Education of an Inventor

Boston Inventor and Businessman: 1868-1869

In April 1868, Edison moved to Boston where he took a job as an operator in the city's main Western Union office. He worked nights as a press-wire operator, taking news copy from the Associated Press off the telegraph wire. A portion of a press-wire report in Edison's hand from this period is now in the archives at The Thomas Edison Historical Park in West Orange, N.J. Being in Boston furthered Edison’s ambition to become an inventor. George Milliken, the superintendent of the Western Union telegraph office, was also a telegraph inventor. Edison also frequented the city's many telegraph shops and rubbed shoulders with other telegraph experimenters and inventors. He began doing his own experimental work at Charles Williams's shop on Court St., where electrical inventor Moses Farmer had a small laboratory.

Edison also found financiers involved in local telegraph companies who took an interest in his talent and experimental work. In short order, he received financial backing to develop and patent two important inventions—the vote recorder and an improved stockprinter. The vote recorder was the first invention for which Edison received a patent. This patent was issued on 1 June 1869. He received his second patent, for the stock printer, on 22 June of the same year. In January 1869, Edison went into business for himself in Boston, opening a gold and stock quotation service that employed his stockprinter to relay information from the New York gold and stock exchanges via private lines to some twenty-five subscribers in the city. This business was successful enough to allow Edison to resign from his position at Western Union and become a full-time inventor.