Monday, April 20, 2015

"Mr. Edison and His Critics" (The Sun, 1880)

The following story comes from the New York Sun, 24 January 1880:
Intimating that He Laughs Best who Laughs Last–A Schedule of the Hours his Lamps have Burned–A Customer's Experience
"When Sir Humphrey Davy, the famous English chemist, was apprised of the project of forcing carbiretted hydrogen gas through a system of pipes for purposes of illumination, he laughed in derision. Nevertheless," continued Mr. Edison, "illumination by coal gas proved to be a great success. My project for the subdivision of the lectric light is treated in like manner by all those persons who are profoundly ignorant of the system which I am day by day perfecting. It is a singular fact that persons conversant with the subject, after inspecting my laboratory, are ready to allow that I am all right as far as I have gone. I ask no more."
Mr. Edison insists that the only question now is of the perfect formation of the glass globes of his lamps. This, he says, will soon be brought about. Notwithstanding the occasional unfavorable reports of Mr. Edison's experiments, as published, the company of capitalists who are backing him seem not to lose confudence in the inventor's ability to do all that he has promised.
The proprietor of one of the private dwellings in Menlo Park, that are illumined by the Edison lights, said last evening: "The lights seems almost perfect. They give us absolutely no trouble. When we retire we turn the little screws attached to each and the glow instantly ceases. Often during the day I turn the lights up. So far, nearly three weeks, they have not failed. The so-called scientific persons in New York and others who are continually condemning this plan for lighting as impracticable have a great surprise in store for them. They are sure to see their entire city lighted by these same jets."
A number of new lamps were set up yesterday in the Menlo Park laboratory. To the ordinary observer their intensity does not differ from that of those that have been burning for weeks. Examinations of the carbon contained in these latter, made by means of the photometer and galvanometer show their resistance to be unimpaired. That is to say, the amount of combustion that has taken place cannot be measured.
It is thought in Menlo Park that some of the light that were stolen during the first week of the public exhibition have fallen into the hands of Western electricians. Should similar lamps be manufactured and used, even without the improved dynamo machines, their introducers will be vigorously prosecuted by the managers of Mr. Edison's Electric Light Company.
A means of preventing the glass tubes containing the incandescent lights from cracking Mr. Edison says he has discovered, and will at once put in practice. At the point where the platinum wires pierce the tubes, a compound is applied having a fixed alkali for a base, and a conchoidal fracture. Several of these, he says, have been burning for eighty hours without even the sign of a crack.
The following are the number of hours that each of the lights now set up at Menlo Park had been glowing up to last evening. It was made by Mr. Edison himself from the book kept by one of his assistants:
597, 485, 465, 515, 508, 503, 503, 517, 487, 532, 190, 200, 200, 430, 390, 400, 367, 376, 370, 370, 373, 352, 332, 332, 332, 332, 417, 326, 336, 283, 286, 294, 294, 300, 300, 200, 283, 301, 367, 215, 381, 238, 194, 193, 194, 194, 136.
This includes not only the lights in the laboratory, but also those glowing publicly in the streets and in the private houses.
Mr. Edison exhibited last evening a series of elaborate drawings which comprise the entire plans for the station that he says he will shortly establish in his city. The machinery is to be placed in a building of 25x100 feet. In the cellar is to be five engines of 250-horse power each, making in all 1,250-horse power. The dynamo machines are to be in the second and third stories. Using the small horseshoes instead of those now in use, with the same resistance—100 ohms—Mr. Edison says he finds that he can obtain eleven and one-half instead of eight lights to the horse power. In this manner he believes he can generate 13,750 lights, each having a power of eighteen candles. He says, firther, that in the daytime, when his lights are not used, he can hire out the power of his engines at great advantage. By means of copper insulated wires he can transmit the power generated, and distributed it among the manufactories within a radius of half a mile, although never more than 50-horse power to any one building. An agent whom he has employed to inquire among the manufacterers in the vicinity of his proposed station has just, he says, reported even more favorably than he anticipated. Mr. Edison went on to say that although he could only deliver at the end of half a mile 65 per cent. of his 1,250-horse power, nevertheless, the profit would be enormous. It stands to reason, he argues, that you can run five 250-horse power engines cheaper than you can run forty-eight 25-horse power engines.
Mr. Edison added that he is now placing his light in a large steamship in course of construction by John Roach at Chester, Pennsylvania. The ship belongs to the Oregon Steam Navigation Company. Lights of three candle power are to be placed in each stateroom. The electricity will be generated by means of a small dynamo machine connected with the donkey engines.
A report from Baltimore says that a day or two ago the best bid for stock of the Edison Electric Company was $\$$500 a share, against reported sales three weeks ago at $\$$4,000.
A Paris despatch to the Telegram from M. Wilfred De Fonvielle, editor of L'Electricité, says that the Count de Moncel's attack on Edison in Le Temps attracted no attention whatever: the de Moncel is not a member of the Institute, as is supposed, and that in reality he is what is known as a membre libre, without pay and without vote, enjoying only secondary privileges. Moncel is said to be editor of the paper connected with Würdemann's [Richard Werdermann's?] lamp, which is specially intended for lighting large spaces, and which will be set aside by Mr. Edison's discoveries.
Mr. Jean Baptiste Dumas, the well-known scientist, said to a Paris correspondent of the Telegram: "I own that on first reading of Edison's discoveries, I was incredulous, but I now see no real impossibility in the thing. I do not doubt that the carbonized horseshoes may be held by the platinum clamps, for I have obtained in my own laboratory carbonized Bristol board of a certain cohesiveness. I could only render it incandescent, however, for the space of a few centimetres [the centimetre is about thirty-nine one-hundredths of an inch] by using the Bunsen pile of twenty elements. I am led to conclude that Edison must employ considerable force, and it is difficult for me to understand how he can long render incandescent a carbonized substance with such conductivity as the drawings represent."
M. Ninndet [?] Breguet, nephew to the great electrical manufacturer, said: "I found nothing very new or astonishing in the discovery of Mr. Edison, except the manner of fabricating the carbon horseshoes. I find the electrical magnetic  machines employed by him excessive, and that consequently there must be a loss of magnetic force in the generation of the electricity.["]
M. Fontaine, President of the Syndicate d'Electricité, of which all Paris electricians are members, and editor of the Revue Industrielle said: "I have read everything published on the subject. My conviction is that by the employment of the carbonized horseshoe, Mr. Edison has made an important advance in the application of the electric light. I believe that this result has been obtained by a certain dexterity of manipulation, of which Mr. Edison has preserved the secret, as, for instance, the judicious employment of the electric current during the process of carbonization."
"This is no Keely motor business out here, and people are at last waking up to what I'm doing," said Mr. Edison, when he spoke of the favorable criticisms of the French electricians. "Dumas, too, is an authority. He is mistaken in reference to the 'high electrical resistance in the incandescent substance,' however. It is exactly the quality we want, for it is the enormous resistance of the kind of carbon that I use that allows of the practical subdivision of the electric light."
The comment in brackets, translating centimetres into inches, was part of the original article. The other square brackets are mine.

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