Edison and Guililand Patent “The Grasshopper Telegraph”

Think of Thomas A. Edison and a light bulb appears.

Think of a grasshopper and, most will think about a bug but, there was more about Edison than just electricity and the “Grasshopper telegraph” was in fact, the invention of Edison and a man named Ezra T. Guililand.

Young Edison selling newspapers and candy on the local railroad

Young Edison sold newspapers and candy on the local railroad

The two received a patent for it on June 19, 1888.

Read more about Edison the inventor here: www.nps.gov

However, something that’s not mentioned in the biography is US patent #384830 obtained for a railway signaling system known as “the grasshopper telegraph” or, “a system of inductive train telegraphy.”

Also according to Wikipedia: Inductive train telegraphy or the “grasshopper telegraph” was a system of wireless telegraphy developed in the early 1880’s which allowed Morse Code signals to be sent back and forth from moving trains to fixed telegraph systems, by means of electrical induction.

A precursor to radio communications, Edison and his one-time business partner E.T. Guililand worked to perfect the system of safety.

Turns out, it wasn’t all business and no play for the one-time business partners and prior to obtaining their patent, the two had a brush with death according to this news clip:

Narrow Escape From Drowning.
From the Daily Evening Bulletin
Maysville, Kentucky
30 April 1887

JACKSONVILLE, Fla., April 30. — Dispatches from Batoe, Fla., state that while Thomas A. Edison and a party of eight friends were standing on a pier at Kissiminee Springs the pier collapsed and precipitated all the parties except Mr. Edison and Mrs. Gilliland, of Adrian, Mich., into the water, which was eight or ten feet deep. A number of residents who saw the accident rushed to the scene and saved those imperiled. Several of them were going down for the third time. Those in the water were: Charles Ward and wife, and E. T. Gilliland and wife, of New York; Miss Daisy Gaston, of Indianapolis, and Miss Louise Miller, of Akron, O. Mr. Edison and Mrs. Gilliland saved themselves by lucky leaps to terra firma from the cracking timbers.— transcription by Kate Maynard, 2010

Meanwhile and back in New Jersey at the US Patent office, the following had been filed:


Click here to view the entire patent

Click here to view the entire patent

Application filed November 19, 1886. Serial No. 220,115. (No model.) i

in (All when it may concern..- j

3c it known that; we, THOMAS A. EDISON, of Llewellyn Pa k, in the county of Essex and State of New Jersey, and EZRA ‘l. G ILLILAND, ot’ the city, county, and Stateol’ New York, have invented a certain new and useful Improvement in Systems of Railway Signaling, (Case No. 681,) of \Vllll’ll the following is a specification.

Our invention relates to signaling systems for communicating between stations and moving trains by induction from the telegraph wires to the roots of the ‘cars. In such a sys tern we prefer to employ as transmitters vibrators operated by keys ,by which signals-arc sent upon the line, and as receivers telephone in the car and station being shown diagrammatically. Fig.2 is a larger diagram of the preferred arrangement of circuits for either a car or station; Fig. 3, a similar diagram of a modified arrangement of circuits, and Fig.4 a view of the vibrator which we prefer to use.

The dots and dashes would eventually give way to a more efficient railway signaling system of communication that would keep trains from colliding and, Edison would continue coming up with things to make our lives easier until poor health prevented him.

On October 18, 1931, the American Inventor and businessman died.

Thomas Alva Edison was 84, not rich, but never forgotten.