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Edison sparks excitement during pit stop in Youngstown

125 years ago in 1899, transcribed as originally published in the Youngstown Vindicator:

Thomas Alva Edison, the wizard of the electrical world, was in the city for about five hours on Monday. The renowned inventor was on his way from Pittsburgh to Akron where he will attend the funeral of his father-in-law, Lewis Miller. Mr. Edison was seen by a Vindicator reporter at the Tod house at 11 o’clock, shortly after his arrival from Pittsburgh, and a most pleasant and instructive interview with the celebrated genius resulted.

The well-known man is very Democratic in his manners and the easiest person to interview imaginable. His stock of stories and reminiscences is as inexhaustible as his technical knowledge of electricity, machinery, ect. The reporter invited Mr. Edison to go through the plant of the Vindicator, which invitation he gladly accepted, spending a half hour in the building, and talking instructively and entertainingly on every piece of machinery, from the Mergenthaler linotypes to the big presses in the basement.

‘What do these machines cost you?’ asked Mr. Edison, looking at the type setting wonders. ‘About $3,000 a piece,’ replied Business Manager Maag. Mr. Edison then gave the machines a careful examination and took the breath away from those around him by saying ‘Well that machine can be built for about $400.’

‘Is the time far distant when horseless carriages will be in general use?’ he was then asked. ‘I believe that in ten years a horse will be a rare sight. The automobile carriage is here to stay. It is now practicable and will soon be cheap enough for general use. Gasoline will be the motive power, for it is far more economical and a larger supply of it can be carried.

Mr. Edison then inquired of the kind of industries located in Youngstown, and when told they were mostly iron, he said: ‘That is too bad. You need a diversity of manufacturing establishments. You should have silk mills, woolen mills, etc., something that the middle aged can work in. Your town ought to have a business men’s league to work this thing up. The next ten years will see a wonderful growth in industrial establishments. Your town should start right now. We are going to import more goods than ever. The question of lower wages abroad cuts no ice with us. What we want in the country is more machinery and higher wages. We don’t need lower wages.’

In speaking of Ohio, he said: ‘All the best men in New York belong to the Ohio Society. Ohio men now run New York. The Western Reserve has turned out some thoroughbreds. He then paid a fine tribute to President McKinley, saying: ‘The American people made no mistake in taking McKinley. He is a clean, thorough American.’

Mr. Edison’s learning is not limited to electricity alone. He has a knowledge of everything imaginable and can talk as well on the subject of bacteria as he can on electricity. This is the first visit of the wizard ever to Youngstown.

Compiled from the Youngstown Vindicator by Traci Manning, Mahoning Valley Historical Society curator of education.

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