[LB021117B], Letter from Samuel Insull to Michael Miller Moore, October 31st, 1885


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[LB021117B], Letter from Samuel Insull to Michael Miller Moore, October 31st, 1885

Editor's Notes

You may remember that last Saturday afternoon, I suggested to you that you should ask Mr. Edison whether it would be advisable for you to do anything with what we call our "Grasshopper Telegraph." The ground patent in this matter is not an invention of Mr. Edison's, but one which we purchased from an associate of his. It is for the purpose of enabling the man in charge of a train to communicate whilst in motion with a stationary point or vice versa, that is, it places the conductor of a train and the train dispatcher in constant communication with one and other, whatever may be the position of the train on a section of railroad, or whatever speed it may be running at. Our experiments on a short railroad at Staten Island proved eminently successful and shows our system to be entirely practicable. Mr. Edison has added materially to the original invention and reduced it from what was a mere laboratory experiment to its present practical state. This progress has of necessity developed a number of points on which we are able to get very good patents. The first money for the experiments was supplied by Messrs. Seligman & Co., the bankers of this city, and about a month ago they visited Staten Island and saw the invention in practical operation. They took with them a Mr. Kinsley, who is one of the State Commissioners of Railroads for Massachusetts. Mr. K. gave it as his opinion, as a railroad expert, that the invention would prove of very great value in connection with the modus operandi usually adopted by railroads in the dispatch and the regulation of the running of their trains. He said that it would prove especially valuable in the far West, where there is a very heavy freight traffic, where a single block on a railroad often costs from 25 to 50,000 dollars, and he gave it as his opinion that the invention was the most perfect of any railroad invention that had been brought to his notice. The objection has been raised to the system that it would be necessary to {have} a trained telegraph operator on the train, but this objection is dispelled by the fact that it is possible to arrange a code of signals so that any railroad conductor of ordinary intelligence would be able to communicate with his superior officers at the main station, or these superior officers be enabled to communicate with their subordinates on a train, by the use of arbitrary systematic signals to read, which would require no knowledge of the telegraphic alphabet. Both the Seligmans and many{?} of our friends considered the invention of very great importance in this country, and as a proof of this I may mention that {------} friends of Mr. Edison, who were more or less associated with some of the other enterprises, have bought the stock of the company at $25 a share, placing the present value of the institution{?} in its undeveloped condition at $250,000, there being 10,000 shares of stock. Will you please make some inquiry among your English railroad friends and ask them whether it would be possible to market such an invention in England. In this country, where we have everything in our own hands, we propose to hold onto the invention and simply authorize railroads to use it on a given royalty per mile. With our experience in connection with electric lighting and other enterprises, our inclination is to sell our foreign interests in each different country for a given sum of money down. If you find amongst railroad men of your acquaintance that such an invention would be of value in connection with the working of the various English railroad systems, do you think that you could form a syndicate to purchase from us the English patent rights? I may mention that the cost of construction in order to operate the system is practically nil. We use the ordinary telegraph lines running by the side of a railroad, and our use of them for our induction telegraph does not at all interfere with their simultaneous use for the ordinary purposes of telegraphic business. In proof of this, I may mention that all our experiments have been conducted on a set of wire lines which run parallel with the Staten Island railroad and which lines are owned by the Baltimore & Ohio Tel. Co. The telegraph company's business has not been interfered with; no-one, in fact, but the local operators on the line of road where we are working ha{d} any knowledge of the fact that we are using the lines for the purpose of our experiments, and their business continues just the same as if our experiments were not being tried. The only expense for {the} apparatus in connection with the working of the induction telegraph is some small telegraph instruments placed on a train at a cost of, at the very outside, about $100 per train, and similar apparatus placed in such stations as might be necessary at the same cost. You might make the inquiry suggested above and write me in relation to this matter. ##PHONOPLEX. Our Canadian reports from Mr. Tate today are far more encouraging than we have heretofore received. It appears that, owing to his want of acquaintance with the invention necessarily arising from the fact that this is the first time it has been attempted to be put in operation, that he has neglected to carry out some of the instructions given him in case he should be met with any trouble, and his obtaining results has consequently been delayed. That is, if he had followed closely the instructions laid down by Mr. Edison before he left New York, he would have been able to report long ere this very good result as to the working of this invention. This is the conclusion Mr. Edison has arrived at today from reading Mr. Tate's recent letters. I am, therefore, under the cirucmstances, very sanguine of being able to send you at an early date reports of the successful working of the phonoplex system. I may mention that Mr. Edison has been trying in the laboratory today a device for receiving messages on the phonoplex side of a wire, which device will enable him to dispense with the chalk motograph. If it is decided to use this device, the apparatus will of necessity be very much simplified as of course the use of the motograph introduces a class of apparatus which it is desirable to be dispensed with if some other means of operating the system are found to be equally successful. The new receiving device has a sound more nearly resembling the ordinary Morse receivers by which telegraphic signals are ordinarily received. I am expecting in a few days to get Mr. Edison's description of the Phonoplex and it shall go forward to you immediately {when} I can get him to give it to you. Mr. Edison has written to Hanford{?} authorizing him to give you any information you may desire as to the patents in this matter. He has also written to Preece, stating that you will possibly call on him in the near future in relation to a telegraphic invention which might prove of great benefit to the Postal Telegraph Dept. and requesting of Mr. Preece the same consideration for you that he would extend to Mr. Edison himself.




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