This is general. Let us quote one or two piquant personal observations of a more specific nature as to the odd characters Edison drew around him in his experimenting. "Down at Menlo Park a man came in one day and wanted a job. He was a sailor. I hadn't any particular work to give him, but I had a number of small induction coils, and to give him something to do I told him to fix them up and sell them among his sailor friends. They were fixed up, and he went over to New York and sold them all. He was an extraordinary fellow. His name was Adams. One day I asked him how long it was since he had been to sea, and he replied two or three years. I asked him how he had made a living in the mean time, before he came to Menlo Park. He said he made a pretty good living by going around to different clinics and getting $10 at each clinic, because of having the worst case of heart-disease on record. I told him if that was the case he would have to be very careful around the laboratory. I had him there to help in experimenting, and the heart-disease did not seem to bother him at all.
"It appeared that he had once been a slaver; and altogether he was a tough character. Having no other man I could spare at that time, I sent him over with my carbon transmitter telephone to exhibit it in England. It was exhibited before the Post-Office authorities. Professor Hughes spent an afternoon in examining the apparatus, and in about a month came out with his microphone, which was absolutely nothing more nor less than my exact invention. But no mention was made of the fact that, just previously, he had seen the whole of my apparatus. Adams stayed over in Europe connected with the telephone for several years, and finally died of too much whiskey --but not of heart-disease. This shows how whiskey is the more dangerous of the two.
"Adams said that at one time he was aboard a coffee-ship in the harbor of Santos, Brazil. He fell down a hatchway and broke his arm. They took him up to the hospital--a Portuguese one--where he could not speak the language, and they did not understand English. They treated him for two weeks for yellow fever! He was certainly the most profane man we ever had around the laboratory. He stood high in his class."
And there were others of a different stripe. "We had a man with us at Menlo called Segredor. He was a queer kind of fellow. The men got in the habit of plaguing him; and, finally, one day he said to the assembled experimenters in the top room of the laboratory: `The next man that does it, I will kill him.' They paid no attention to this, and next day one of them made some sarcastic remark to him. Segredor made a start for his boarding-house, and when they saw him coming back up the hill with a gun, they knew there would be trouble, so they all made for the woods. One of the men went back and mollified him. He returned to his work; but he was not teased any more. At last, when I sent men out hunting for bamboo, I dispatched Segredor to Cuba. He arrived in Havana on Tuesday, and on the Friday following he was buried, having died of the black vomit. On the receipt of the news of his death, half a dozen of the men wanted his job, but my searcher in the Astor Library reported that the chances of finding the right kind of bamboo for lamps in Cuba were very small; so I did not send a substitute."
Another thumb-nail sketch made of one of his associates is this: "When experimenting with vacuum- pumps to exhaust the incandescent lamps, I required some very delicate and close manipulation of glass, and hired a German glass-blower who was said to be the most expert man of his kind in the United States. He was the only one who could make clinical thermometers. He was the most extraordinarily conceited man I have ever come across. His conceit was so enormous, life was made a burden to him by all the boys around the laboratory. He once said that he was educated in a university where all the students belonged to families of the aristocracy; and the highest class in the university all wore little red caps. He said HE wore one."
Of somewhat different caliber was "honest" John Kruesi, who first made his mark at Menlo Park, and of whom Edison says: "One of the workmen I had at Menlo Park was John Kruesi, who afterward became, from his experience, engineer of the lighting station, and subsequently engineer of the Edison General Electric Works at Schenectady. Kruesi was very exact in his expressions. At the time we were promoting and putting up electric-light stations in Pennsylvania, New York, and New England, there would be delegations of different people who proposed to pay for these stations. They would come to our office in New York, at `65,' to talk over the specifications, the cost, and other things. At first, Mr. Kruesi was brought in, but whenever a statement was made which he could not understand or did not believe could be substantiated, he would blurt right out among these prospects that he didn't believe it. Finally it disturbed these committees so much, and raised so many doubts in their minds, that one of my chief associates said: `Here, Kruesi, we don't want you to come to these meetings any longer. You are too painfully honest.' I said to him: `We always tell the truth. It may be deferred truth, but it is the truth.' He could not understand that."
Various reasons conspired to cause the departure from Menlo Park midway in the eighties. For Edison, in spite of the achievement with which its name will forever be connected, it had lost all its attractions and all its possibilities. It had been outgrown in many ways, and strange as the remark may seem, it was not until he had left it behind and had settled in Orange, New Jersey, that he can be said to have given definite shape to his life. He was only forty in 1887, and all that he had done up to that time, tremendous as much of it was, had worn a haphazard, Bohemian air, with all the inconsequential freedom and crudeness somehow attaching to pioneer life. The development of the new laboratory in West Orange, just at the foot of Llewellyn Park, on the Orange Mountains, not only marked the happy beginning of a period of perfect domestic and family life, but saw in the planning and equipment of a model laboratory plant the consummation of youthful dreams, and of the keen desire to enjoy resources adequate at any moment to whatever strain the fierce fervor of research might put upon them. Curiously enough, while hitherto Edison had sought to dissociate his experimenting from his manufacturing, here he determined to develop a large industry to which a thoroughly practical laboratory would be a central feature, and ever a source of suggestion and inspiration. Edison's standpoint to-day is that an evil to be dreaded in manufacture is that of over- standardization, and that as soon as an article is perfect that is the time to begin improving it. But he who would improve must experiment.
The Orange laboratory, as originally planned, consisted of a main building two hundred and fifty feet long and three stories in height, together with four other structures, each one hundred by twenty-five feet, and only one story in height. All these were substantially built of brick. The main building was divided into five chief divisions--the library, office, machine shops, experimental and chemical rooms, and stock-room. The use of the smaller buildings will be presently indicated.
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