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Thomas Edison And The Birth Of The Stock Ticker

Thomas Edison And The Birth Of The Stock Ticker

November 1, 2023 05:55

In the winter of 1869, a young Thomas Edison made a significant career move. He resigned from his job at the Western Union office in Boston, Massachusetts, and declared his intent to focus on bringing his inventions to life. Eighteen days later, Edison filed his second patent application, an invention he named the "Stockbroker Printing Instrument." This invention was a black-and-gold contraption, intricate like a clock, designed for the growing market of alphanumerical stock ticker, which provided real-time updates on stock and gold prices for subscribing brokers.

Edison soon realized that Boston was not the place to fulfill his ambitious dreams. His financial backer, E. Baker Welch, declined to support his "magnetograph" printer, which aimed to replace messy and unreliable batteries. Additionally, Western Union refused him permission to test his improved double transmitter on their busy long-distance wires. However, Edison sought the opportunity to use a line owned by the Atlantic & Pacific Telegraph Company in Rochester, New York.

With just $40 from Welch and mounting expenses, Edison arrived in Rochester on April 10, 1869. Gaining access to A&P's New York line was not easy, and when he finally did, the test failed due to poor insulation and the complexity of his apparatus. Edison, ever determined, declared success in The Telegrapher and traveled to New York City, where he believed success awaited him.

Edison's arrival in New York marked a turning point in his life. He sensed the city's potential for success, where people bought without the need for appeal. Edison's initial days in New York were tough; he roamed the streets at night with just enough money for a cup of coffee and apple dumplings at Smith & McNell's restaurant. He would fondly recall the taste of those dumplings, which kept him going.

On his third day in the city, Edison visited the Samuel Laws Gold & Stock Reporting Telegraph Company on Broadway. There, he encountered a crisis when the office's general transmitter jammed. Edison swiftly fixed the issue, impressing Dr. Laws, who hired him on the spot as an operator-mechanic, offering a monthly salary of $100. This marked the end of Edison's days of sleeping on shavings and surviving on modest food.

Edison's relentless work ethic and technical expertise led to his appointment as superintendent of the entire operating plant by August. He made significant improvements to a stock ticker designed by Laws and Edward Calahan, creating a new, simpler, and more efficient version. However, Laws sold his company to the competition, causing Edison to lose his position once again.

Nonetheless, Edison was already known in New York for his patenting of several inventions and his technical articles. He partnered with Franklin Pope, the former superintendent of the Laws company, to establish a "Bureau of Electrical and Telegraphic Engineering" in the city.

Edison's journey in New York took a dramatic turn during the infamous "Black Friday" on September 24. Jay Gould attempted to corner the gold market, leading to a hectic trading session that saw prices skyrocket and drop on the stock ticker. Edison, up on a telegraph booth, watched the chaos with a gold-leaf dolphin nearby. Surprisingly, Edison and his colleagues stayed calm because they hadn't invested any money in the stock market.

In the end, Edison's determination, smart skills, and quick thinking paved the way for his success in electrical and telegraphic engineering, with the stock ticker playing a crucial role in his journey. His work in the world of stock tickers was just the beginning of his remarkable career as one of history's most celebrated inventors and entrepreneurs.

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