“This is our last lecture on Edison. Following this will be given a series on Marconi, the inventor of the wireless.
“As I have told you, Mr. Thomas Alva Edison’s leap to fortune was sudden and spectacular, as have been most of his accomplishments since. Those who do really great things along the lines of physical improvement, or concerning the inception of large enterprises are apt to startle the public and to surprise thoughtful people almost as though some impossible thing had been achieved.
“From a mere salaried operator to forty thousand dollars in a lump sum for expert work was quite a jump.
“The forty thousand dollars, however, did not turn Mr. Edison’s head as has been the effect of sudden wealth on many a good-sized but smaller minded man.
“He used it as a fund to start a plant and hire expert men to experiment and work out the inventions which came to him so fast in his ceaseless work and study. He could get along with as little sleep as Napoleon is said to have required when a mighty battle was on. Edison could lie down on a settee or table and sleep just as the Little Corporal did even while cannon were booming all around him.
“There was something Napoleonic, also, about Edison’s intensity of application and his masterfulness in his gigantic undertakings. If genius is the ability to take great pains, Thomas A. Edison is the greatest genius in the world to-day—if not in all history.
“Sometimes, as Napoleon did with his chief generals before a decisive engagement, Edison would shut himself up with his confidential coworkers. Sometimes he and they would neither eat nor sleep till they had fought out a problem of greater importance to the world than even Napoleon’s crossing the Alps or the decisive battle of Austerlitz. But, though he began to work on a large scale, young Edison’s financial facilities were of the crudest and simplest.
“Almost all of his men were on piece-work, and he allowed them to make good salaries. He never cut them down, although their pay was very high as they became more and more expert.
“Instead of books he kept hooks—two of them. All the bills he owed he jabbed on one hook, and stuck mems of what was due him on the other. If he had no tickers ready to deliver when an account came due, he gave his note for the amount required.
“Then as one bill after another fell due, a bank messenger came with a notice of protest pinned to the note, demanding a dollar and a quarter extra for protest fees besides principal and interest. Whereupon he would go to New York and borrow more funds, or pay the note on the spot if he happened to have money enough on hand. He kept up this expensive way of doing business for two years, but his credit was perfectly good. Every dealer he patronized was glad to furnish him with what he wanted, and some expressed admiration for his new method of paying bills.