The date of this interesting visit to Ansonia is fixed by an inscription made by Edison on a glass goblet which he used. The legend in diamond scratches runs: "Thomas A. Edison, September 8, 1878, made under the electric light." Other members of the party left similar memorials, which under the circumstances have come to be greatly prized. A number of experiments were witnessed in arc lighting, and Edison secured a small Wallace-Farmer dynamo for his own work, as well as a set of Wallace arc lamps for lighting the Menlo Park laboratory. Before leaving Ansonia, Edison remarked, significantly: "Wallace, I believe I can beat you making electric lights. I don't think you are working in the right direction." Another date which shows how promptly the work was resumed is October 14, 1878, when Edison filed an application for his first lighting patent: "Improvement in Electric Lights." In after years, discussing the work of Wallace, who was not only a great pioneer electrical manufacturer, but one of the founders of the wire-drawing and brass-working industry, Edison said: "Wallace was one of the earliest pioneers in electrical matters in this country. He has done a great deal of good work, for which others have received the credit; and the work which he did in the early days of electric lighting others have benefited by largely, and he has been crowded to one side and forgotten." Associated in all this work with Wallace at Ansonia was Prof. Moses G. Farmer, famous for the introduction of the fire-alarm system; as the discoverer of the self-exciting principle of the modern dynamo; as a pioneer experimenter in the electric-railway field; as a telegraph engineer, and as a lecturer on mines and explosives to naval classes at Newport. During 1858, Farmer, who, like Edison, was a ceaseless investigator, had made a series of studies upon the production of light by electricity, and had even invented an automatic regulator by which a number of platinum lamps in multiple arc could be kept at uniform voltage for any length of time. In July, 1859, he lit up one of the rooms of his house at Salem, Massachusetts, every evening with such lamps, using in them small pieces of platinum and iridium wire, which were made to incandesce by means of current from primary batteries. Farmer was not one of the party that memorable day in September, but his work was known through his intimate connection with Wallace, and there is no doubt that reference was made to it. Such work had not led very far, the "lamps" were hopelessly short- lived, and everything was obviously experimental; but it was all helpful and suggestive to one whose open mind refused no hint from any quarter.
At the commencement of his new attempts, Edison returned to his experiments with carbon as an incandescent burner for a lamp, and made a very large number of trials, all in vacuo. Not only were the ordinary strip paper carbons tried again, but tissue- paper coated with tar and lampblack was rolled into thin sticks, like knitting-needles, carbonized and raised to incandescence in vacuo. Edison also tried hard carbon, wood carbons, and almost every conceivable variety of paper carbon in like manner. With the best vacuum that he could then get by means of the ordinary air-pump, the carbons would last, at the most, only from ten to fifteen minutes in a state of incandescence. Such results were evidently not of commercial value.
Edison then turned his attention in other directions. In his earliest consideration of the problem of subdividing the electric current, he had decided that the only possible solution lay in the employment of a lamp whose incandescing body should have a high resistance combined with a small radiating surface, and be capable of being used in what is called "multiple arc," so that each unit, or lamp, could be turned on or off without interfering with any other unit or lamp. No other arrangement could possibly be considered as commercially practicable.
The full significance of the three last preceding sentences will not be obvious to laymen, as undoubtedly many of the readers of this book may be; and now being on the threshold of the series of Edison's experiments that led up to the basic invention, we interpolate a brief explanation, in order that the reader may comprehend the logical reasoning and work that in this case produced such far-reaching results.
If we consider a simple circuit in which a current is flowing, and include in the circuit a carbon horseshoe-like conductor which it is desired to bring to incandescence by the heat generated by the current passing through it, it is first evident that the resistance offered to the current by the wires themselves must be less than that offered by the burner, because, otherwise current would be wasted as heat in the conducting wires. At the very foundation of the electric- lighting art is the essentially commercial consideration that one cannot spend very much for conductors, and Edison determined that, in order to use wires of a practicable size, the voltage of the current (i.e., its pressure or the characteristic that overcomes resistance to its flow) should be one hundred and ten volts, which since its adoption has been the standard. To use a lower voltage or pressure, while making the solution of the lighting problem a simple one as we shall see, would make it necessary to increase the size of the conducting wires to a prohibitive extent. To increase the voltage or pressure materially, while permitting some saving in the cost of conductors, would enormously increase the difficulties of making a sufficiently high resistance conductor to secure light by incandescence. This apparently remote consideration --weight of copper used--was really the commercial key to the problem, just as the incandescent burner was the scientific key to that problem. Before Edison's invention incandescent lamps had been suggested as a possibility, but they were provided with carbon rods or strips of relatively low resistance, and to bring these to incandescence required a current of low pressure, because a current of high voltage would pass through them so readily as not to generate heat; and to carry a current of low pressure through wires without loss would require wires of enormous size. Having a current of relatively high pressure to contend with, it was necessary to provide a carbon burner which, as compared with what had previously been suggested, should have a very great resistance. Carbon as a material, determined after patient search, apparently offered the greatest hope, but even with this substance the necessary high resistance could be obtained only by making the burner of extremely small cross-section, thereby also reducing its radiating surface. Therefore, the crucial point was the production of a hair-like carbon filament, with a relatively great resistance and small radiating surface, capable of withstanding mechanical shock, and susceptible of being maintained at a temperature of over two thousand degrees for a thousand hours or more before breaking. And this filamentary conductor required to be supported in a vacuum chamber so perfectly formed and constructed that during all those hours, and subjected as it is to varying temperatures, not a particle of air should enter to disintegrate the filament. And not only so, but the lamp after its design must not be a mere laboratory possibility, but a practical commercial article capable of being manufactured at low cost and in large quantities. A statement of what had to be done in those days of actual as well as scientific electrical darkness is quite sufficient to explain Tyndall's attitude of mind in preferring that the problem should be in Edison's hands rather than in his own. To say that the solution of the problem lay merely in reducing the size of the carbon burner to a mere hair, is to state a half-truth only; but who, we ask, would have had the temerity even to suggest that such an attenuated body could be maintained at a white heat, without disintegration, for a thousand hours? The solution consisted not only in that, but in the enormous mass of patiently worked-out details--the manufacture of the filaments, their uniform carbonization, making the globes, producing a perfect vacuum, and countless other factors, the omission of any one of which would probably have resulted eventually in failure.
 As a practical illustration of these facts it was calculated by Professor Barker, of the University of Pennsylvania (after Edison had invented the incandescent lamp), that if it should cost $100,000 for copper conductors to supply current to Edison lamps in a given area, it would cost about $200,000,000 for copper conductors for lighting the same area by lamps of the earlier experimenters --such, for instance, as the lamp invented by Konn in 1875. This enormous difference would be accounted for by the fact that Edison's lamp was one having a high resistance and relatively small radiating surface, while Konn's lamp was one having a very low resistance and large radiating surface.
Continuing the digression one step farther in order to explain the term "multiple arc," it may be stated that there are two principal systems of distributing electric current, one termed "series," and the other "multiple arc." The two are illustrated, diagrammatically, side by side, the arrows indicating flow of current. The series system, it will be seen, presents one continuous path for the current. The current for the last lamp must pass through the first and all the intermediate lamps. Hence, if any one light goes out, the continuity of the path is broken, current cannot flow, and all the lamps are extinguished unless a loop or by-path is provided. It is quite obvious that such a system would be commercially impracticable where small units, similar to gas jets, were employed. On the other hand, in the multiple-arc system, current may be considered as flowing in two parallel conductors like the vertical sides of a ladder, the ends of which never come together. Each lamp is placed in a separate circuit across these two conductors, like a rung in the ladder, thus making a separate and independent path for the current in each case. Hence, if a lamp goes out, only that individual subdivision, or ladder step, is affected; just that one particular path for the current is interrupted, but none of the other lamps is interfered with. They remain lighted, each one independent of the other. The reader will quite readily understand, therefore, that a multiple-arc system is the only one practically commercial where electric light is to be used in small units like those of gas or oil.
Such was the nature of the problem that confronted Edison at the outset. There was nothing in the whole world that in any way approximated a solution, although the most brilliant minds in the electrical art had been assiduously working on the subject for a quarter of a century preceding. As already seen, he came early to the conclusion that the only solution lay in the use of a lamp of high resistance and small radiating surface, and, with characteristic fervor and energy, he attacked the problem from this standpoint, having absolute faith in a successful outcome. The mere fact that even with the successful production of the electric lamp the assault on the complete problem of commercial lighting would hardly be begun did not deter him in the slightest. To one of Edison's enthusiastic self-confidence the long vista of difficulties ahead--we say it in all sincerity-- must have been alluring.