[LB021424], Letter from Alfred Ord Tate to Thomas Alva Edison, March 15th, 1886


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[LB021424], Letter from Alfred Ord Tate to Thomas Alva Edison, March 15th, 1886

Editor's Notes

Mr. Insull has communicated to me your wishes relative to my writing you, and I hasten to comply. I believe you have already been informed that the two preliminary circuits on the B&O wires in the city have been started and are all we could wish them to be. The one running from #68{?} Broadway to {the} corner {of} Broadway and 31st St. is in constant use, being started at Eight every morning and worked up to six or seven o'clock--sometimes later. Operators have been instructed from the Steno Office to keep their batteries in order and this notice is complied with by fresh cells being put in {the} circuit every morning. Once, the circuit has been interrupted by the accidental breaking of a condenser wire at an intermediate point, but beyond this no trouble has been experienced with the line itself. ##At first, I had great difficulty with the battery which works the coil. It polarized very quickly and the zincs would sometimes have to be burned out of the {-------} cups, owing to crystalization. Ott tested these Fuller cells at the laboratory and found that when newly made, the internal resistance was about {2/3?} of an ohm, but as it began to weaken, its internal resistance went up to 2 ohms and the zinc and {-----} cup{?} are cemented by a formation of salt. ##At the same time, a Bunsen cell was tested, which had an internal resistance of 5/10 ohm when first prepared. It lasted longer than the Fuller and as its strength gradually weakened, its resistance remained almost constant. My experience with Fuller cells on this circuit here was such as to convince me that they were entirely out of place. Sometimes only one cell would crystalize, but that was sufficient to defeat the efforts of the others to do the work and the battery I frequently had to renew twice in one day. At last one morning, I went to the laboratory to ask Ott to change the cells for Bunsen (with which I worked in Canada with splendid results), when he presented me with the results of his test and confirmed my opinion. I have therefore changed all the cells in use by the subsitution of the Bunsen, and in addition to its being a much cheaper battery to maintain (its cost for maintenance is about 1/4 that of the Fuller), it gives far greater satisfaction to those who work our circuit. ##There were some complaints from Operators about the phone changing in sounds--that is, sometimes it would be very sharp with a metallic ring, while the next intstant there would be an audible change for a more muffled sound--and this annoyed them in receiving. I found this was caused by the swinging{underlined in original} motion of the little weight as it traversed the diaphragm, making complete revolutions on its axis, and also found that there were certain positions in which it could be placed which brought out sounds nearly twice as low as other positions. I have arranged for two little claws to be attached to the phone just above the diaphragm, which will swing around and hold the weight in any desired position, while not interfering with the vertical motion. This will obviate any difficulty in regard to change of sound, and at the same time enable the weight to be set across the diaphragm in such position as gives the best results. ##Mr. Insull handed me the other day a letter addressed to you by Mr. Bates in which the letter stated that he wanted a contract made between yourself and the Baltimore & Ohio Railway Company--which company contracted for itself and also for the B&O Telegraph Co. as owner of same--giving them the right to use the phonoplex on their Railway and commercial lines. You left with me a contract form which names the Baltimore & Ohio Telegraph Co.{underlined in original} the party of the first part. This copy, which in body was much fuller than the memorandum initialed by Mr. Bates, a copy of which you showed me, I took down to Mr. Bates and he said it was all right except that it should be made with the B&O Railway Co., as I have stated. I have explained the matter to Tomlinson, who is drafting a new document that I will send you as soon as completed. ##The original copy referred to provides, amongst other things, that when a circuit is discontinued and the (phone) instruments disconnected, the payment for royalty shall cease, it being your intention only to require royalties on lines or circuits actually in use. This copy also makes provision for a semi-annual statement to be sent you by the Company, giving a list of circuits in actual use, such statement to be mailed on the 1st day of January and June respectively. ##I have had Tomlinson insert a clause which provides for notice to be sent you immediately{underlined in original} {when} any circuit is disconnected and abandoned. I think this will enable us, when inspecting in the future, to keep better track of our circuits than if we received information only twice a year on a general report. For instance, if the general report, say for a period ending January 1st, shows a circuit abandoned in July, we can ask why we were not notified in July. Again, when a circuit is reported abandoned at any time, we can easily verify the report if we desire to do so. These notices will check the general report and keep us better posted. The B&O Railway Company want a circuit installed at once between Baltimore and Harper's Ferry--95 miles. I do not consider it necessary, considering the attitude of the B&O people towards yourself, to wait for the execution of the contract under preparation before commencing work on this circuit. Bossart and myself will be taxed to our utmost to keep pace with the demands upon our attention, inasmuch as the Postal Telegraph Company will be "ours" very shortly. Mr. Johnson has this matter in hand and Insull explained to you the cause of present delay. I therefore am anxious to make the B&O people self-reliant in the matter of installing circuits and for the purpose will instruct one of their employees while prosecuting{?} work between Baltimore and Harper's Ferry. I do not yet know any particulars in connection with this line--as to intermediate offices, etc.--but will write you again giving full details. ##From Canada, I get very satisfactory reports. Our{?} circuit there (which in actual length of wire is 125 miles long) is working all right and in constant use for business. ##At times, when Buffalo is working through to Quebec City by means of Repeater at Toronto and another at Montreal, the Eastern Operators "kick" about the phone and our man has to take it out. The Morse line works through this great distance badly anyway and the least thing throws it out of joint. Notwithstanding Mr. Dwight's reticence, he is very anxious to have phone circuits extended on his system. Insull is under the impression that you made a direct proposition to Mr. Wiman regarding the amount of royalties to be paid in Canada, and has written you for particulars, but up to the present they have not come to hand. From your conversations with me, I did not understand that you had committed yourself to any agreement, but had simply discussed the matter in a general way. As soon as you straighten us out on this point, I will see Mr. Wiman and arrange as to extension of our Canadian business. In this connection, I might say that I noticed in a note you sent Dyer, asking him to take out patent on phone repeater, that you specified Unites States only{underlined in original}. I mention this because at that time, I think you were unfavorably impressed regarding prospects in Canada, while later developments prove them to be very good. ##I shall go to Baltimore the latter end of this week or early next week and will write you all particulars as to that circuit and will also keep you thoroughly informed as to the progress of affairs in general.




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