A Brief Biography of Thomas Alva Edison
A Telegrapher at Seventeen
Edison's skill as a sender and receiver earned him a job as a regular telegrapher on the
Grand Trunk line at Stratford Junction, Ontario, when only seventeen years of age. His creative imagination, however,
proved his downfall in this instance. He was fired when a supervisor happened across the secret of one of the young
inventor's creations - a device for automatically "reporting in" on the wire in Morse code every hour, when, in actuality,
Edison was napping to make up for sleep lost in pursuing his studies.
As a telegrapher, Edison traveled throughout the middle west, always studying and
experimenting to improve the crude telegraph apparatus of the era. Turning eastward, Edison went to Boston where
he went to work for Western Union as an operator. In his spare time, he created his first invention to be patented
- a machine for electrically recording and counting the "Ayes" and "Nays" cast by members of a legislative body.
While the invention earned him no money, because members of Congress could not be interested in any device to speed up
proceedings, it did teach him a commercial lesson. Then and there he decided never again to invent anything unless he
was sure it was wanted.
From Boston, Edison went to New York, where he landed, poor and in debt, in 1869. While
working as an employee of the Gold and Stock Telegraph Company and later as a partner with Franklin L. Pope in their own
electrical engineering company, Edison invented the Universal Stock Printer. For this device he received $40,000, the
first money an invention brought him.
To Edison, the mere possession of money meant nothing; its only value rested in its ability
to provide the tools and equipment necessary for further work and experiment. With the $40,000 he opened a factory in
Newark, New Jersey, in 1870, where he manufactured stock tickers and devoted his energies to invention.
By the time he was twenty-three, his established methods of hard work and sound thinking
had catapulted him to a point on the road to success rarely attained by one so young.