The Inventor in Boston
Thomas Alva Edison 1847-1931

Before he became a household name and the toast of America's busy new industrial society, Edison worked as a telegrapher by day and an inventor by night. In 1868 he found a job at Western Union in Boston. After work, Edison tinkered and read in a corner of another inventor's shop at 109 Court Street. Later, Thomas Watson would work at the same shop, and it was here, at this informal gathering place for inventors and scientists, that Alexander Bell met him and formed their famous partnership.

Edison's long inventing career began in Boston in 1869 with his first patented invention, an automatic vote-counter. The device was not welcomed by politicians who evidently were not interested in a speedy count of votes, and Edison learned to check the market before working on an idea he could not sell.

Some of his projects are famous for their failure. Working with the dynamite compound that Alfred Nobel had recently developed, Edison suddenly realized the power of the substance. Gingerly he lowered the substance, encased in a soda bottle, into a sewer drain at the corner of Washington and Court Streets opposite the Old State House.

Another Edison invention was a two-way use of a single telegraph wire, a device which failed during its public exhibit. Next he demonstrated a stock ticker which he sold to several investors. A company was formed, but Edison and his backers disagreed, and the patent rights were sold. A series of experimental failures followed, and with no prospects of monetary backing in Boston, Edison borrowed money and, leaving his equipment behind, departed for New York in 1869. He went on to patent 1,093 designs and inventions including the carbon telephone transmitter, the phonograph, the motion-picture projector and, of course, the lightbulb.

 Edison: Inventing the Century by Neil Baldwin, 2001

 Thomas Edison: Young Inventor by Sue Guthridge, 1986