The electric railway next claims our consideration, but we are immediately confronted by a difficulty which seems insurmountable when we attempt to formulate any definite estimate of the value and influence of Edison's pioneer work and inventions. There is one incontrovertible fact--namely, that he was the first man to devise, construct, and operate from a central station a practicable, life-size electric railroad, which was capable of transporting and did transport passengers and freight at variable speeds over varying grades, and under complete control of the operator. These are the essential elements in all electric railroading of the present day; but while Edison's original broad ideas are embodied in present practice, the perfection of the modern electric railway is greatly due to the labors and inventions of a large number of other well-known inventors. There was no reason why Edison could not have continued the commercial development of the electric railway after he had helped to show its practicability in 1880, 1881, and 1882, just as he had completed his lighting system, had it not been that his financial allies of the period lacked faith in the possibilities of electric railroads, and therefore declined to furnish the money necessary for the purpose of carrying on the work.
With these facts in mind, we shall ask the reader to assign to Edison a due proportion of credit for his pioneer and basic work in relation to the prodigious development of electric railroading that has since taken place. The statistics of 1908 for American street and elevated railways show that within twenty- five years the electric-railway industry has grown to embrace 38,812 miles of track on streets and for elevated railways, operated under the ownership of 1238 separate companies, whose total capitalization amounted to the enormous sum of $4,123,834,598. In the equipments owned by such companies there are included 68,636 electric cars and 17,568 trailers and others, making a total of 86,204 of such vehicles. These cars and equipments earned over $425,000,000 in 1907, in giving the public transportation, at a cost, including transfers, of a little over three cents per passenger, for whom a fifteen-mile ride would be possible. It is the cheapest transportation in the world.
Some mention should also be made of the great electrical works of the country, in which the dynamos, motors, and other varied paraphernalia are made for electric lighting, electric railway, and other purposes. The largest of these works is undoubtedly that of the General Electric Company at Schenectady, New York, a continuation and enormous enlargement of the shops which Edison established there in 1886. This plant at the present time embraces over 275 acres, of which sixty acres are covered by fifty large and over one hundred small buildings; besides which the company also owns other large plants elsewhere, representing a total investment approximating the sum of $34,850,000 up to 1908. The productions of the General Electric Company alone average annual sales of nearly $75,000,000, but they do not comprise the total of the country's manufactures in these lines.
Turning our attention now to the telephone, we again meet a condition that calls for thoughtful consideration before we can properly appreciate how much the growth of this industry owes to Edison's inventive genius. In another place there has already been told the story of the telephone, from which we have seen that to Alexander Graham Bell is due the broad idea of transmission of speech by means of an electrical circuit; also that he invented appropriate instruments and devices through which he accomplished this result, although not to that extent which gave promise of any great commercial practicability for the telephone as it then existed. While the art was in this inefficient condition, Edison went to work on the subject, and in due time, as we have already learned, invented and brought out the carbon transmitter, which is universally acknowledged to have been the needed device that gave to the telephone the element of commercial practicability, and has since led to its phenomenally rapid adoption and world-wide use. It matters not that others were working in the same direction, Edison was legally adjudicated to have been the first to succeed in point of time, and his inventions were put into actual use, and may be found in principle in every one of the 7,000,000 telephones which are estimated to be employed in the country at the present day. Basing the statements upon facts shown by the Census reports of 1902 and 1907, and adding thereto the growth of the industry since that time, we find on a conservative estimate that at this writing the investment has been not less than $800,000,000 in now existing telephone systems, while no fewer than 10,500,000,000 talks went over the lines during the year 1908. These figures relate only to telephone systems, and do not include any details regarding the great manufacturing establishments engaged in the construction of telephone apparatus, of which there is a production amounting to at least $15,000,000 per annum.
Leaving the telephone, let us now turn our attention to the telegraph, and endeavor to show as best we can some idea of the measure to which it has been affected by Edison's inventions. Although, as we have seen in a previous part of this book, his earliest fame arose from his great practical work in telegraphic inventions and improvements, there is no way in which any definite computation can be made of the value of his contributions in the art except, perhaps, in the case of his quadruplex, through which alone it is estimated that there has been saved from $15,000,000 to $20,000,000 in the cost of line construction in this country. If this were the only thing that he had ever accomplished, it would entitle him to consideration as an inventor of note. The quadruplex, however, has other material advantages, but how far they and the natural growth of the business have contributed to the investment and earnings of the telegraph companies, is beyond practicable computation.
It would, perhaps, be interesting to speculate upon what might have been the growth of the telegraph and the resultant benefit to the community had Edison's automatic telegraph inventions been allowed to take their legitimate place in the art, but we shall not allow ourselves to indulge in flights of fancy, as the value of this chapter rests not upon conjecture, but only upon actual fact. Nor shall we attempt to offer any statistics regarding Edison's numerous inventions relating to telegraphs and kindred devices, such as stock tickers, relays, magnets, rheotomes, repeaters, printing telegraphs, messenger calls, etc., on which he was so busily occupied as an inventor and manufacturer during the ten years that began with January, 1869. The principles of many of these devices are still used in the arts, but have become so incorporated in other devices as to be inseparable, and cannot now be dealt with separately. To show what they mean, however, it might be noted that New York City alone has 3000 stock "tickers," consuming 50,000 miles of record tape every year.
Turning now to other important arts and industries which have been created by Edison's inventions, and in which he is at this time taking an active personal interest, let us visit Orange, New Jersey. When his present laboratory was nearing completion in 1887, he wrote to Mr. J. Hood Wright, a partner in the firm of Drexel, Morgan & Co.: "My ambition is to build up a great industrial works in the Orange Valley, starting in a small way and gradually working up."
In this plant, which represents an investment approximating the sum of $4,000,000, are grouped a number of industrial enterprises of which Edison is either the sole or controlling owner and the guiding spirit. These enterprises are the National Phonograph Company, the Edison Business Phonograph Company, the Edison Phonograph Works, the Edison Manufacturing Company, the Edison Storage Battery Company, and the Bates Manufacturing Company. The importance of these industries will be apparent when it is stated that at this plant the maximum pay-roll shows the employment of over 4200 persons, with annual earnings in salaries and wages of more than $2,750,000.
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