The little fellow’s sunny face and pleasing manners made him a general favorite, and when circumstances forced him from the parent nest into the big bustling world at the age of twelve, he became the most popular train boy on the Grand Trunk Railroad in central Michigan, while his keen powers of observation and practical turn of mind made him the most successful. His ambition soared far beyond the selling of papers, song books, apples, and peanuts, and his business ability was such that he soon had three or four boys selling his wares on commission.
His interest in chemistry, however, had not abated, and his busy brain now urged him to try new fields. He exchanged some of his papers for retorts and other simple apparatus, bought a copy of Fiesenius’s “Qualitative Analysis,” and secured the use of an old baggage car as a laboratory. Here, surrounded by chemicals and experimenting apparatus, he spent some of the happiest hours of his life.
But even this was not a sufficient outlet for the energies of the budding inventor. Selling papers had naturally aroused his interest in printing and editing, and with Edison interest always manifested itself in action. In buying papers, he had, as usual, made use of his eyes, and, with the little knowledge of printing picked up in this way, he determined to start a printing press and edit a paper of his own.
He first purchased a quantity of old type from the Detroit Free Press. Then he put a printing press in the baggage car, which did duty as printing and editorial office as well as laboratory, and began his editorial labors. When the first copy of the Grand Trunk Herald was put on sale, it would be hard to find a happier boy than its owner was.
No matter that the youthful editor’s “Associated Press” consisted of baggage men and brakemen, or that the literary matter contributed to the Grand Trunk Herald was chiefly railway gossip, with some general information of interest to passengers, the little three-cent sheet became very popular. Even the great London Times deigned to notice it, as the only journal in the world printed on a railway train.
But, successful as he was in his editorial venture, Edison’s best love was given to chemistry and electricity, which latter subject he had begun to study with his usual ardor. And well it was for the world when the youth of sixteen gave up train and newspaper work, that no poverty, no difficulties, no ridicule, no “hard luck,” none of the trials and obstacles he had to encounter in after life, had power to chill or discourage the genius of the master inventor of the nineteenth century.