Thomas Alva Edison: Inventor of Our Past
Part 2: Working Teen

By the time he was 12, Tom (as he wanted to be called by then) had a job selling newspapers as well as his own business selling fruits and vegetables. Two years later, he made a name for himself by distributing a newspaper, The Weekly Herald, to people riding on trains. This newspaper, in fact, was the first to be created and printed on a moving train. All of these enterprises earned him about $10 a day (which in those days was very good money for a kid that age), and Tom used that money to buy chemical supplies that he used in experiments in his basement laboratory.

As a teenager, Tom came to grips with a childhood condition that was made much worse by a bout with scarlet fever: He lost most of his hearing. This, coupled with his great drive to improve himself and urge to know as much as possible as quickly as possible, led him to try inventing things.

He got a job at Western Union in Boston and worked there sending out telegraphs. In his spare time (and, increasingly, on work time), Tom worked on his inventions. He earned his first patent in 1868, for what he called an Electrical Voice Recorder. Not long after he moved to Boston, he moved on to New York, where he got a job repairing machines at a large finance company just because he was the only one who knew how to fix a stock-ticker machine that had broken. He continued experimenting on inventions and eventually sold one for $40,000 (which at that time was a large amount of money). He also helped a friend of his perfect a new invention called the typewriter. A few years later, he invented the microphone and the transistor. Many of his inventions came out of his own brain, not from observing others. He was working on inventing a telephone when Alexander Graham Bell was granted the patent for the invention.

His first major invention was the phonograph, or record player. His favorite invention, this one came in 1877, after Edison had moved his laboratory to Menlo Park, N.J. A mere two years later, Edison invented the electric light bulb. The bulb that he turned on on October 21 burned for 40 hours.

Next page > Everlasting Success > Page 1, 2, 3

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Social Studies for Kids
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David White