Threshing The Wheat From The Chaff

| September/October 1972

We had the pleasure of renewing 'Auld Acquaintenances' at The National Threshers at Wauseon, Ohio, this year. The one day we were there, Friday, it was very cold and windyevening raining some of the time. One fellow, 'busting' into the men's parlor, exclaimed in a shivering voice, 'Gee it's coldwhat a feller needs is some antifreeze.'

But the friendships were warm, even if the weather wasn't which Agnes had blown our way. Earlene seemed so surprised and happy to see us. And I was relieved to hand her the next Iron-Man story, which I always hustle to finish up, whenever going to Wauseon, so I can hand it personally to 'ye Editor'. (From then on my responsibility on a story ends and hers begins). And happy we were, too, to see Mrs. Pauline Schaefer and her husband, Elmer, the inventor and mechanical wizard.

I always like to look over the new books on Americana that are usually spread out on the Stemgas Publishing table at The National Threshers. 'Uncle' Elmer always made it a point to 'fetch along' all his historic Americana publicationsbooks with pictures of old-time automobiles, buggies and buck-board wagons, village fire engines, covered bridges, railroad locomotives and thresh engines, not to mention Pennsylvania Dutch Cook Books, cartoon albums, Gas Engine Guides and Steam Engine Guides, besides others depicting the historical and picturesque eras of the American past.

One book that caught my eye was a new publication entitled, 'THE THOMAS A. EDISON ALBUM'. Packed with so many photos of the world's greatest inventor, the volume so attracted me that I whispered to Earlene, 'If you'll trust me with this book, I'll look through it very carefully while here.' Which I did. And, in doing so, was amazed at the many historic pictures of Edison engaged in the multitudinous facets of his diversified career which I had never seen before in the several books I've read on him. There were pictures of his earliest inventions on improving the telegraph, the early development of the phonograph, which he invented, a view inside his 'Talking Doll Factory' where tiny cylinder phonograph mechanisms were being installed in doll babies, photos of his development of moving pictures and sound, the Edison Moving Picture Studios, the invention and evolution of the first Nickelodeon (an offshoot from the early phonograph and moving pictures), the invention and development of the electric light bulb and its eventual use into municipal power plants, just to list a few of the high-lights. But still there were more-pictures showing the huge stone-crushing plants to develop cheaper iron ore, the invention of cement and the pouring of entire houses from concrete in a single day, for the working class and those of low income. Further on in the volume are photos showing Edison again taking up the improvement of his most-loved 'toy', the phonograph, when he spent millions in research in developing the Diamond Disc Phonograph which boasted a natural tone that couldn't be distinguished from the real artist, the improved Edison Recording Studios where the records were made, Edison's work in providing safety inventions for the Navy during World War One, and his final great attempt to find a cheap source for rubber.

After reading about Thomas A. Edison, I have never ceased at marvelling how one man can be such a diversified genius as to invent the phonograph, the electric light bulb, the municipal electric light system, moving pictures with sound, the electric locomotive, cement and concrete-poured houses, nickelodeons and talking dolls, and still return to develop the phonograph into the finest natural-toned instrument of its era way ahead of Victor, Columbia and other competitive namesall of which transformed our nation from a primitive prairie to the bustling civilization we have today. This single man with but a grade school education made the crude frontier blossom into a garden of technology. Though he was deaf from boyhood, he gave us the purest music. And everything else that constitutes our modern sophisticated technology and media has stemmed from the ground work of his inventive genius. The microphone, recorded sound, the improved telephone, electric lights, power-tool electric motors, electric generators, concrete, modern pre-fab housing, the storage battery, the electric railway, moving picturesname almost anything we enjoy today and Thomas Edison invented it during the lifetime of one man. To me he is one of history's greatest heroes, greater than Napoleon because he made life better rather than taking lives, built rather than destroyed what other men made. Yet, today, the name of Thomas A. Edison is hardly ever mentioned in the modern classroom. Kids today barely know such a man existed. A travesty of our times!

As I said earlier in one of these columns, I never believed the claims of Edison that his phonograph was superior in tone to the Victors and Columbias of the late teens and twenties, until I purchased an old floor model. Then I became instantly convinced, after comparing his with the rest. It was then that I began believing, not doubting, the things that history books had been saying all along about the genius of this solitary man.