Then came the trip from the Continent to England, of which this will certainly pass as a graphic picture: "When I crossed over to England I had heard a good deal about the terrors of the English Channel as regards seasickness. I had been over the ocean three times and did not know what seasickness was, so far as I was concerned myself. I was told that while a man might not get seasick on the ocean, if he met a good storm on the Channel it would do for him. When we arrived at Calais to cross over, everybody made for the restaurant. I did not care about eating, and did not go to the restaurant, but my family did. I walked out and tried to find the boat. Going along the dock I saw two small smokestacks sticking up, and looking down saw a little boat. `Where is the steamer that goes across the Channel?' `This is the boat.' There had been a storm in the North Sea that had carried away some of the boats on the German steamer, and it certainly looked awful tough outside. I said to the man: `Will that boat live in that sea?' `Oh yes,' he said, `but we've had a bad storm.' So I made up my mind that perhaps I would get sick this time. The managing director of the English railroad owning this line was Forbes, who heard I was coming over, and placed the private saloon at my disposal. The moment my family got in the room with the French lady's maid and the rest, they commenced to get sick, so I felt pretty sure I was in for it. We started out of the little inlet and got into the Channel, and that boat went in seventeen directions simultaneously. I waited awhile to see what was going to occur, and then went into the smoking-compartment. Nobody was there. By-and-by the fun began. Sounds of all kinds and varieties were heard in every direction. They were all sick. There must have been 100 people aboard. I didn't see a single exception except the waiters and myself. I asked one of the waiters concerning the boat itself, and was taken to see the engineer, and went down to look at the engines, and saw the captain. But I kept mostly in the smoking-room. I was smoking a big cigar, and when a man looked in I would give a big puff, and every time they saw that they would go away and begin again. The English Channel is a holy terror, all right, but it didn't affect me. I must be out of balance."
While in Paris, Edison had met Sir John Pender, the English "cable king," and had received an invitation from him to make a visit to his country residence: "Sir John Pender, the master of the cable system of the world at that time, I met in Paris. I think he must have lived among a lot of people who were very solemn, because I went out riding with him in the Bois de Boulogne and started in to tell him American stories. Although he was a Scotchman he laughed immoderately. He had the faculty of understanding and quickly seeing the point of the stories; and for three days after I could not get rid of him. Finally I made him a promise that I would go to his country house at Foot's Cray, near London. So I went there, and spent two or three days telling him stories.
"While at Foot's Cray, I met some of the backers of Ferranti, then putting up a gigantic alternating- current dynamo near London to send ten or fifteen thousand volts up into the main district of the city for electric lighting. I think Pender was interested. At any rate the people invited to dinner were very much interested, and they questioned me as to what I thought of the proposition. I said I hadn't any thought about it, and could not give any opinion until I saw it. So I was taken up to London to see the dynamo in course of construction and the methods employed; and they insisted I should give them some expression of my views. While I gave them my opinion, it was reluctantly; I did not want to do so. I thought that commercially the thing was too ambitious, that Ferranti's ideas were too big, just then; that he ought to have started a little smaller until he was sure. I understand that this installation was not commercially successful, as there were a great many troubles. But Ferranti had good ideas, and he was no small man."
Incidentally it may be noted here that during the same year (1889) the various manufacturing Edison lighting interests in America were brought together, under the leadership of Mr. Henry Villard, and consolidated in the Edison General Electric Company with a capital of no less than $12,000,000 on an eight- per-cent.-dividend basis. The numerous Edison central stations all over the country represented much more than that sum, and made a splendid outlet for the product of the factories. A few years later came the consolidation with the Thomson-Houston interests in the General Electric Company, which under the brilliant and vigorous management of President C. A. Coffin has become one of the greatest manufacturing institutions of the country, with an output of apparatus reaching toward $75,000,000 annually. The net result of both financial operations was, however, to detach Edison from the special field of invention to which he had given so many of his most fruitful years; and to close very definitely that chapter of his life, leaving him free to develop other ideas and interests as set forth in these volumes.
It might appear strange on the surface, but one of the reasons that most influenced Edison to regrets in connection with the "big trade" of 1889 was that it separated him from his old friend and ally, Bergmann, who, on selling out, saw a great future for himself in Germany, went there, and realized it. Edison has always had an amused admiration for Bergmann, and his "social side" is often made evident by his love of telling stories about those days of struggle. Some of the stories were told for this volume. "Bergmann came to work for me as a boy," says Edison. "He started in on stock-quotation printers. As he was a rapid workman and paid no attention to the clock, I took a fancy to him, and gave him piece-work. He contrived so many little tools to cheapen the work that he made lots of money. I even helped him get up tools until it occurred to me that this was too rapid a process of getting rid of my money, as I hadn't the heart to cut the price when it was originally fair. After a year or so, Bergmann got enough money to start a small shop in Wooster Street, New York, and it was at this shop that the first phonographs were made for sale. Then came the carbon telephone transmitter, a large number of which were made by Bergmann for the Western Union. Finally came the electric light. A dynamo was installed in Bergmann's shop to permit him to test the various small devices which he was then making for the system. He rented power from a Jew who owned the building. Power was supplied from a fifty-horse-power engine to other tenants on the several floors. Soon after the introduction of the big dynamo machine, the landlord appeared in the shop and insisted that Bergmann was using more power than he was paying for, and said that lately the belt on the engine was slipping and squealing. Bergmann maintained that he must be mistaken. The landlord kept going among his tenants and finally discovered the dynamo. `Oh! Mr. Bergmann, now I know where my power goes to,' pointing to the dynamo. Bergmann gave him a withering look of scorn, and said, `Come here and I will show you.' Throwing off the belt and disconnecting the wires, he spun the armature around by hand. `There,' said Bergmann, `you see it's not here that you must look for your loss.' This satisfied the landlord, and he started off to his other tenants. He did not know that that machine, when the wires were connected, could stop his engine.
"Soon after, the business had grown so large that E. H. Johnson and I went in as partners, and Bergmann rented an immense factory building at the corner of Avenue B and East Seventeenth Street, New York, six stories high and covering a quarter of a block. Here were made all the small things used on the electric-lighting system, such as sockets, chandeliers, switches, meters, etc. In addition, stock tickers, telephones, telephone switchboards, and typewriters were made the Hammond typewriters were perfected and made there. Over 1500 men were finally employed. This shop was very successful both scientifically and financially. Bergmann was a man of
great executive ability and carried economy of manufacture to the limit. Among all the men I have had associated with me, he had the commercial instinct most highly developed."
One need not wonder at Edison's reminiscent remark that, "In any trade any of my `boys' made with Bergmann he always got the best of them, no matter what it was. One time there was to be a convention of the managers of Edison illuminating companies at Chicago. There were a lot of representatives from the East, and a private car was hired. At Jersey City a poker game was started by one of the delegates. Bergmann was induced to enter the game. This was played right through to Chicago without any sleep, but the boys didn't mind that. I had gotten them immune to it. Bergmann had won all the money, and when the porter came in and said `Chicago,' Bergmann jumped up and said: `What! Chicago! I thought it was only Philadelphia!' "