Edison, on the other hand, was a "tramp telegrapher" with below-average skills. His moves from place to place and office to office were usually preceded and motivated by a job dismissal. Still unable to submit to authority and structure, Edison often put his jobs in jeopardy by experimenting when he was on the job or using the delicate equipment for his own projects. The fact that he had little trouble finding jobs in new cities speaks to the demand for telegraphers at the time.

At the same time, Edison's blossoming as an inventor was greatly helped by his experience as a telegrapher. He benefited from the long stretches of time in which he was left alone to think and fiddle with experiments. Because it was such a new and important invention, the world of the telegraph operator was one of challenges, problem solving, and innovation. And witnessing the ruthless bargaining, price cuts, and business proposals of Western Union, which eventually became the top telegraph operator in the midwestern United States, helped Edison get an idea of the economic marketplace. Edison picked up many successful business practices from Western Union.

The Court Street factory is an important landmark in American invention history. It was here that Alexander Graham Bell first worked on telephone technology. Other important inventors, like Thomas Hall (electric-motored toy trains) and Joseph Stearns (the duplex telegraph system), also lived in the same building and would frequent the factory to discuss ideas. Edison drank up the opportunity to meet some of his future colleagues (and business rivals) and to get an idea of the world into which he would soon be entering.

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