Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed. I just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” One has to admire Thomas Edison if not be inspired by him. He was an American inventor and businessman. He invented the light bulb, motion picture camera, and stock ticker among other inventions. He never stopped working; he was always creating something because something was always inspiring him to do so.
That is what happened when the stylus of the telegraph caught his eye; as the apparatus transmitted messages the stylus would puncture the paper, leaving a mark of chemical solution underneath. In 1875 he invented the electric pen, the intent was to have it perforate a sheet of paper to make multiple copies; this would eliminate the tedious act of making copies by hand. It was a commercial failure because by then the market had shifted to simpler methods such as the type writer, carbon paper and the mimeograph.
Then one day along came Samuel O’Reilly an Irish immigrant who was walking down the streets of New York, passed by a window display of the electrical pen, and had an idea. What if he could use the electrical pen for his own purpose?
In 1891 he patented the electric pen as the tattoo machine used today. He was already an established tattoo artist in New York, but with the tattoo machine he was able to create faster and cleaner lines. He even took in an apprentice to teach them how to use the machine. There have been very few changes added to the machine since Edison’s original idea. As Edison once said, “Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do doesn’t mean it’s useless.” M. Stieg
Many others who came to the gold rush in San Francisco never got rich but they found something more amazing. They were part an adventure that others seem to seek. Saw extraordinary sights that would fill their lungs with life. They were inspired by an adventure that would last a life time.
But it didn’t end there, Gold Fever was catchy and it was always blazing through these wanderlusts. In 1896 word spread that gold was found in Klondike a region of the Yukon, Alaska. The adventure started all over again.
Like San Francisco a stampede of people from all over rushed to these cold and unsettled mountains. Entrepreneurs and merchants still flooded the city with great ideas; but also writers, outfitters and photographers that ran to the Klondike hills. This time it wasn’t about opportunity it was about living an adventure, exploring the unknown, discovering new sights and thrills.
Among many wanderlusts was Frederick Burnham a scout and explorer had arrived in Yukon to prospect the unexplored frontiers. There was also Eric Hegg a famous Swedish photographer who took the iconic pictures of the Chilkoot Pass that many prospectors climbed in the thousands. And Tappan Adney would write about the stampede to the Klondike. It became the inspiration of Jack London’s ‘The Call of The Wild’ novel.
Sure there was money to be made in the Yukon as there was in San Francisco. It was about opportunity and ambition that set many people apart from others. Some were looking for adventure, a growing passion for excitement and jubilee. Who could not be infused with passion to see the many thousands that climbed the Chilkoot Pass. They had to conquer this great mountain trail that spanned 28 to 33 miles on foot. These travelers were called ‘Stampeders’ and had to carry a year’s supplies that weighed about 200 to 400 pounds. Many Stampeders never went back; they found life much richer than what they had left behind and most were content to be beginning a new adventure every day.
How exhilarating to travel in such a way, with little possessions but the pack on your back, and your clothes on your body. The sun is high above you but you can’t feel it because the cold air is nipping at your skin, numbing your lips. You struggle to breathe making your lungs burn and ache as you treaded through the snow while you pulled and tugged to keep going. You might be thirsty or tired but you could not stop as you went up the trail. Life to us must be this challenging or we would never be encouraged to reach it to the top.
Jack London said, “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”