[D8835ACJ], Letter from Samuel Insull to Thomas Alva Edison, April 20th, 1888


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[D8835ACJ], Letter from Samuel Insull to Thomas Alva Edison, April 20th, 1888

Editor's Notes

"I had a long talk with Gardner Sims the other night with a view to trying to find out from him how economically they worked in the manufacture of engines. You may remember that I told you some time ago that so far as I could judge their General Expense must be very much higher than ours. In talking over the direct labor on the engines, I find, on comparing prices with Sims, that we paid our men from 20% to 25% lower than the Armington & Sims Co. paid for exactly the same class of men. In addition to this, I find that all of Armington & Sims' work is done on day work. Sims told me that he had tried piece work and contract work and had found that it was an absolute failure. I suppose this will strike you as it did me as very funny. If you take into account the fact that the rate of pay is from 20% to 25% lower here than it is down East, that we should do all of our engine work by contract or by the piece, it is safe to assume that the actual labor in producing an engine of a given size would be 50% less in this shop than it is in the shop of the Armington & Sims Co. I think our experience of the last year clealry shows that we had much better let somebody else do the experimenting on engines and we go ahead and manufacture an engine which is in the market at the present time. It has occurred to me that a good plan would be for me to go to Providence to see Armington & Sims, simply lay before them the fact that we propose to go into the engine business, show them how hard pushed they will be if we enter into competition with them, and give them the opportunity to licensing us to manufacture their engines on a royalty. I know that they have no desire to do any such thing, but their better judgment should lead them to the conclusion that it would be far preferable to have us as a friend and ally, than an enemy. ### Of course there would be the disadvantage to us of paying them a royalty; on the other hand there would be the advantage that we would get all the benefit of their experience without paying out a lot of omey in the shapre of experimental work. We should get patterns and special tools far more quickly than if we had to design them, and the engine business would show a profit in our shop far quicker than if we go along as we are going now, waiting for a good engine to turn up, or waiting until you or somebody else has the time to experiment on it. ### If we cannot make a deal with Armington & Sims, I think that we should make a deal with the New York Safety people, or with the Straight Line Engine people. The objection to the Straight Line engine is that it is difficult to handle. It is made all in one piece, or practically so, and the shipment of the engine is very troublesome. Moreover, the Straight Line People have never made any large engines. ### As our business is running to-day, we do not require very much more work to give us a solidly profitable business all the year round. The introduction of engine building would give us just what we are in want of, and in view of the fact that the Edison Light Co. is doing little or no business, I think it behooves us to do something immediately, so as to add another Department of work to those which we already have here." Yours very truly, Saml Insull [Marginalia: "Over I think you scheme a good one. You remember I want afford us right to build at Royalty 15 cents per inch of piston, Sims wouldn't listen to this Wanted 1.50 per squre inch, and confine us to Edison trade--If you can get Sims at 50c which would be $98. on a 14 x 13 or NY Safety power at 25@30 cents and right to sell anywhere thru you might do it.--




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Thomas A. Edison Papers, School of Arts and Sciences, Rutgers University
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