Metuchen Edison History Features
In Old Metuchen
David Trumbull Marshall
Published by The Case Publishing Co., Flushing NY 1930
(Second Edition)- (c) 1930
When I was about fifteen years old I had a craze for making electric batteries. In those days boys could not go to a supply store and buy the parts of every conceivable electric toy and electric telegraph and radio. I once had a grand scheme for making a very powerful battery. I got a piece of copper from an old wash- boiler bottom and a sheet of zinc which had been used to protect the floor under the stove. I cut off a lot of wine bottles with which to make jars. I cut off these bottles by file marking them all round and then making a crack with a red hot soldering iron. I cut the copper and zinc into strips and to have them extra large coiled them like clock springs.
One of our neighbors had a carboy of sulphuric acid which had been bought for I don't know what.
I was allowed to take two or three bottles of it.
I think I had twelve cells to my battery. When everything was ready I put the copper and zinc coils in the acid and connected the end wires. The zinc boiled like anything but I did not get the least spark at the terminals. I reckon that the acid was much too strong, and the zincs were not amalgamated. I was much disappointed. To be disappointed seems to be the lot of the experimenter.
I put the battery away and put the bottles of acid on a shelf. The bottles had originally held sweet cider and the labels were still on them.
We were to have company so my mother, who was a famous cook, made three large mince pies. Those pies certainly did look good to me. When the pies were served at our table of nine, plus guests, the company was served first. At last my mother cut a piece for herself and the squawk she let out when she put a mouthful of that mince pie into her mouth, echoes in my memory, lo! these forty-five years. It seems that in mixing the pies, Mother had gotten hold of one of my bottles of acid instead of the similar bottle of sweet cider. Our young lady guest said that she had been watching my mother and listening for the squawk, as she herself had taken a mouthful of sour pie, but was not saying anything. The pies had to be buried in the ground as they could not be fed even to the chickens.
I got myself in bad another time when making phosphorus matches. I made a whole lot of parlor matches in our kitchen. I had our colored maid splitting sticks for me and dipping the sticks in the phosphorus mixture. It began to get dark when my sister came into the kitchen to prepare supper. She was stirring a mixture of eggs and frizzled beef on the kitchen range when she called me over and said "Dave, why does the smoked beef glint that way?"
I tumbled immediately to what was the matter. The whole panful of beef and eggs had to be buried.
Phosphorus is the stuff of which rat poison is made.
Many is the wild beast I have cooked on the quiet in our kitchen. Some of my family were not so keen for my experimenting. I shall never forget how much some of the family enjoyed the crow I cooked for supper. I was wise enough to pick the crow and cut it up before letting any of them see it.
Boyhood Days in Old Metuchen Title page
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Lasted updated 5/13/99 by Jim Halpin.