As a teenager, Edison had a job as a “candy butcher” selling candy, fruit, sandwiches, newspapers and magazines to passengers on the Grand Trunk Railroad. In April 1862, when Edison was at the Detroit Free Press picking up newspapers, he took special notice of that day's front page. The lead story was about the battle of Shiloh. The battle was still going on and 25,000 were wounded or killed. This was at the beginning of the US Civil War and people were eager for news; so instead of his typical 100 newspaper purchase, Edison bought 1,000 and paid a telegraph operator in Detroit to send news of the battle to all the stops on the train line. When the train arrived at the station, there were so many people crowed for papers that he raised the price to 10-cents a copy and by the time he got back to Port Huron, the price was 25-cents.
Yes, he was an extraordinary inventor (1093 patents including the light bulb and the phonograph), but he was also an incredible promoter with a keen, opportunistic eye.
Here are 15 of my favorite quotes attributed to “the Wizard of Menlo Park” who was described in "The Heroes Of The Age: Electricity And Man" as being “... more responsible than any one else for creating the modern world .... No one did more to shape the physical/cultural makeup of present day civilization.... Accordingly, he was the most influential figure of the millennium...."
“Anything that won't sell, I don't want to invent. Its sale is proof of utility, and utility is success.”
“Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing.”
“Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”
“I never did a day's work in my life. It was all fun.”
“I never did anything by accident, nor did any of my inventions come by accident; they came by work.”
“Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
“The three great essentials to achieve anything worth while are: Hard work, Stick-to-itiveness, and Common sense.”
“The value of an idea lies in the using of it.”
“Unfortunately, there seems to be far more opportunity out there than ability…. We should remember that good fortune often happens when opportunity meets with preparation.”
“Just because something doesn't do what you planned it to do doesn't mean it's useless.”
“Your worth consists in what you are and not in what you have.”
“What you are will show in what you do.”
“I find out what the world needs. Then I go ahead and try to invent it.”
“If we all did the things we are really capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves….”
If you feel like reading more about Thomas Edison, consider picking up a copy of Edison: A Biography by Matthew Josephson. Although it was written more than 40 years ago, it is still considered to be one of the best.
Do you have any favorite Edison quotes you would like to share? Use the comment section below or try me at Twitter @ScottFroth.