“He once stated that his great desire to make money was largely because he needed the cash to buy materials for experiments. Therefore, in this emergency, he took keen pleasure in buying all the chemicals, appliances and apparatus he wished, and installing them in his real ’bag and baggage’ car. As the railroad authorities had allowed him to set up a printing press, in addition to his miscellaneous stock in trade, why should he not have his laboratory there also? So his stock of batteries, chemicals and other ‘calamity’ grew apace.
“One day, after several weeks of happiness in his moving laboratory, he was ‘dead to the world’ in an experiment. Suddenly the car gave a lurch and jolted the bottle of phosphorus off its shelf. It broke, flamed up, set fire to the floor and endangered the whole train. While the boy was frantically fighting the fire, the Scotch conductor, red-headed and wrathy, rushed in and helped him to put it out.
“By this time they were stopping at Mt. Clemens, where the indignant Scotchman boxed the boy’s ears and put him out also. Then the man threw the lad’s bottles, apparatus and batteries after him, as if they were unloading a carload of freight there.
“These blows on his ears were the cause of the inventor’s life-long deafness. But there never was a gamer sport than Thomas A. Edison. Once, long after this, he saw the labor of years and the outlay of at least two million dollars at the seashore washed away in a single night by a sudden storm. He only laughed and said that was ’spilt milk, not worth crying over.’ Disappointments of that sort were ‘the fortunes of war’ or ‘all for the best’ to him. The injury so unjustly inflicted on him by that irate conductor was not a defect to him. Many years afterwards he said:
“’This deafness has been of great advantage to me in various ways. When in a telegraph office I could hear only the instrument directly on the table at which I sat, and, unlike the other operators, I was not bothered by the other instruments.
“’Again, in experimenting on the telephone, I had to improve the transmitter so that I could hear it. This made the telephone commercial, as the magneto telephone receiver of Bell was too weak to be used as a transmitter commercially.’
“It was the same with the phonograph. The great defect of that instrument was the rendering of the overtones in music and the hissing consonants in speech. Edison worked over one year, twenty hours a day, Sundays and all, to get the word ‘specie’ perfectly recorded and reproduced on the phonograph. When this was done, he knew that everything else could be done,—which was a fact.
“‘Again,’ Edison resumed, ’my nerves have been preserved intact. Broadway is as quiet to me as a country village is to a person with normal hearing.’”
The talk suddenly ceased. Then another voice announced from out of the horn: “The second installment of the lectures on Edison will be given at 3 P.M. next Friday. We will now hear a concert by Wayple’s band.”