Phonozoic Text Archive, Document 060

"Thomas A. Edison.  A Tribune Correspondent Visits Him at Menlo Park--Some of His Recent Extraordinary Discoveries and Inventions," Chicago Tribune, May 4, 1878.  Special Correspondence of The Tribune, by George H. Bliss.

MENLO PARK, N. J., May 1.-- It is not safe to assert anything as impossible in this day and generation.  It is a characteristic of Thomas A. Edison's mind to assert the affirmative on the face of any strongly negative proposition.  It is under such circumstances that many of his most brilliant conceptions have flashed upon him.   When he was on the witness stand in the famous Quadruplex suit, one of the eminent counsel endeavored to extort from him the admission that the complicated machinery in use was the only means by which quadruple transmission could be successfully accomplished.   To the surprise of every one, he declined to assent to the proposition.  When asked how else it could be done, he called for pencil and paper to illustrate the method.   The point was not pressed for further explanation, and counsel passed to the consideration of other features of the case.  He was afterwards confidentially called upon to exhibit diagrams, and showed an arrangement of batteries which would dispense with such machinery, but the increased cost to operate rendered the plan undesirable. On an occasion when Edison was explaining his telephone to a number of prominent gentlemen, Ben Butler suggested that he must provide means for recording telephonic communications.   He has already succeeded in recording and reproducing speech with his phonograph.   At present the telephone and phonograph are separated only by a step, and the gap will undoubtedly soon be closed.  Mr. Edison met with a brilliant reception in Washington recently.  President Hayes roused the ladies in the White House at 1 a.m. to receive him and listen to the phonograph.  While he was exhibiting the phonograph before the Committee on Patents, Congress was without a quorum for nearly an hour.   The National Academy of Science honored him in a marked manner as an original inventor and discoverer.  While in their presence, a gentleman jokingly suggested that he might talk a hole through a board.  "Certainly I can," he responded, and thereupon sketched the instrument.  Since his return to Menlo Park he has actually made a phono-motor, which goes when you talk to it and stops with your speech.  It can be blown, shaken, or turned upside down and it will not move, but starts instantly when spoken to.  This is not such a difficult problem as might be imagined, for the vibrations of a diaphragm such as is used in the phonograph are transformed by delicate mechanism into rotary motion.  Toys, such as dolls which bow their acknowledgments when spoken to, paper figures which commence work at the word of command, etc., will soon be upon the market.  Edison expects to make a clock which will keep itself wound up in a room where much conversation is carried on.  He hopes, by placing a machine in the midst of a ladies' sewing bee, to store up enough force in the shape of wasted energy to run a steamship across the Atlantic!  The machine is expected to be very popular with wives whose husbands are in the habit of keeping late hours, for by adding a few sharp points the delinquent lord of creation can be made to suffer moral degradation, mental anguish, and physical torture all by one expenditure of breath.  An ingenious application to a "canvasser's chair," with which every office should be supplied, will make book agents, advertising solicitors, and peddlers their own executioners.  Various other good and useful purposes for the machine will no doubt be devised.  It is expected to become a favorite method of suicide, for by its use a man can bore himself to death with his own talk, a result not hitherto accomplished.  What would have become of such a man in the days of the Salem witchcraft?  It is interesting to know what he is doing.  The elixir of public interest is causing ideas to fly from his brain like sparks from a hot iron under the blacksmith's hammer.  Just now he is wrestling with an autographic system of telegraphy by which a message written on an ordinary blank will be put into a machine and an exact copy be instantly produced at the receiving station.  He claims great speed and an enormous working margin for this process.  He is working on an extremely cheap and efficient electric motor especially designed to operate sewing-machines and light machinery.  Indeed, he anticipates soon being able to take out the ten-horse-power engine which runs his laboratory and substitute a more economical electric motor.  He is just completing an automatic feed rotary press for electric pen printing with which a boy can already turn out fifty impressions per minute, and will probably reach 100.   He is perfecting the phonograph, and has been able to reproduce words spoken fifteen feet from the instrument.  He has improved it so that words spoken into the instrument in the ordinary tone of voice, by any person, are perfectly recorded and can be reproduced.  The Western Union Telegraph Company have this week concluded a contract with him for his carbon telephone and subsequent improvements, under which royalties will accrue to the amount of $250,000.  In the sketch of Mr. Edison's life written for THE TRIBUNE the nationality of his principal assistants was erroneously given.  Mr. Charles Batchelor is an Englishman, James Adams a Scotchman, and John Kruesi is Swiss.