The first emissary chosen for this purpose was the late William H. Moore, of Rahway, New Jersey, who left New York in the summer of 1880, bound for China and Japan, these being the countries pre- eminently noted for the production of abundant species of bamboo. On arrival in the East he quickly left the cities behind and proceeded into the interior, extending his search far into the more remote country districts, collecting specimens on his way, and devoting much time to the study of the bamboo, and in roughly testing the relative value of its fibre in canes of one, two, three, four, and five year growths. Great bales of samples were sent to Edison, and after careful tests a certain variety and growth of Japanese bamboo was determined to be the most satisfactory material for filaments that had been found. Mr. Moore, who was continuing his searches in that country, was instructed to arrange for the cultivation and shipment of regular supplies of this particular species. Arrangements to this end were accordingly made with a Japanese farmer, who began to make immediate shipments, and who subsequently displayed so much ingenuity in fertilizing and cross- fertilizing that the homogeneity of the product was constantly improved. The use of this bamboo for Edison lamp filaments was continued for many years.
Although Mr. Moore did not meet with the exciting adventures of some subsequent explorers, he encountered numerous difficulties and novel experiences in his many months of travel through the hinterland of Japan and China. The attitude toward foreigners thirty years ago was not as friendly as it has since become, but Edison, as usual, had made a happy choice of messengers, as Mr. Moore's good nature and diplomacy attested. These qualities, together with his persistence and perseverance and faculty of intelligent discrimination in the matter of fibres, helped to make his mission successful, and gave to him the honor of being the one who found the bamboo which was adopted for use as filaments in commercial Edison lamps.
Although Edison had satisfied himself that bamboo furnished the most desirable material thus far discovered for incandescent-lamp filaments, he felt that in some part of the world there might be found a natural product of the same general character that would furnish a still more perfect and homogeneous material. In his study of this subject, and during the prosecution of vigorous and searching inquiries in various directions, he learned that Mr. John C. Brauner, then residing in Brooklyn, New York, had an expert knowledge of indigenous plants of the particular kind desired. During the course of a geological survey which he had made for the Brazilian Government, Mr. Brauner had examined closely the various species of palms which grow plentifully in that country, and of them there was one whose fibres he thought would be just what Edison wanted.
Accordingly, Mr. Brauner was sent for and dispatched to Brazil in December, 1880, to search for and send samples of this and such other palms, fibres, grasses, and canes as, in his judgment, would be suitable for the experiments then being carried on at Menlo Park. Landing at Para, he crossed over into the Amazonian province, and thence proceeded through the heart of the country, making his way by canoe on the rivers and their tributaries, and by foot into the forests and marshes of a vast and almost untrodden wilderness. In this manner Mr. Brauner traversed about two thousand miles of the comparatively unknown interior of Southern Brazil, and procured a large variety of fibrous specimens, which he shipped to Edison a few months later. When these fibres arrived in the United States they were carefully tested and a few of them found suitable but not superior to the Japanese bamboo, which was then being exclusively used in the manufacture of commercial Edison lamps.
Later on Edison sent out an expedition to explore the wilds of Cuba and Jamaica. A two months' investigation of the latter island revealed a variety of bamboo growths, of which a great number of specimens were obtained and shipped to Menlo Park; but on careful test they were found inferior to the Jap- anese bamboo, and hence rejected. The exploration of the glades and swamps of Florida by three men extended over a period of five months in a minute search for fibrous woods of the palmetto species. A great variety was found, and over five hundred boxes of specimens were shipped to the laboratory from time to time, but none of them tested out with entirely satisfactory results.
The use of Japanese bamboo for carbon filaments was therefore continued in the manufacture of lamps, although an incessant search was maintained for a still more perfect material. The spirit of progress, so pervasive in Edison's character, led him, however, to renew his investigations further afield by sending out two other men to examine the bamboo and similar growths of those parts of South America not covered by Mr. Brauner. These two men were Frank McGowan and C. F. Hanington, both of whom had been for nearly seven years in the employ of the Edison Electric Light Company in New York. The former was a stocky, rugged Irishman, possessing the native shrewdness and buoyancy of his race, coupled with undaunted courage and determination; and the latter was a veteran of the Civil War, with some knowledge of forest and field, acquired as a sportsman. They left New York in September, 1887, arriving in due time at Para, proceeding thence twenty- three hundred miles up the Amazon River to Iquitos. Nothing of an eventful nature occurred during this trip, but on arrival at Iquitos the two men separated; Mr. McGowan to explore on foot and by canoe in Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia, while Mr. Hanington returned by the Amazon River to Para. Thence Hanington went by steamer to Montevideo, and by similar conveyance up the River de la Plata and through Uruguay, Argentine, and Paraguay to the southernmost part of Brazil, collecting a large number of specimens of palms and grasses.
The adventures of Mr. McGowan, after leaving Iquitos, would fill a book if related in detail. The object of the present narrative and the space at the authors' disposal, however, do not permit of more than a brief mention of his experiences. His first objective point was Quito, about five hundred miles away, which he proposed to reach on foot and by means of canoeing on the Napo River through a wild and comparatively unknown country teeming with tribes of hostile natives. The dangers of the expedition were pictured to him in glowing colors, but spurning prophecies of dire disaster, he engaged some native Indians and a canoe and started on his explorations, reaching Quito in eighty-seven days, after a thorough search of the country on both sides of the Napo River. From Quito he went to Guayaquil, from there by steamer to Buenaventura, and thence by rail, twelve miles, to Cordova. From this point he set out on foot to explore the Cauca Valley and the Cordilleras.
Mr. McGowan found in these regions a great variety of bamboo, small and large, some species growing seventy-five to one hundred feet in height, and from six to nine inches in diameter. He collected a large number of specimens, which were subsequently sent to Orange for Edison's examination. After about fifteen months of exploration attended by much hardship and privation, deserted sometimes by treacherous guides, twice laid low by fevers, occasionally in peril from Indian attacks, wild animals and poisonous serpents, tormented by insect pests, endangered by floods, one hundred and nineteen days without meat, ninety-eight days without taking off his clothes, Mr. McGowan returned to America, broken in health but having faithfully fulfilled the commission intrusted to him. The Evening Sun, New York, obtained an interview with him at that time, and in its issue of May 2, 1889, gave more than a page to a brief story of his interesting adventures, and then commented editorially upon them, as follows: