The other strong opposition to the incandescent light came from the gas industry. There also the most bitter feeling was shown. The gas manager did not like the arc light, but it interfered only with his street service, which was not his largest source of income by any means. What did arouse his ire and indignation was to find this new opponent, the little incandescent lamp, pushing boldly into the field of interior lighting, claiming it on a great variety of grounds of superiority, and calmly ignoring the question of price, because it was so much better. Newspaper records and the pages of the technical papers of the day show to what an extent prejudice and passion were stirred up and the astounding degree to which the opposition to the new light was carried.
Here again was given a most convincing demonstration of the truth that such an addition to the resources of mankind always carries with it unsuspected benefits even for its enemies. In two distinct directions the gas art was immediately helped by Edison's work. The competition was most salutary in the stimulus it gave to improvements in processes for making, distributing, and using gas, so that while vast economies have been effected at the gas works, the customer has had an infinitely better light for less money. In the second place, the coming of the incandescent light raised the standard of illumination in such a manner that more gas than ever was wanted in order to satisfy the popular demand for brightness and brilliancy both indoors and on the street. The result of the operation of these two forces acting upon it wholly from without, and from a rival it was desired to crush, has been to increase enormously the production and use of gas in the last twenty-five years. It is true that the income of the central stations is now over $300,000,000 a year, and that isolated-plant lighting represents also a large amount of diverted business; but as just shown, it would obviously be unfair to regard all this as a loss from the standpoint of gas. It is in great measure due to new sources of income developed by electricity for itself.
A retrospective survey shows that had the men in control of the American gas-lighting art, in 1880, been sufficiently far-sighted, and had they taken a broader view of the situation, they might easily have remained dominant in the whole field of artificial lighting by securing the ownership of the patents and devices of the new industry. Apparently not a single step of that kind was undertaken, nor probably was there a gas manager who would have agreed with Edison in the opinion written down by him at the time in little note-book No. 184, that gas properties were having conferred on them an enhanced earning capacity. It was doubtless fortunate and providential for the electric-lighting art that in its state of immature development it did not fall into the hands of men who were opposed to its growth, and would not have sought its technical perfection. It was allowed to carve out its own career, and thus escaped the fate that is supposed to have attended other great inventions--of being bought up merely for purposes of suppression. There is a vague popular notion that this happens to the public loss; but the truth is that no discovery of any real value is ever entirely lost. It may be retarded; but that is all. In the case of the gas companies and the incandescent light, many of them to whom it was in the early days as great an irritant as a red flag to a bull, emulated the performance of that animal and spent a great deal of money and energy in bellowing and throwing up dirt in the effort to destroy the hated enemy. This was not long nor universally the spirit shown; and to-day in hundreds of cities the electric and gas properties are united under the one management, which does not find it impossible to push in a friendly and progressive way the use of both illuminants. The most conspicuous example of this identity of interest is given in New York itself.
So much for the early opposition, of which there was plenty. But it may be questioned whether inertia is not equally to be dreaded with active ill-will. Nothing is more difficult in the world than to get a good many hundreds of thousands or millions of people to do something they have never done before. A very real difficulty in the introduction of his lamp and lighting system by Edison lay in the absolute ignorance of the public at large, not only as to its merits, but as to the very appearance of the light, Some few thousand people had gone out to Menlo Park, and had there seen the lamps in operation at the laboratory or on the hillsides, but they were an insignificant proportion of the inhabitants of the United States. Of course, a great many accounts were written and read, but while genuine interest was aroused it was necessarily apathetic. A newspaper description or a magazine article may be admirably complete in itself, with illustrations, but until some personal experience is had of the thing described it does not convey a perfect mental picture, nor can it always make the desire active and insistent. Generally, people wait to have the new thing brought to them; and hence, as in the case of the Edison light, an educational campaign of a practical nature is a fundamental condition of success.
Another serious difficulty confronting Edison and his associates was that nowhere in the world were there to be purchased any of the appliances necessary for the use of the lighting system. Edison had resolved from the very first that the initial central station embodying his various ideas should be installed in New York City, where he could superintend the installation personally, and then watch the operation. Plans to that end were now rapidly maturing; but there would be needed among many other things --every one of them new and novel--dynamos, switchboards, regulators, pressure and current indicators, fixtures in great variety, incandescent lamps, meters, sockets, small switches, underground conductors, junction-boxes, service-boxes, manhole- boxes, connectors, and even specially made wire. Now, not one of these miscellaneous things was in existence; not an outsider was sufficiently informed about such devices to make them on order, except perhaps the special wire. Edison therefore started first of all a lamp factory in one of the buildings at Menlo Park, equipped it with novel machinery and apparatus, and began to instruct men, boys, and girls, as they could be enlisted, in the absolutely new art, putting Mr. Upton in charge.
With regard to the conditions attendant upon the manufacture of the lamps, Edison says: "When we first started the electric light we had to have a factory for manufacturing lamps. As the Edison Light Company did not seem disposed to go into manufacturing, we started a small lamp factory at Menlo Park with what money I could raise from my other inventions and royalties, and some assistance. The lamps at that time were costing about $1.25 each to make, so I said to the company: `If you will give me a contract during the life of the patents, I will make all the lamps required by the company and deliver them for forty cents.' The company jumped at the chance of this offer, and a contract was drawn up. We then bought at a receiver's sale at Harrison, New Jersey, a very large brick factory building which had been used as an oil-cloth works. We got it at a great bargain, and only paid a small sum down, and the balance on mortgage. We moved the lamp works from Menlo Park to Harrison. The first year the lamps cost us about $1.10 each. We sold them for forty cents; but there were only about twenty or thirty thousand of them. The next year they cost us about seventy cents, and we sold them for forty. There were a good many, and we lost more money the second year than the first. The third year I succeeded in getting up machinery and in changing the processes, until it got down so that they cost somewhere around fifty cents. I still sold them for forty cents, and lost more money that year than any other, because the sales were increasing rapidly. The fourth year I got it down to thirty-seven cents, and I made all the money up in one year that I had lost previously. I finally got it down to twenty-two cents, and sold them for forty cents; and they were made by the million. Whereupon the Wall Street people thought it was a very lucrative business, so they concluded they would like to have it, and bought us out.
"One of the incidents which caused a very great cheapening was that, when we started, one of the important processes had to be done by experts. This was the sealing on of the part carrying the filament into the globe, which was rather a delicate operation in those days, and required several months of training before any one could seal in a fair number of parts in a day. When we got to the point where we employed eighty of these experts they formed a union; and knowing it was impossible to manufacture lamps without them, they became very insolent. One instance was that the son of one of these experts was employed in the office, and when he was told to do anything would not do it, or would give an insolent reply. He was discharged, whereupon the union notified us that unless the boy was taken back the whole body would go out. It got so bad that the manager came to me and said he could not stand it any longer; something had got to be done. They were not only more surly; they were diminishing the output, and it became impossible to manage the works. He got me enthused on the subject, so I started in to see if it were not possible to do that operation by machinery. After feeling around for some days I got a clew how to do it. I then put men on it I could trust, and made the preliminary machinery. That seemed to work pretty well. I then made another machine which did the work nicely. I then made a third machine, and would bring in yard men, ordinary laborers, etc., and when I could get these men to put the parts together as well as the trained experts, in an hour, I considered the machine complete. I then went secretly to work and made thirty of the machines. Up in the top loft of the factory we stored those machines, and at night we put up the benches and got everything all ready. Then we discharged the office-boy. Then the union went out. It has been out ever since.
"When we formed the works at Harrison we divided the interests into one hundred shares or parts at $100 par. One of the boys was hard up after a time, and sold two shares to Bob Cutting. Up to that time we had never paid anything; but we got around to the point where the board declared a dividend every Saturday night. We had never declared a dividend when Cutting bought his shares, and after getting his dividends for three weeks in succession, he called up on the telephone and wanted to know what kind of a concern this was that paid a weekly dividend. The works sold for $1,085,000."