward that there were three night operators at Louisville. One of them had gone over to Jeffersonville and had fallen off a horse and broken his leg, and was in a hospital. By a remarkable coincidence another of the men had been stabbed in a keno-room, and was also in a hospital, while the third operator had gone to Cynthiana to see a man hanged and had got left by the train."

From Memphis Edison went to Louisville. Here he remained for about two years. It was while he was there that he perfected the peculiar vertical style of writing which has since been his characteristic style.

[Illustration] from Boys' Life of Edison by W. H. Meadowcroft

He says of this form of writing, an example of which is given above:

"I developed this style in Louisville while taking press reports. My wire was connected to the 'blind' side of a repeater at Cincinnati, so that if I missed a word or sentence, or if the wire worked badly, I could not break in and get the last words, because the Cincinnati man had no instrument by which he could hear me. I had to take what came. When I got the job the cable across the Ohio River at Covington, connecting with the line to Louisville, had a variable leak in it, which caused the strength of the signaling current to make violent fluctuations. I obviated this by using several relays, each with a different adjustment, working several sounders all connected with one sounding-plate. The clatter was bad, but I could read it with fair ease. When, in addition to this infernal leak, the wires north to Cleveland worked badly it required a large amount of imagination to get the sense of what was being sent. An imagination requires an appreciable time for its exercise, and as the stuff was coming at the rate of thirty-five to forty words a minute, it was very difficult to write down what was coming and imagine what wasn't coming. Hence it was necessary to become a very rapid writer, so I started to find the fastest style. I found that the vertical style, with each letter separate and without any flourishes, was the most rapid, and that, the smaller the letter, the greater the rapidity. As I took on an average from eight to fifteen columns of news report every day, it did not take long to perfect this method.

The telegraph offices of those early days were very crude as compared with the equipments of modern times. The apparatus was generally in a very poor condition, and the wiring was of a haphazard kind. The conditions during the time of the Civil War all tended to demoralization, both of operators and apparatus.

Indeed, the following story, related by Edison, illustrates the lengths to which telegraphers could go at a time when they were in so much demand:

"When I took the position there was a great shortage of operators. One night, at 2 a.m., another operator and I were on duty. I was taking press report, and the other man was working the New York wire. We heard a heavy tramp, tramp, tramp on the rickety stairs. Suddenly the door was thrown open with great violence, dislodging it from one of the hinges, There appeared in the doorway one of the best operators we had, who worked daytime, and who was of a very quiet disposition except when intoxicated. He was a great friend of the manager of the office. His eyes were bloodshot and wild, and one sleeve had been torn away from his coat. Without noticing either of us, he went up to the stove and kicked it over. The stovepipe fell, dislocated at every joint. It was half full of exceedingly fine soot, which floated out and completely filled the room. This produced a momentary respite to his labors. When the atmosphere had cleared sufficiently to see he went around and pulled every table away from the wall, piling them on top of the stove in the middle of the room. Then he proceeded to pull .the switchboard away from the wall. It was held tightly by screws. He succeeded, finally, and when it gave way he fell with the board, and, striking on a table, cut himself so that he soon became covered with blood. He then went to the battery-room and knocked all the batteries off on the floor. The nitric acid soon began to combine with the plaster in the room below, which was the public receiving-room for messengers and bookkeepers. The excess acid poured through and ate up the account-books. After having finished everything to his satisfaction, he left. I told the other operators to do nothing. We would leave things just as they were, and wait until the manager came. In the mean time, as I knew all the wires coming through to the switchboard, I rigged up a temporary set of instruments so that the New York business could be cleared up, and we also got the remainder of the press matter. At seven o'clock the day men began to appear. They were told to go downstairs and await the coming of the manager. At eight o'clock he appeared, walked around, went into the battery-room, and then came to me, saying: 'Edison, who did this?' I told him that Billy L. had come in full of soda-water and invented the ruin before him. He walked back and forth about a minute, then, coming up to my table, put his fist down, and said: 'If Billy L. ever does that again I will discharge him.' It was needless to say that there were other operators who took advantage of that kind of discipline, and I had many calls at night after that, but none with such destructive effects."

Incidents such as these, together with the daily life and work of an operator, presented one aspect of life to our young operator in Louisville. But there was another, more intellectual side, in the contact afforded with journalism and its leaders, on which Mr. Edison looks back with great satisfaction.

"I remember," he says, "the discussions between the celebrated poet and journalist George D. Prentice, then editor of the Courier-journal, and Mr. Tyler, of the Associated Press. I believe Prentice was the father of the humorous paragraph of the American newspaper. He was poetic, highly educated, and a brilliant talker. He was very thin and small. I do not think he weighed over one hundred and twenty-five pounds. Tyler was a graduate of Harvard, and had a very clear enunciation, and, in sharp contrast to Prentice, he was a large man. After the paper had gone to press Prentice would generally come over to Tyler's office, where I heard them arguing on the immortality of the soul, etc. I asked permission of Mr. Tyler if, after finishing the press matter, I might come in and listen to the conversation, which I did many times after. One thing I never could comprehend was that Tyler had a sideboard with liquors and generally crackers. Prentice would pour out half a glass of what they call corn whisky, and would dip the crackers in it and eat them. Tyler took it sans food. One teaspoonful of that stuff would put me to sleep."

Mr. Edison throws also a curious side-light on the origin of the comic paragraph in the modern American newspaper, as distributed instantly throughout the country through the telegraph.

"It was the practice of the press operators all over the country at that time, when a lull occurred, to start in and send jokes or stories the day men had collected; and these were copied and pasted up on the bulletin-board. Cleveland was the originating office for 'press,' which it received from New York and sent out simultaneously to Milwaukee, Chicago, Toledo, Detroit, Pittsburg, Columbus, Dayton, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Vincennes, Terre Haute, St. Louis, and Louisville. Cleveland would call first on Milwaukee and ask if he had anything. If so, he would send it, and Cleveland would repeat it to all of us. Thus any joke or story originating anywhere in that area was known the next day all over. The press men would come in and copy anything which could be published, which was about three percent I collected, too, quite a large scrapbook of it, but, unfortunately, I have lost it."

Edison was always a great reader, and was in the habit of buying books at auctions and Second-hand stores. One day at an auction he bought twenty unbound volumes of the North American Review for two dollars. These he had bound and delivered at the telegraph office. One morning, about three o'clock, he started off for home at a rapid pace with ten volumes on his shoulder. Very soon he became conscious of the fact that bullets were flying around him. He stopped, and a breathless policeman came up and seized him as a suspicious character, ordering him to drop his parcel and explain matters. Opening the package, he showed the books, somewhat to the disgust of the officer, who imagined he had caught a burglar sneaking away with his booty. Edison explained that, being deaf, he had heard no challenge, and therefore had kept moving; and the policeman remarked, apologetically, it was well for Edison he was not a better shot. Through all his travels Edison has preserved these books, and he has them now in his library at Llewelyn Park, Orange, New Jersey.

After two years at Louisville, Edison went back North as far as Detroit, but soon returned to Louisville. At this time there was a great deal of exaggerated talk and report about the sunny life and easy wealth of South America. This idea appealed especially to telegraph operators, and young Edison, with his fertile imagination, was readily inflamed with the glowing idea of these great possibilities.

Once more he threw up his work, and, with a couple of young friends, made his way to New Orleans, where they expected to catch a specially chartered steamer for Brazil.

They arrived in New Orleans just at the time of the great riot, when the city was in the hands of a mob. The government had seized the steamer for carrying troops. The young men therefore visited another shipping office to make inquiries about vessels for Brazil.

Here they got into conversation with an old Spaniard, to whom they explained their intentions. He had lived and worked in South America, and was very emphatic in advising them that the worst thing they could do was to leave the United States, whose freedom, calm, and opportunities could not be equaled anywhere on the face of the globe. Edison took the Spaniard's advice, and made his way North again. He heard later that his two companions had gone to Vera Cruz and had died there of yellow fever.

He returned to Louisville and resumed work there. He seems to have been fairly comfortable and happy at this time. He surrounded himself with books and various apparatus, and even indited a treatise on electricity.

It is well known that Edison is very studious and a great reader, but his associates sometimes felt surprised at his fund of general information. His own words throw some light upon this subject:

"The second time I was in Louisville the Telegraph Company had moved into a new office, and the discipline was now good. I took the press job. In fact, I was a very poor sender, and therefore made the taking of press report a specialty. The newspaper men allowed me to come over, after the paper went to press, at 3 A.M., and get all the exchanges I wanted. These I would take home and lay at the foot of my bed. I never slept more than four or five hours, so that I would awake at nine or ten and read these papers until dinner-time. I thus kept posted, and knew from their activity every member of Congress, and what committees they were on, and. all about the topical doings, as well as the prices of breadstuffs in all the primary markets. I was in a much better position than most operators to call on my imagination to supply missing words or sentences, which were frequent in those days of old, rotten wires badly insulated, especially on stormy nights. Upon such occasions I had to supply in some cases one-fifth of the whole matter—pure guessing—but I got caught only once. There had been some kind of convention in Virginia, in which John Minor Botts was the leading figure. There was great excitement about it, and two votes had been taken in the convention on the two days. There was no doubt that the vote the next day would go a certain way. A very bad storm came up about ten o'clock, and my wire worked badly, and there was a cessation of all signals; then I made out the words 'Minor Botts.' The next was a New York item. I filled in a paragraph about the convention and how the vote had gone as I was sure it would go. But next day I learned that, instead of there being a vote, the convention had adjourned without action until the day after."

The insatiable thirst for knowledge beyond known facts again proved Edison's undoing. Operators were strictly forbidden to remove instruments or to use batteries except on extra work. This rule did not mean much to Edison, who had access to no other instruments except those of the company. "I went one night," he says, "into the battery-room to obtain some sulphuric acid for experimenting. The carboy tipped over, the acid ran out, went through to the manager's room below, and ate up his desk and all the carpet. The next morning I was summoned before him, and told that what the company wanted was operators, not experimenters. I was at liberty to take my pay and get out.''

Thus he was once more thrown upon the world. He went back to Cincinnati, and began his second term there as an operator. He was again put on night duty, much to his satisfaction. He rented a room on the top floor of an office building, bought a cot and an oil-stove, a foot lathe, and some tools.

He became acquainted with Mr. Sommers, superintendent of telegraph of the Cincinnati & Indianapolis Railroad, who gave him permission to take such scrap apparatus as he might desire that was of no use to the company.

Edison and Sommers became very friendly, and were congenial in many ways. Both of them enjoyed jokes of a practical nature, and Edison relates one of them as follows:

"Sommers was a very witty man," he says, "and fond of experimenting. We worked on a self-adjusting telegraph relay, which would have been very valuable if we could have .got it. I soon became the possessor of a second-hand Ruhmkorff induction coil, which, although it would only give a small spark, would twist the arms and. clutch the hands of a man so that he could not let go of the apparatus. One day we went down to the roundhouse of the Cincinnati & Indianapolis Railroad and connected up the long wash-tank in the room with the coil, one electrode being connected to earth. Above this washroom was a flat roof. We bored a hole through the roof, and could see the men as they came in. The first man as he entered dipped his hands in the water. The floor, being wet, formed a circuit, and up went his hands. He tried it the second time, with the same result. He then stood against the wall with a puzzled expression. We surmised that he was waiting for somebody else to come in, which occurred shortly after, with the same result. Then they went out, and the place was soon crowded and there was considerable excitement. Various theories were broached to explain the curious phenomenon. We enjoyed the sport immensely."

The reader must remember this occurred forty years ago, when electricity was not popularly understood. Had it occurred to-day the mystery would have soon been explained.

It is interesting to note that the germ of Edison's quadruplex originated while he was at the Cincinnati office. There he became acquainted with George Ellsworth, a telegraph operator who left the regular telegraph service to become an operator for the Confederate guerilla Morgan.

"We soon became acquainted," says Edison of this period in Cincinnati, "and he wanted me to invent a secret method of sending despatches, so that an intermediate operator could not tap the wire and understand it. He said that if it could be accomplished he could sell it to the government for a large sum of money. This suited me, and I started in and succeeded in 'making such an instrument, which had in it the germ of my quadruplex now used throughout the world, permitting the despatch of four messages over one wire simultaneously. By the time I had succeeded in getting the apparatus to work Ellsworth suddenly disappeared. Many years afterward I used this little device again for the same purpose. At Menlo Park, New Jersey, I had my laboratory. There were several Western Union wires cut into the laboratory and used by me in experimenting at night. One day I sat near an instrument which I had left connected during the night. I soon found it was a private wire between New York and Philadelphia, and I heard among a lot of stuff a message that surprised me. A week after that I had occasion to go to New York, and, visiting the office of the lessee of the wire, I asked him if he hadn't sent such and such a message. The expression that came over his face was a sight. He asked me how I knew of such message. I told him the circumstances, and suggested that he had better cipher such communications, or put on a secret sounder. The result of the interview was that I installed for him my old Cincinnati apparatus, which was used thereafter for many years."

Edison's second term in Cincinnati was not a very long one. After a while he left and went home to Port Huron, where he stayed a short time. He soon became tired of comparative idleness and communicated with his old friend, Milton Adams, who was then working in Boston, and whom he wished to rejoin if he could get work promptly in the East. Edison himself gives the details of this eventful move, when he went East to grow up with the new art of electricity.

"I had left Louisville the second time, and went home to see my parents. After stopping at home for some time, I got restless, and thought I would like to work in the East. Knowing that a former operator named Adams, who had worked with me in the Cincinnati office, was in Boston, I wrote him that I wanted a job there. He wrote back that if I came on immediately he could get me in the Western Union office. I had helped out the Grand Trunk Railroad telegraph people by a new device when they lost one of the two submarine cables they had across the river, making the remaining cable act just as well for their purpose as if they had two. I thought I was entitled to a pass, which they conceded, and I started for Boston. After leaving Toronto a terrific blizzard came up and the train got snowed under in a cut. After staying there twenty-four hours, the trainmen made snow-shoes of fence-rail splints and started out to find food, which they did about a half mile away. They found a roadside inn, and by means of snow-shoes all the passengers were taken to the inn. The train reached Montreal four days late. A number of the passengers and myself went to the military headquarters to testify in favor of a soldier who had been two days late in returning from a furlough, which was a serious ' matter with military people, I learned. We willingly did this, for this soldier was a great story-teller, and made the time pass quickly. I met here a telegraph operator named Stanton, who took me to his boarding-house, the most cheerless I have ever been in. Nobody got enough to eat; the bedclothes were too short and too thin; it was twenty-eight degrees below zero, and the wash-water was frozen solid. The board was cheap, being only one dollar and fifty cents a week.

"Stanton said that the usual livestock accompaniment of operators' boarding-houses was absent; he thought the intense cold had caused them to hibernate. Stanton, when I was working in Cincinnati, left his position and went out on the Union Pacific to work at Julesburg, which was a cattle town at that time and very tough. I remember seeing him off on the train, never expecting to meet him again. Six months afterward, while working press wire in Cincinnati, about 2 A.M., there was flung into the middle of the operating-room a large tin box. It made a report like a pistol, and we all jumped up startled. In walked Stanton. 'Gentlemen,' he said, 'I have just returned from a pleasure trip to the land beyond the Mississippi. All my wealth in is contained in my metallic traveling-case, and you are welcome to it.' The case contained one paper collar. He sat down, and I noticed that he had a woolen comforter around his neck, with his coat buttoned closely. The night was intensely warm. Then he opened his coat and revealed the fact that he had nothing but the bare skin. 'Gentlemen,' said he, 'you see before you an operator who has reached the limit of impecuniosity.'"