| Builders of Our Country: Book II|
|by Gertrude van Duyn Southworth|
| A lively account of American history told through 31 biographies, beginning with Patrick Henry at the start of the Revolution and ending with Andrew Carnegie at the close of the 19th century. The biographies are so chosen as to acquaint the reader with the chief personages and events in our national life, by including many vivid pictures of each. Ages 10-12 |
EDISON AND HOE
NEWSBOY AND TELEGRAPH OPERATOR
 THE flaming pine knot used long ago burned well, and
pine was easy to get. But it smoked and dripped tar in
the cabins of the early housewives, so candles came to
take its place.
Candles give a mellow light. But they were
expensive to buy, and it was tedious to dip, dip the
twisted wicks in the melted tallow, so whale-oil lamps were
Then some fifty-odd years ago whale oil was pushed
aside for kerosene, which supplies to-day the customary
light of the farmers' houses. Many people in towns and
cities as well still use the kerosene lamp, but unlike the
isolated farmer they do so from choice. The city houses
of the present may be lighted by the soft light of gas or
the steady glow of Thomas Edison's electric bulb.
Thomas Edison's father was not well to do, and very
early Thomas had to begin to earn money. He was
twelve years old when he became newsboy on the Grand
Trunk Railroad, and a pretty shrewd newsboy he was, too.
He soon learned that exciting news sold better than dry
items, and he would run over a paper's headlines and judge
how many he could sell before deciding how many he
would buy. What is more, he printed the only newspaper
ever printed on a train—a little paper full of railroad
 One thing that especially fascinated the newsboy was
the click, click of the telegraph. Endless questions were
put to the operators along the road. Then came a day
when the little child of a station agent was playing on the
track all unnoticed. Down upon it came a freight train
nearer and nearer. When it was almost too late, Edison
spied the child. Like a flash he made a dive, grabbed,
the baby, and cleared the track without a moment to
spare. The grateful father could hardly do less than teach
Edison how to telegraph. Night lessons began, and in a
few months the newsboy had become an excellent telegraph operator.
To the train boy this had seemed a fair ambition, but
now that Edison knew how to run the machine he wanted
to perfect it. So he studied his work, spent his money
for books, and made experiment after experiment, which
have resulted in more than one priceless improvement.
 He was engrossed in his work and disliked interruption.
The manager of his circuit had found from experience that
operators were not always on hand, and he insisted that
each operator should signal to him over the wire each half
hour. This was a decided nuisance to Edison, so he
managed to connect his clock to his machine in such a way that
the signal was promptly turned in at headquarters every
thirty minutes, whether the young operator was in the
office or not.
He had another device, too, which gave the impression
that he could receive a long message very rapidly, when
such was not the case. In both of these little frauds he
was found out, and he had the good sense to be ashamed
of his deception rather than proud of his invention. The
chagrin over the discovery of his real lack of speed in
taking a message led him to work, work, work in this line,
until there was no one who could equal him. At least he
would be all he claimed to be.
AFTER drifting from place to place in the West,
Thomas Edison went to Boston and then to New York.
When he reached New York he had little but debts to
call his own. Man after man refused him work, until, by
chance, he reached a large broker's office just at the time
all was in confusion because the recording machine had
broken down. Edison offered his services and soon made
Such a man was too good to lose. He was promptly
appointed superintendent at two hundred dollars a month,
and from that hour his fortune was made. At once he set
to work to make improvements on the machines used in
this and similar offices. These improvements he offered
 for sale, hoping to get a few thousand dollars out of them.
Imagine his surprise at being offered forty thousand!
With the forty thousand Mr. Edison established his
first large laboratory and engaged a force of men to work
with him. Now had come the longed-for opportunity
to perfect the ideas with which his brain was teeming.
From his first laboratory grew a second and then, in
1876, he founded one at Menlo Park, a small village in New
Jersey. Here, by his marvelous inventions, Mr. Edison
earned the name, the "Wizard of Menlo Park." His latest
laboratory, where he is still working, is at Orange, New
EDISON'S LABORATORY AT MENLO PARK IN 1879.
In the days when he was a fifteen-year-old telegraph
operator, a telegraph wire could carry only one message
at a time. Edison determined to find a way to send two
messages at once over one wire. Effort followed effort
until the desired result was reached. But still the
inventor was not content. He would make one wire do the
work of four. He did this, too. Then once again he
 began to work to make a single wire carry six messages,
and he has succeeded!
Asked a few years ago to name his principal inventions
he said, "The first and foremost, the idea of the electric
lighting station; then—let me see—what have I invented?
Well, there was the mimeograph and the electric pen, and
the carbon telephone, and the incandescent lamp and its
accessories, and the quadruple telegraph and the
automatic telegraph, and the phonograph, and the kinetoscope
and—I don't know a whole lot of other things."
EDISON LISTENING TO THE PHONOGRAPH.
This is a modest answer surely, when one considers
that the number of Mr. Edison's inventions reaches high
into the hundreds.
Many men would be content with the honor of having
invented the phonograph alone. Think of inventing a
machine that will make a record of sound and will
reproduce that sound any number of times afterwards! Let
one or more persons talk, sing, or whistle; let a band play,
or a medley of sounds be poured into a phonograph
arranged to receive it, and later each note received will be
repeated over and over as often as the record is adjusted
in the machine.
What Edison's phonograph does for sound, his
kinetoscope does for sight. Who has not seen the wonderful
"moving pictures" so full of life and action that it is hard
to believe they are pictures at all?
But perhaps the greatest gift Mr. Edison has given
the world so far is the incandescent light. The principal
of this light is simple, but to apply it to practical use was
an undertaking that for some time taxed even Mr. Edison's
great genius. The trouble was to find the right material
for the little coil which runs inside the air-tight glass bulb.
He tried a piece of cotton thread that had been carbonized.
He tried paper, manila hemp, and an endless variety of
 bamboo fibers. At last he adopted the platinum wire and
gained success. Compare the bright, clear glow of these
little bulbs with the smoky light of a whale-oil lamp and
the feeble gleam of a candle, and you will realize what a
marvelous invention is this of Thomas Edison's. It was
in 1879 that Mr. Edison showed the world a complete
system of lighting by electricity.
Will the wonderful inventor go on and do more? Here
is his answer: "The achievement of the past is merely a
point of departure, and you know that in our art,
'impossible' is an impossible word."
RICHARD M. HOE
PRINTING was performed slowly and laboriously in
colonial times. The press of Benjamin Franklin was a
simple wooden affair. The type, held in form by wooden
frames, was placed on a wooden bed and inked by hand.
Then a sheet of paper was spread over it and a flat wooden
plate, called a platen, was screwed down on the paper to
press it against the type and make "an impression."
The platen had to be screwed up again with a bar after
each impression. It was tedious work at best.
Soon after Franklin's day, however, improvements in
printing presses were made. By the time Richard M.
Hoe, of New York, was twenty-one and had become the
head of his father's printing-press factory, the cylinder
press had been invented.
There were two kinds of cylinder presses, single and
double cylinder machines. In the single cylinder press,
the flat bed containing the type moved back and forth
beneath a revolving cylinder about which was rolled the
sheet to be printed. A press of this sort could turn out
2,000 impressions an hour. In the double cylinder press,
 the type traveled back and forth beneath two cylinders,
turning out impressions twice as fast as the single cylinder
press. On both these presses, however, printing was done
only on one side of the sheet at a time.
The growing demand for news could not long be
supplied even by these machines. In 1847, Richard M.
Hoe made a press with the type form ingeniously fastened
to a large revolving central cylinder about which were
grouped from 4 to 10 cylinders carrying the paper to be
printed. This greatly increased the output of a single
press and did much to make cheap newspapers possible.
For some time, flat metal plates had been cast from
the type forms and used in printing. Later, an invention
was perfected whereby curved castings from the type
forms were make to fit the revolving cylinders. Hoe used
this invention in a new printing press, called the
web-perfecting machine. This press printed a continuous roll
on both sides, cut, folded, and delivered perfect papers
at a rate of from 15,000 to 60,000 copies an hour depending
on the size of the sheet.
To-day, still another press, made by Richard Hoe's son
Robert, does more. In one hour it can print, paste, fold,
and count 300,000 eight-page papers. The Hoe machine
of to-day is made of 50,000 pieces of metal. Compare
that with Franklin's simple wooden hand press. The
age is different, the demand is different, and the output
of the two presses differs as widely as either. Whereas,
Franklin printed one page at a time and carefully laid it
aside to dry while he re-inked his type, the Hoe printing
press of to-day prints a strip of paper three feet wide on
both sides at the rate of 120 miles an hour.
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