Thomas Edison's First Appearane In Boston
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
THOMAS EDISON, after wanderings North and South, reached Boston, a young man twenty-one years of age. He had invented a device by which two currents could be used over a submarine wire, and had secured a position in the telegraph office at Boston. He came into the city, poor, tired, and shabby in his dress. He gives the following graphic description of his reception there : " I had been four days and nights on the road, and having had very little sleep, did not present a very fresh appearance, especially, as compared with the operators of the East, who were far more dressy than their brethren of the West. The manager asked me when I was ready to go to work. ` Now,' I replied. I was then told to return at 5:50 P. M., and punctually at that hour I entered the main operating rooms and was introduced to the night manager. My peculiar appearance caused much mirth, and, as I afterwards learned, the night operators consulted together how they might ` put up a job on the jay from the Woolly West.' I was given a pen, and assigned the New York No. i 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 to send the despatch, and ` salt' the new man. I sat down unsuspiciously at the table, and the New York man started slowly. I had perfected myself in a simple and rapid style of hand-writing, devoid of flourishes, and susceptible of being increased from forty-five to fifty-four words a minute by gradually reducing the size of the lettering. This was several words faster than any operator in the United States. Soon the New York operator increased his speed, to which I easily adapted my pace. This put my rival on his mettle, and he put in his best powers, which were, however, 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 a job on me, but kept my own counsel. and went on placidly with my work, even sharpening a pencil at intervals, by way of extra aggravation. The New York man then commenced to slur over his words, running them together, and striking the signals ; but I had been used to this kind of telegraphy in taking reports, and was not in the least discomfited. Finally, when I thought the fun had gone far enough, and having completed the special, I quietly opened the key and remarked, ` 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 for another man to finish."
Young Edison remained in Boston only one year, but in that time, by his experiments, he laid the foundation for the improvements in telegraphy which are employed now everywhere. He then went to New York City, where his success as an operator and inventor was so great and so rapid.
It is not the clothes that are worn, but the man within them which determines influence and standing. There is no need of making any apology for slovenliness in dress, and yet this young man was poverty personified. His mind was more taken up with everlasting principles than with fashionable clothing; he was so lost in his chemicals, that he was not much more careful with his apparel than he was with his corner of the baggage-car, or with the president's office in Indianapolis. The linen duster which he wore during his earlier years to protect his clothes from stains and dirt, and his shabby straw hat, were then counted the freak of a crank ; the sanie kind of articles worn now by the great inventor in his laboratory in Orange, are considered the attendants of genius ; and the young chemist or electrician who ever expects to amount to much, will be expected to provide himself with a long linen duster, and a straw hat very much the worse for the wear.
The operators in Boston who attempted to " set up a job on the jay from the Woolly West," were making fun of one whom they thought to be a tramp, because he was poverty-stricken in his appearance. Appearances deceived them. It is an unsafe thing to judge people by the clothing they wear, or by outward appearances; six times out of ten the judgment might be correct, the other four times it would be incorrect. Manhood and womanhood, and not ward-robes, should determine a person's standing in the Church. The operators were making fun of a man who was in every way superior to themselves. It is generally the case that those who are most ready to make fun of, criticise or censure their neighbors, are in every way inferior to the ones at whom they laugh, and whom they condemn.