Was Thomas Edison A Robber Baron

While each man was defined by different characteristics, their similarities were greater than their differences.

Their lives were also marked by many similar occurrences in which they began to achieve great economical advancements during times of economic depression and periods of rapid industrialization (Randel 1). Thomas Edison is recognized as one of the greatest inventors in United States history (Edison). He gained success through his invention of the phonograph and through his creation of the first large scale company, General Electric Company. Andrew Carnegie became an industrial titan following his tremendous success with Carnegie Steel Corporation. John D Rockefeller built America’s greatest fortune while leading Standard Oil Company (Carnegie; Rockefeller).

These men were pioneers in that they strove to develop new ways for improving American industry and commerce. Thomas Edison, Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller created a substantial impact on the scientific, economic and social development of America during their time (Randel 2).

Thomas Edison

In 1847 Thomas Alva Edison was born in Milan Ohio as one of seven children. He possessed a unique spark from an early age as he would often explore different experiments with his boyhood friends. While at school, Thomas’ teacher found him too disruptive so she asked that he not return for two years (Edison 1). At an early age Thomas learned that knowledge is power by working as a telegraph operator after leaving school. Thomas Edison went on to become a self taught inventor who enjoyed pursuing his own ideas.

Thomas Edison may be the most recognized inventor in American history. Thomas Edison made more than 1,000 inventions that included musical recordings, motion pictures and electricity (Edison). Edison did not feel compelled to use his inventions for personal gain; instead Thomas Edison would often share his inventions with others. Thomas Edison’s greatest contribution came through developing the phonograph which played a vital role in transforming entertainment (Arnold 3).

At a young age, Thomas began selling newspapers and snacks on the Grand Trunk Railroad. Thomas’s mother recognized that Thomas did not receive any formal schooling until he reached his teens; therefore she only required Thomas to read one book out loud before going to bed. [1] [19] Thomas dreamed of inventing from a young age and spent most of his time trying to find ways or create new things such as reed baskets which were used for flower vases. [2] Thomas was influenced by his mother who was also a school teacher to broaden his knowledge.

Thomas loved science and chemistry in particular, Thomas even tried to make gunpowder at the age of ten. His love for science greatly influenced Thomas Edison’s invention career, which is why Thomas Edison became known as “The Wizard of Menlo Park. ” Thomas would experiment with makeshift laboratories in different places he lived including Fort Gratiot, Port Huron, Boston, New York City and Europe. Thomas loved to tinker with things that interested him which led him to be known as ” The Father of Modern Invention . ” [3] Thomas Edison’s first invention was the Vote Recorder . ”

Thomas had created this device not only for fun but also because Thomas wanted to help his father who was a politician. Thomas would go around to the different polling places and record the votes Thomas’s father had won. Thomas’s invention did not work as well as Thomas had planned because Thomas ran into problems with the battery which caused the machine to not properly function; however, Thomas Edison felt accomplished because he managed to make something that could help someone else out.

Thomas loved science and mathematics because they helped him understand how things worked and how he could make changes or modifications in order for them to work better. Thomas Edison has 1,093 US patents and 1,330 worldwide patents to his name at the time of his death. [4] Thomas tried very hard throughout his life to establishing himself as an inventor but people did not see much potential in Thomas’s way at first.

Thomas Edison often faced obstacles which Thomas would look at as an opportunity to improve. Thomas once said, ” I have not failed 10,000 times. I’ve successfully found 10 , 000 ways that will not work. ” [5] Although Thomas Edison was considered to be a great inventor there were many inventions Thomas did not come up with himself; Thomas was an expert when it came to hiring talented people and coordinating their efforts in order to create successful products.

Thomas Edison had many team members which included Charles Batchelor who helped Thomas assemble the devices, John Kruesi who was responsible for building the machines and Fred Ott who operated some of those machines as well as acted as a recording secretary taking down Thomas’s notes. Thomas Edison is known in history for taking credit and financial rewards for the inventions of other people. Thomas Edison was accused of stealing the Athearn Light Bulb from Carnegie , Morgan, and Tesla. [6]

Thomas also took credit for inventing the phonograph when in reality it had been invented by Alexander Graham Bell and Charles Sumner Tainter. 7] Thomas used large amounts of money to fund many of his projects despite Thomas’s lack of understanding regarding finance; Thomas spent most of his time concentrating on what he loved rather than how much money Thomas had or did not have. Thomas Edison was convinced that with enough practice and hard work anyone could accomplish anything they put their mind to which led Thomas to be known as an optimist Thomas was always thinking of ways to improve things which made Thomas very curious, At age ten Thomas Edison had created something that would help his father.

Thomas Edison’s house burnt down in 1867 which led Thomas to find other places to continue Thomas’s work. Thomas Edison also worked at Western Union for a short period before moving on to bigger and better accomplishments. Andrew Carnegie once said, ” I wish there were more young men in the world with fire in their eyes and idealism in their hearts . ” [8] When Andrew Carnegie first started off he worked long days as a bobbin boy where he sorted and distributed bobbins full of thread used by weavers.

Andrew Carnegie

At an early age Andrew moved to America with his parents after they left their native Scotland (Randel 2). Thomas Edison and Andrew Carnegie were acquaintances from childhood. They attended the same school for a short period of time, during which Thomas Edison was asked to leave because he spent most of his class time in the library reading books (Edison 1). Thomas Edison’s early failures served as motivation for Thomas’ future success.

In 1868 Andrew became an assistant telegraph operator with Western Union Company at a salary of $40 per month. In 1870 Andrew moved back to Pennsylvania where he worked as a telegraph operator for Pittsburgh Division railroad line. After working at various positions in railroads Thomas founded Keystone Bridge Company that helped build iron structures for bridges throughout America (Carnegie). As Thomas business grew his steel mills began earning higher profit margins than any other steel mills in the country. Thomas Carnegie later went on to create his own steel company called U.S Steel Corporation which was by 1888, the largest company in America (Randel 3).

Andrew Carnegie accumulated most of his fortune through founding U.S Steel Corporation that employed more than 100,000 workers across it’s facilities (Carnegie 1). Thomas Carnegie made a point to build libraries and other forms of solving social problems rather than building monuments for himself. Thomas Carnegie believed it would be considered sinful if someone built an extravagant monument for themselves while many individuals were starving or languishing with sickness (Carnegie 2).

During this time Thomas often gave away two thirds of his wealth to philanthropic causes such as education. Thomas had no children of his own but Thomas Carnegie believed in the importance of giving children a good education because Thomas believed it was impossible to do anything in life without an education (Carnegie 3). Thomas Carnegie once stated that “No man can become rich unless he enriches others” (Carnegie 4). Thomas donated millions of dollars to universities and other organizations such as the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts (Randel 5).

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