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Thomas A. Edison
by [?]

And the boy has to read, and read for a decade, in order to find that books are not much after all.

When Edison saw the inside of that library and was told he could read any or all of the books, he said, “If you please, Mister, I’ll begin here.” And he tackled the first shelf, mentally deciding that he would go through the books ten feet at a time.

A little later he bought at an auction fifty volumes of the “North American Review,” and moving the books up to his home at Port Huron proceeded to read them.

The war was on–papers sold for ten cents each and business was good.

Edison was making money–and saving it. He only plunged on books.

Over at Mount Clemens, at the Springs, folks congregated, and there young Edison took weekly trips selling papers.

On one such visit he rescued the little son of the station-agent from in front of a moving train. In gratitude, the man took the boy to his house and told him he must make it his home while in Mount Clemens; and then after supper the youngster went down to the station; and what was more, the station-agent took him in behind the ticket-window, where the telegraph-instrument clicked off dots and dashes on a long strip of paper.

Edison looked on with open mouth.

“Would you like to become a telegraph-operator?” asked the agent.

“Sure!” was the reply.

Already the boy had read up on the subject in his library of the “North American Review,” and he really knew the history of the thing better than did the agent.

Edison was now a newsboy on the Grand Trunk, and he arranged his route so as to spend every other night at Mount Clemens.

In a few months he could handle the key about as well as the station-agent.

About this time the ice had carried out the telegraph-line between Port Huron and Sarnia. The telegraph people were in sore straits. Edison happened along and said to the local operator, “Come out here, Bill, on this switch-engine and we’ll fix things!” By short snorts of the whistle for dots and long ones for dashes, they soon caught the ear of the operator on the other side. He answered back, “What t’ell is the matter with you fellows?” And Edison and the other operator roared with laughter, so that the engineer thought their think-boxes needed re-babbitting.

And that scheme of telegraphy with a steam-whistle was Edison’s first invention.

* * * * *

Instead of going to college Edison started a newspaper–a kind of amateur affair, in which he himself wrote editorials, news-items and advertisements–this when he was seventeen years old.

The best way to become a skilled writer is to write; and if there is a better way to learn than by doing, the world has not yet discovered it.

Also, if there is a finer advantage for a youth who would be a financier than to have a shiftless father, it has not been recorded.

When nineteen, Edison had two thousand dollars in cash–more money than his father had ever seen at any one time.

The Grand Trunk folks found that their ex-trainboy could operate, and so they called on him to help them out, up and down the line. Then the Western Union wanted extra good men, and young Edison was given double pay to go to New Orleans, where there was a pitiful dearth of operators, the Southern operators being mostly dead, and Northern men not caring to live in the South.

So Edison traveled North and South and East and West, gathering gear. He had studied the science of telegraphy closely enough to see that it could be improved upon. One message at a time for one wire was absurd–why not two, or four, and why not send messages both ways at once!