Thomas Alva Edison was born on February 11, 1847 in Milan, Ohio. He was named Thomas after his father’s brother and Alva after his father’s friend Captain Alva Bradley. His family called him Al.
Al was a handful. He was very curious about a group of large grain elevators; he once fell in and disappeared under the grain. He was pulled out before he suffocated. Al also fell in the Milan creek many times. One time Al was found trying to hatch a handful of chicken and goose eggs on a nest of his own that he made.
Al was really curious about a nearby work shop owned by a man named Sam Winchester. The town’s people called Sam the “Mad Miller of Milan”. Winchester was rejecting his flour milling business to make a passenger balloon which his neighbors thought was unbelievable. He had already burnt down his first mill trying to generate hydrogen gas for an earlier experiment.
Al’s father told him to stay away from Winchester’s shop, even after his father whipped him with a hand switch Al still went back to Winchester’s again and again. One day Sam Winchester’s big balloon actually inflated! The happy miller floated out over Lake Erie and was never seen again. His neighbors thought Al was odd, just like Sam Winchester, because of the foolish questions he had asked.
After the railroad system came in, the Milan Canal started to shrivel up. Al’s dad could no longer ship enough goods out to support his family so they moved to Port Huron, Michigan. After they moved Al went to school for the first time. After three months his teacher said he couldn’t be taught. With hurt feeling he went home and that was the end of his formal schooling. His mom got mad and decided to teach him herself. Al liked to read and soon became a rapid reader.
At age ten he was shown a science book. Whenever he found an experiment in one of his science books he would use his money and buy the materials. His father would pay him to read, but his mother was the making of him. At age twelve Al sold newspapers and snacks on the train to Detroit. He soon hired other boys to help make most of his money. At the Detroit newspaper he learned the power of the press by selling papers for them during the civil war. If Al wasn’t doing experiments he was reading. He would check out books at the Detroit library.
While watching the trains at the Mount Clemens station, he saved a three year old boy. He was the son of the lead telegrapher who taught Al his trade. By age eighteen he was a second degree telegrapher, which let him travel to other places. At this time he started calling himself Tom. He often got in trouble and got fired, but he always found a new job.
Tom kept on moving and learning. He soon became one of the best telegraphers. He decided to move to Boston, the center of science. He worked at Western Union. He started learning finance and what it would take to back an invention. In 1868 he signed his first patent for a vote counter.
At age 22 and with no money Tom moved to New York. He...