How Many Poets Does It Take to Change a Light Bulb? 12. Longfellow

Come listen, my children, for I’ve begun
The tale of Thomas Edison.
He had a staff of eighty men,[1]
Took credit for work done by them.
He paid them squat, he called them muckers,
And, every minute, hired a sucker.

Amongst the things his team invented
Were light bulbs, tungsten filamented.
(There were electric lights in use,
But few that could be mass produced.)
They’d tried with other kinds of wick,
But all of those burned out too quick:
Coconut fiber, fishing line,
Tendrils from a kudzu vine,
Baywood, boxwood, hickory,
Cedar, cheddar, chicory,
Bamboo, and even human hair,[2]
Until someone thought to suck out the air,
And with a vacuum, cased in glass,
Changed the world from candles to light bulbs, en masse.

[1]The number of “muckers” working for Thomas Edison varied, and was occasionally as many as 200.

[2]Edison’s lab tested thousands of fibers, including most of those listed. I did not find specific reference to chicory or kudzu, although neither is implausible. It is unlikely they used any type of cheese.


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