“’Young Edison, who was a good boy and a favorite of mine, bought goods of me and had the run of the store. He saw the press, and I suppose he thought at once that he would publish a paper himself, for he could catch onto a new idea like lightning. He got me to show him how it worked, and finally bought it for a small sum.’
“From his printer friends on the Free Press he bought some old type. Watching the compositors at work, he learned to set type and make up the forms, so within two weeks after purchasing the press he brought out the first number of The Weekly Herald—the first paper ever written, set up, proof-read, printed, published and sold (besides all his other work) on a local train—and this by a boy of fourteen!
“Of course, it had to be a sort of local paper, giving train and station gossip with sage remarks and ‘preachments’ from the boy’s standpoint. It sold for three cents a copy, or eight cents a month to regular customers. Its biggest ‘sworn circulation’ was 700 copies, of which about 500 were bona fide subscriptions, and the rest ’news-stand sales.’
“The great English engineer, Robert Stephenson, grandson of the inventor and improver of the locomotive, is said to have ordered a thousand copies to be distributed on railways all over the world to show what an American newsboy could do.
“Even the London Times, known for generations as ‘The Thunderer,’ and long considered the greatest newspaper in both hemispheres, quoted from The Weekly Herald, as the only paper of its kind in the world. Young Edison’s news venture was a financial success, for it added $45.00 a month to his already large income.
“But Paul Pry came to grief because he tried to be funny in disclosing the secret motives of certain persons. People differ widely in their notions about fun. In a local paper, too, some one’s feelin’s are likely to get ‘lacerated!’ This was the case with a six-foot subscriber to the paper which was published then under Al Edison’s pen name of ‘Paul Pry.’ One day the juvenile editor happened to meet his huge and wrathy reader too near the St. Clair river. Whereupon the subscriber took the editor by his collar and waistband and heaved him, neck and crop, into the river. Edison swam to shore, wet, but otherwise undisturbed, discontinued the publication of Paul Pry, and bade good-by to journalism forever!
“While young Edison was wading through such mammoth works as Sears’s History of the World, Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy, and the Dictionary of Sciences (and had begun to wrestle desperately with Newton’s Principia!) he was showing a rare passion for chemistry. He ‘annexed’ the cellar for a laboratory. His mother said she counted, at one time, no less than two hundred bottles of chemicals, all shrewdly marked POISON, so that no one but himself would dare to touch them. Before long the lad took up so much room in his mother’s cellar with his ‘mess,’ as she called it, that she told him to take it out, ’bag and baggage.’