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The mirror. (Stillwater, Minn.) 1894-1925, November 03, 1921, Image 1

Image and text provided by Minnesota Historical Society; Saint Paul, MN

Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn90060762/1921-11-03/ed-1/seq-1/

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Established 1887
THE country is full of noted men
who have achieved great success
and who have done something
worth while, without college train
ing. Many people say of a young
man, “T oo bad he couldn’t go to col
Perhaps so.
But I have in mind a representa
tive group of big men who managed
to “get there” without anything at all
like a college education.
All the “luck” these men—and all
the other successful men, for that
matter possessed was in having
enough common sense to realize that
they couldn’t sit still and wait for
success to come to them. They were
men who did not believe in wishing
for fish, but in fishing for. fish. What
they did can be, and is re
peated right along with each genera
About forty years ago young “Al”
Smith lived in Cleveland. His father
died and it? was necessary for him to
go to work and help his mother. He
decided to do something that he liked,
and that was railroading, so he hus
tled out and got a job. as a messenger
boy in the office of the purchasing
agent of the Lake Shore & Michigan
Southern Railroad at $4.50 a week.
Thirty-four years later he was made
president of the New York Central,
the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern
<md the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chica
go & St. Louis railroads!
But the most important moment in
bis life was not when he was made
president of these roads in 1913; it
was away back in 1879 when he said
to a friend who told him that he was
foolish-to go into the railroad busi
ness, as it took pull to get anywhere:
“You can get just ( as far with push,
and I’m going to push.”
He began studying the railroad
business, from the day he started to
run errands for the purchasing agent.
Better than that, he began studying at
home. He discovered that his boss
knew more than he did, knew bigger
words, knew more about interest and
discount and many other things, so he
got books and began to study a little
while each evening.
He discovered that he wasn’t get
ting anywhere as a messenger boy in
one department so he got transferred
to the construction department.
Here were hew things to learn, both
on the job and at home, so he got
more books and studied about build
ing materials and took up higher
He got nine dollars a week in the
construction department of the road.
As he studied it occurred to him that
railroading started out in the country
by making a road bed and putting
down sleepers and spiking rails to
them. He wanted to, begin at the be
ginning, so he got transferred to the
section gang at eight dollars a week.
A number of his acquaintances told
him he was a fool to do that, to work
with pieje and shovel, five times as
hard as he worked in the office, and
for a dollar less. None of those who
told him he was a fool ever got with
in shouting distance of the presidency
of a railroad. His mother approved
(mothers have a wonderful intui
tion), and so he went ahead. He
studied civil engineering at home and
watched the men putting down new
tracks and was soon boss of a section
gang. Some of the railroad officials be
gan to watch him. Any boy who would
give up a dollar a week—and a dollar
in those days was about five times as
“big” as today—and work with a
pick all day was worth watching.
They knew he was either a fool or an
unusually clever boy.
After that he had no trouble in
being transferred to all branches of
l ailroad work, so that within ten years
he had a better general knowledge of
railroading than half the railroad
presidents in the country.
LutheV Burbarjk was born in Lan
caster, Mass. He had always wanted
to be a horticulturist, but he couldn’t
afford a college education, and so he
went at it another way; he went to
work in a plow factory to earn suf
ficient money to enable him to study
and experiment.
Burbank was a very young man
when he invented certain machinery
to do with plow manufacture, got it
patented and then resigned from his
“I’ll take you into the firm and give
you twenty-five times the income you
are making now,” he 'was told.
“The income from my patent will
enable me to do what I want to do;
I only worked here through neces
sity,” he declared, so lie walked out of
the old Ames plow shop and home to
his mother at their little cottage.
Young Burbank went to California
with his mother because the soil and
climate were better for his experi
ments. He has since amazed the
world. His potato experiments alone
have added, it is estimated, nearly
twenty billion dollars to the agricul
tural productiveness of this country.
Then he made the pitless plum, the
mammoth sugar prune which added
to the prosperity of California. He
perfected the spineless cactus so that
it became a splendid stock food, he
made white blackberries and did so
many things that he is rightly known
as a horticultural wizard. As a mat-
ter of fact he mingled horticulture
and science and he was able to do this
through home study and experiment
ing despite his inability to go to col
Thcre is quite a'difference between
railroading and developing prize po
tatoes, but it only serves to prove that,
after all, it isn’t what one but
lion' he goes about it that spells suc
cess or failure. If he had not studied
at home lie might be still working in
a plow factory.
* Did you ever hear an old-fashioned
phonograph, one of the first kind , that
came -on the. market? It sounded
something like this.
“X-ghx-x-xghrx-Maghxry hazzzad
a lizztle lxxxamb!”
Stillwater, Minnesota, Thursday, November 3, 1921.
By J. IV. Chamberlain in Dearborn Independent
That is about as near to it as the
alphabet can describe it. But there
was a squeaking, rasping, gritting
sound with every word and every
Do you think that, without any
technical education, without any
course in mechanics, electricity, the
science of sound, vibration and other
equally puzzling things, you could
take one of those old phonographs
and “remove the squeal ?”
Eldridge R. Johnson did it, in a
little shanty in Camden, N. J., with
tools he purchased with borrowed
money and with only a common
school education. Today Eldridge
Reeves Johnson is practically all there
is to the great Victor Talking Ma
chine Company whose plant covers in
ground and floor space about twenty
acres and does a $50,000,000 business
From the public schools as a boy
he got a job in a machine shop. One
day, with a chum, he made a trip to
Coney Island and heard a phonograph
for th£ first time. It squeaked and
gritted out such tunes as “In the
Gloaming,” “sweet Violets,” and
“White Wings.” Johnson became in
terested, so much so that he got a job
in a phonograph shop and began to
study the mechanism. He made a
slight improvement in the motor and
tried to interest the owners of the
factory, but they went out of business.
Johnson went West to work, but
couldn’t get the phonograph improve
ment out of his head so he came back.
In a little shanty in Camden, with
his chum, he started a repair shop and
began inventing things. It was a
good week when they each got as
much as ten dollars out of the shop.
But Johnson continued to study the
phonograph. He got old ones and took
them apart and in all his spare
moments he studied. He found that
he had to read many books, to study
electricity, sound waves and all sorts
of technical and scientific things to
enable him thoroughly to understand
the principle of the thing.
Doing odd mechanical repairing
jobs took .much of his time. Days and
days he worked twenty out of the
twenty-four hours. One day he called
in his friend and asked him to listen.
He started up the phonograph and his
friend stared in astonishment.
The squeak was gone!
About that time they had saved up
nearly a thousand dollars from a big
job repairing ballot boxes. Johnson
sent his friend to England on this
money to sell English rights. He
wanted the money to start business
here. His friend, was successful. Eng
lish capitalists were eager to buy rights
when they heard the squeakless phon
ograph which made it more than a
toy. /
Meanwhile Johnson continued ex
perimenting. He started a factory.
Today he is the inventor and owner
of the Victor talking machine, da-
, :y v «?sOTvi
Sonii ! S AL
Vol. XXXV: No. 14
stead of paying some woman a dollar
to sing twelve songs ffito his talking
machine he pays thousands down and
royalties amounting to from ten to
fifty and more thousand a year for
some great opera star to sing one song
in his Victor recording room.
The late Frank W. Wool worth
had a job as clerk in a country gen
eral store near Watertown, N. Y.
Accumulating for years was a lot of
so-called “junk,” articles that would
not sell. The lad got the owner to
let him pile it up on one end of the
counter and put up a sign, "Any
thing Here For Five Cents." It
wasn’t long before the stuff was sold.
What had seemed a dead loss was
turned into small profit. People came
back for more bargains, but few
things were made to sell for five cents.
Woolworth, who had gone from a
country school into the store, studied
the situation, got every manufac-*
turer’s catalog he could find out
about; he spent in one week three dol
lars in postage sending for catalogs
and other informative matter. Be
fore long he knew what he could sell
for five and ten cents. He so inter
ested his employer that he loaned him
some money. The boy went to Utica
and rented a tiny store and put up a
mammoth sign, the first five and ten
cent store sign on record.
When he died he had more millions
than he knew about, he put eight mil
lions into the . tallest building in the
world, he lefy 800 stores in this coun
try and 60 in England.
His line was retailing. He wanted
to know something and so he began
studying. AJI the colleges* in the
world would not have given him the
information he needed. He continued
to study for years, planning new
things to sell and getting concerns to
make them.
Presidents Washington, Jackson,
Van Buren, W. H. Harrison, Taylor,
Fillmore, Lincoln, Johnson, Grant,
Cleveland and McKinlfcy attained the
highest honors possible in this coun
try, without the aid of a college edu
cation. Nearly forty of our United
States Senators had only a commpn
school education. Other noted suc
cesses who could not go to college but
who continued to study after leaving
the dittle red school house include
Peter Cooper who went to school one
year; Richard P. Dana; John Erics
son ; the first August Belmont; Ed
win Booth; the first James Gordon v
Bennett; Frank Leslie; James John
Wesley and Fletcher Harper, foun
ders of Harper Brothers; Horace
Greeley; Henry Watterson; Frank
A. Munscy; General Miles; Joseph
Cannon and a great many others.
One of the toughest of woods is
that of the so<alled Osage orange,
which, however, is not an orange at
al!„ but belongs to the nettle family.
Some idea of its strength may be had
from a report made not long ago by
the forest service, which shows that
a block 30 inches long and two inches
by two inches in cross section, when
bent, breaks under a stress of 13,666
pounds.— Ex.

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