Phonozoic Text Archive, Document 062
"How Edison Amuses Himself," Cincinnati Saturday Night, reprinted Chicago Tribune, May 10, 1878.
Edison, the phonograph man, is wretched unless he invents half a dozen things every day. He does it just for amusement when regular business isn't pressing. The other day he went out for a little stroll and he thought out a plan for walking on one leg so as to rest the other, before he had gone a square.
He hailed a milk-wagon and told the driver of a little invention that had popped through his head just that moment for delivering milk without getting out of his wagon or even stopping his horses. A simple force-pump, with hose attached, worked by the foot, would do the business. Milk-men who dislike to halt for anything in their mad career, because it prevents them running over as many children as they might otherwise do, would appreciate this improvement. Edison isn't sure but that sausage and pigs' feet could be delivered in the same way.
He stepped into a hotel office, and, observing the humiliations which guests encountered in seeking to obtain information from the high-toned clerk, he sat down in the reading-room, and in five minutes had invented a hotel clerk to work by machinery, warranted to stand behind the counter any length of time desired, and answer all questions with promptness, correctness, and suavity--diamond pin on and hair parted in the middle if desired.
Lounging into the billiard-room, he was struck with the needless amount of cushions required to each table. Quick as lightning he thought of a better and more economical plan--cushion the balls! He immediately pulled out a postal card and wrote to Washington applying for a patent.
Imbibing a mint julip in the saloon adjoining, a brilliant idea dashed through his fertile brain, and before he left the place he had invented an instrument that is likely to revolutionize the entire saloon business. It is a machine so constructed that when a person who has just been partaking of some spiritous beverage breaths [sic] into it, the action of his breath upon a peculiarly prepared substance (also the invention of Mr. Edison) made to revolve slowly by means of a small crank, makes such an impression, that by again applying the lips and turning the crank the other way, the effects of the drink can be reproduced as many times as desired, no matter how great a length of time may have elapsed. A man provided with one of these instruments could prepare himself with cocktails for a long journey simply for the price of one drink. Edison christened it the "toddygraph." Of course the saloons will fight against it bitterly, as it must inevitably destroy the business of ninety-nine out of one hundred of them. A person can mix his drinks just to suit himself and then stock his toddygraph with a supply of different beverages sufficient to last him a lifetime. And when he has drank himself to death with it, his children can bring the instrument out occasionally and revive tender recollections of their parent by turning the crank and getting a whiff of the old man's breath.
A capital assistant the toddygraph would be to the temperance cause. Wives, whose husbands let on that they don't drink, could have one ready to test them with when they come home late at night. The genuineness of a Murphyite's reformation could also be determined by it. And how easy to expose the fraudulent temperance lecturer. It wouldn't answer for some of them to get within a quarter of a mile of one.
When Edison started to go out he had to pass the barber-shop of the hotel, and, as he did so, he sighed to think that, with all his genius and creative imagination, he could never hope to equal the knight of the razor as a talking-machine. This saddened him so that he went home and invented no more that day.