Edison and Lathrop

The relationship between George Parsons Lathrop, the journalist/author and Edison, the inventor, began in 1885 when Lathrop interviewed Edison at his New York laboratory.  He reconnected with Edison again in in late 1887 and early 1888 in connection with the promotion of the inventor’s new wax-cylinder phonograph. In June 1888 Lathrop was involved in the effort to create a company to fund an amusement phonograph and also proposed a biography of the inventor to be published by Samuel Clemens’s publishing company, Charles L. Webster and Co. Neither of these ventures reached fruition but Lathrop continued to propose articles on Edison, finally publishing a new interview with him in the February 1890 issue of Harper’s New Monthly Magazine.

scifi lathrop01

Lathrop’s interest in collaborating with Edison on a novel of the future seems to have been inspired by earlier interviews with the inventor. At the conclusion of his 1885 article and interview, Lathrop described Edison as able to “manipulate as at will and without interruption the mysterious forces and properties of nature. In meeting him I thought of him more as a poet or a musician than as a machinist and electrician. . . .perfecting man’s control over the elements that shape life.”

sci fi tomorrow02

When Lathrop interviewed Edison in 1890 he presented the inventor with some of his novels.  In response Edison asked if Lathrop wanted “to see my novel?”  Edison then showed him one of his notebooks full of rough sketches and notes. ““These ideas are occurring to me all the time. . . . I just jot them down here whenever they strike me, day or night, and keep them with the hope of getting the leisure to develop them.”  Lathrop noted that this “curious little manuscript volume, in its particular way, answered precisely to the character and use of a story-writer’s note-book. He was right in calling it his ’novel’ for it was full of the keenest imagination.” This notebook likely inspired Lathrop to propose the following June that Edison provide him with similar kinds of notes for their novel.