Thomas A. Edison: New York Inventor and Electrician
Edison's stay in Boston had been pleasant and profitable in many ways, but he felt more and more that New York, the great center of the American business world, was the city of opportunity.
He arrived there with no work and no money. For although he had been a hard worker while in Boston, he had spent so much on experiments and inventions that he was heavily in debt. He did not feel worried for the future however. He had the greatest confidence in himself and in electricity. He knew that electricity could be made to do marvelous things and that few men knew so well as he how to make it do them.
Failing to get employment in a telegraph office as he had hoped to do, he wandered about, visiting the various establishments maintained in connection with electrical enterprises, in the hope of finding some work.
One day as he approached the office of Laws' Gold Reporting Telegraph Company, he noticed an excited crowd of men and messenger boys around the entrance. Coming nearer, he learned that there was something wrong with the electrical instrument, which sent the market reports to the brokers' offices and that if it was not remedied at once, many businessmen would lose heavily.
He made his way quietly and quickly into the office where he found Mr. Laws almost distracted with anxiety. The apparatus refused to work, and he was so nervous and excited that he could not find what the trouble was. Edison went up, and introducing himself as an electrician, made a rapid but careful investigation.
He had been working on an invention somewhat similar and understood the instrument perfectly. He discovered the difficulty and corrected it while Mr. Laws looked on in admiration.
His sure, swift movements showed his familiarity with the complicated and delicate mechanism.
This performance won the respect of Mr. Laws as completely as the rapid telegraphing had secured the esteem of the Boston operators. Mr. Laws not only felt grateful, but he immediately recognized in Edison a man whose services were worth having. This incident led to Edison's obtaining regular employment under Mr. Laws at a salary of three hundred dollars a month.
Having accomplished his boyish ambition to be an expert telegraph operator, Edison, at the age of twenty-two gave up that business and started out in a broader field of work. He began at once to make improvements in the machine used by the company he served. Before long he invented a new and better instrument to take its place.
His next important step was to enter the service of the Gold and Stock Telegraph Company. Edison made numerous inventions in connection with the apparatus used by this company. The company considered them so valuable that it offered to buy them all.
When the committee representing the company asked Edison how much he would take for his inventions he replied that he did not know what they were worth. He asked what the company was willing to give him. He had decided to accept if offered five thousand dollars. Imagine his surprise when offered forty thousand dollars.
The young man was not long in deciding how to spend his unexpectedly acquired fortune. With it he equipped a larger and more elaborate shop than he had ever had. He now had room, implements, and assistants for working out the schemes, which had been simmering in his head, ever since he was a boy.
He accomplished so much that he began to be looked upon as a wonder. The Western Union Telegraph Company and the Gold and Stock Telegraph Company feared that rival companies would obtain the use of his patents. So they paid him a large salary to give them the option on all of his telegraphic inventions. This made it possible for Edison to devote his entire time to the work he loved: to making machines, which would do well, the work which existing machines did poorly.
Frances M. Perry, “The Story of Thomas A. Edison: Recognized As an Electrician.” In Four American Inventors: A Book for Young Americans, New York, Cincinnati, and Chicago: American Book Company, 1901, Pages 238-241.