[D8907ADD], Letter from Kansas City News, N Eisenlord to Thomas Alva Edison, December 11th, 1889


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[D8907ADD], Letter from Kansas City News, N Eisenlord to Thomas Alva Edison, December 11th, 1889

Editor's Notes

You and the writer of this used to meet every afternoon at The Detroit Free Press office away back in ’62 or 63—you after papers for your Grand Trunk train and I with my cart after papers for W.E. Tunis, the Detroit new dealer. I have been greatly interested in you ever since, feeling that to a certain extent we were and are old friends. McKenzie, the telegraph operator—of course you know him—told me several years ago the story of how you came to be an operator. The writer of the enclosed article denies the “heroic story”, as you will see, and yet that is the story McKenzie told me. Who is right? I will be exceedingly glad to hear from you and see you should you at any time be in our city. Respectfully yours, N. Eisenlord Letterhead of Kansas City Evening News, N. Eisenlord, publisher. ENCLOSURE (news clipping) Edison at Mt. Clemens There the Wizard First Learned to Work the Key. Mt. Clemens, Dec. 7. – A sketch of the life of Thomas A. Edison appeared in Scribner’s Monthly sometime since which contained several statements known to be correct by your correspondent. In the article alluded to it was said that Mr. Edison received his first instruction on a telegraph instrument at Mt. Pleasant, Mich, and that it was given to him by the station agent there on account of Edison having saved the life of one of the agent’s children by pulling it off the railroad track in front of a moving locomotive. Mr. Edison and the writer commenced to learn the art of telegraphy at the same time, and under the same instructor. That instructor was J. U. McKenzie, who, at the time I speak of, was the station agent here. The business done at this station then compared to what it is now, was decidedly meager, and Mr. McKenzie had plenty of spare time in which to amuse himself a spare times in which to amuse himself as he saw fit. He was fond of music, and as the writer could strum a guitar a little, McKenzie made him this proposition: “If you’ll learn me how to handle that gourd I’ll learn you how to telegraph.” The offer was accepted, and McKenzie proceeded to put up an instrument in the tank house, which was then located about 100 feet from the station, and running a wire from there to his office operations at once commenced. At the time I speak of Edison was selling papers on the G. T train, running between Detroit and Port Huron. One day as the writer was trying to distinguish the difference between a dot and a dash as they clicked forth from the instrument, Edison stepped in, and, after taking a deliberate observation of things, remarked that be thought he could learn the business himself and would like an opportunity to give it a trial. He was afforded a chance and in a short time could manipulate the ticker in great shape. Mississippi was the first lengthy word he learned to rattle off, and when he commenced repeating the word, under a full head of steam, it sounded like pouring shot on a plate of sheet-iron. The heroic story that it was gratitude on the part of the station agent that prompted him to give Edison lessons for saving the life of his child, in decidedly moonshiney.




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