The Remarkable Story of Thomas Edison’s Assistant: Edwin C. Barnes

Book: Think and Grow Rich

Napoleon Hill

By Napoleon Hill

Book Jacket: Every chapter of this book mentions the moneymaking secret that has made fortunes for more than five hundred exceedingly wealthy people whom I have carefully analyzed over a long period of years.

The book contains the secret, which has been put to a practical test by thousands of people from almost every walk of life. The secret to which I refer has been mentioned no fewer than a hundred times throughout the book. It has not been directly named, for it seems to work more successfully when it is merely uncovered and left in sight, where those who are ready and searching for it may pick it up.

If you are ready to put it to use, you will recognize this secret at least once every chapter. I wish I could tell you how you will know if you are ready, but that would deprive you of much of the benefit you will receive when you make the discovery in your own way.

The Story of Edwin C. Barnes

“Truly, ‘thoughts are things,’ and powerful things at that, when mixed with purpose, persistence and a burning desire for their translation into riches or other material objects.” – Napoleon Hill

The Power of Thought

Edwin C. Barnes had a burning internal drive to go into business with America’s most famed inventor, Thomas Edison. He was lacking in a few areas though, he had no invention to pitch, no particular skills of use, and couldn’t scrape together the meager amount of money it’d take to pay his rail fare to Orange, New Jersey.

The Unlikely Journey

Despite these obstacles, which would surely deter the vast majority of people from moving forward with their goal, Hill points out that “one of the chief characteristics of Barnes’ desire was that it was definite. He wanted to work with Edison, not for him.

Barnes made his way to the train station only to be reassured that he did not have the funds to continue his journey. Rather than accept this fate, he decided to travel by “blind baggage.” To those unfamiliar with the term, this means he hopped onto a freight train and squatted his way to East Orange.

Consider this man’s determination amidst his circumstance. He had no money, no guarantee he’d even get to meet the legendary inventor, nothing promising to offer Mr. Edison should he cross paths with him, and absolutely no hint of a reason to believe that Edison would take him on in any capacity. In reality, all Barnes did have was desire.

Meeting Thomas Edison

Barnes arrived in Orange, New Jersey and managed to talk his way into meeting Edison. Upon meeting the young man, Edison says, “He stood there before me, looking like an ordinary tramp, but there was something in the expression of his face which conveyed the impression that he was determined to get what he had come after.”

Edison continues, “I had learned, from years of experience with men, that when a man really desires a thing so deeply that he is willing to stake his entire future on a single turn of the wheel in order to get it, he is sure to win. I gave him the opportunity he asked for, because I saw he had made up his mind to stand by until he succeeded. Subsequent events proved that no mistake was made.”

It wasn’t what Barnes said to Edison that impressed him, rather it was what he thought. It was what he thought that counted. Hill assures us that “if the significance of this statement could be conveyed to every person who reads it, there would be no need for the remainder of this book.”

Embracing The Long Road Ahead

Providing further insight into the origins of Barnes work, Hill says “Barnes did not get his partnership with Edison on his first interview. He did get a chance to work in the Edison offices, at a very nominal wage, doing work that was unimportant to Edison, but most important to Barnes.”

In doing this irrelevant, some would argue demeaning, work, Barnes made a point to showcase his more intangible attributes to Edison any chance he could. His unrelenting mindset was “I came here to go into business with Edison, and I’ll accomplish this end if it takes the remainder of my life.”

Adopting this mindset guarantees only two outcomes to life: one, that you will obtain that which you desire or two, you will die in the pursuit of that which you desire.

Months passed and still, his goal went unrealized. Though, Hill explains that “something important was happening in Barnes’ mind. He was constantly intensifying his desire to become the business associate of Edison.”

The Tricks of Opportunity

Finally, in a very unpredictable manner, Barnes’ objective came within reach; “That is one of the tricks of opportunity,” says Hill.

Expounding on that thought, he adds, “It has a sly habit of slipping in by the back door, and often comes disguised in the form of misfortune or temporary defeat. Perhaps this is why so many fail to recognize opportunity.”

Edison had just completed work on a new office device, at the time named the Edison Dictating Machine; later known as the Ediphone. He was having trouble getting his salesmen to take on the invention. They thought it’d take just short of a miracle to sell the thing.

In this struggle, Barnes saw his opportunity. He believed that he could sell the machine and approached Edison with a plan on how he’d do so. Upon reviewing the strategy, Edison gave him his chance.

Thoughts Come to Fruition
Edwin C. Barnes (Left) and Thomas Edison (Right)

Barnes took full advantage and went on a roll selling the Ediphone. His success was such that Edison eventually gave him an exclusive contract to distribute and market the device all over the nation! Their association as business partners became so well known, it gave birth to the slogan, “Made by Edison and installed by Barnes.”

This business venture earned Barnes lots of money, however, more importantly, he accomplished something much greater in discovering the awesome power of thought.

Napoleon Hill concludes the story of Edwin C. Barnes, leaving us with, “How much actual cash that original desire of Barnes was worth to him, I have no way of knowing. Perhaps it brough him two or three million dollars. Whatever the amount, it becomes insignificant when compared to the greater asset he acquired, the definite knowledge that an intangible impulse of thought can be transmuted into its physical counterpart by the application of known principles.”

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