Professor Pupin, who had been a member of the faculty of Columbia University since 1888, solved this problem in his quiet laboratory and, by doing so, won the greatest prize in modern telephone art. His researches resulted in the famous "Pupin coil" by the expedient now known as "loading." When the scientists attempt to explain this invention, they have to use all kinds of mathematical formulas and curves and, in fact, they usually get to quarreling among themselves over the points involved. What Professor Pupin has apparently done is to free the wire from those miscellaneous disturbances known as "induction." This Pupin invention involved another improvement unsuspected by the inventor, which shows us the telephone in all its mystery and beauty and even its sublimity. Soon after the Pupin coil was introduced, it was discovered that, by crossing the wires of two circuits at regular intervals, another unexplainable circuit was induced. Because this third circuit travels apparently without wires, in some manner which the scientists have not yet discovered, it is appropriately known as the phantom circuit. The practical result is that it is now possible to send three telephone messages and eight telegraph messages over two pairs of wires--all at the same time. Professor Pupin's invention has resulted in economies that amount to millions of dollars, and has made possible long distance lines to practically every part of the United States.

Thus many great inventive minds have produced the physical telephone. We can point to several men--Bell, Blake, Carty, Scribner, Barrett, Pupin --and say of each one, "Without his work the present telephone system could not exist." But business genius, as well as mechanical genius, explains this achievement. For the first four or five years of its existence, the new invention had hard sailing. Bell and Thomas Watson, in order to fortify their finances, were forced to travel around the country, giving a kind of vaudeville entertainment. Bell made a speech explaining the new invention, while a cornet player, located in another part of the town, played solos, the music reaching the audience through several telephone instruments placed against the walls. Watson, also located at a distance, varied the program by singing songs via telephone. These lecture tours not only gave Bell the money which he sorely needed but advertised the innovation. There followed a few scattering attempts to introduce the telephone into every-day use and telephone exchanges were established in New York, Boston, Bridgeport, and New Haven. But these pioneers had the hostility of the most powerful corporation of the day--the Western Union Telegraph Company--and they lacked aggressive leaders.

In 1878, Mr. Gardiner Hubbard, Bell's earliest backer, and now his father-in-law, became acquainted with a young man who was then serving in Washington as General Superintendent of the Railway Mail Service. This young man was Theodore N. Vail. His energy and enterprise so impressed Hubbard that he immediately asked Vail to become General Manager of the company which he was then forming to exploit the telephone. Viewed from the retrospection of forty years this offer certainly looks like one of the greatest prizes in American business. What it signified at that time, however, is apparent from the fact that the office paid a salary of $3500 a year and that for the first ten years Vail did not succeed in collecting a dollar of this princely remuneration. Yet it was a happy fortune, not only for the Bell Company but for the nation, that placed Vail at the head of this struggling enterprise. There was a certain appropriateness in his selection, even then. His granduncle, Stephen Vail, had built the engines for the first steamship to cross the Atlantic. A cousin had worked with Morse while he was inventing the telegraph. Vail, who was born in Carroll County, Ohio, in 1845, after spending two years as a medical student, suddenly shifted his plans and became a telegraph operator.

The Age of Big Business Page 33

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