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Edison Conquers Mars

In mid January 1898, The New York Journal began publication of a serialization entitled "Edison's Conquest of Mars". Garret P. Serviss was the series author. Interplanetary imperialism on the eve of the Spanish-American and Boer wars? The first installment included a drawing of what was purported to have been a "...consultation in Wizard Edison's laboratory between him and Professor Serviss on the best means of repaying the damage wrought upon this planet by the Martians".

The illustrated fire-cracker shaped rocket approaching the faraway red planet featured in the first installment might have been the inspiration for the spaceship in Georges Melies's LE VOYAGE DANS LA LUNE.

edison conquers mars

The same day Edison wrote to the paper's managing editor, Arthur Brisbane, claiming he had advised Serviss that he did not want his name involved as a creator of the tale. Brisbane wrote back saying that Edison's appearance in the narrative was as the central figure, its hero: "The story is called Edison's Conquest of Mars. As it might have been called Tesla's Conquest of Mars, or Emperor William's, or John L.Sullivan's. There is nothing in this title to connect you with the authorship." I do not, Edison said in a follow-up note to Serviss the next day, want a reputation for things I cannot do. Clearly, Edison was leery of a public association with Barnumian disingenuousness. Ever the salesman, Edison used the occasion to try to sell Brisbane one of his phonograph machines.[1]

1.^ Garret P.Serviss, Edison's Conquest of Mars, Carcosa House, 1947. The first installment appeared in the paper on 14 January, 1898. Publication of H.G.Wells account of a Martian invasion, War of the Worlds, apparently dating from the last days of 1897, was first reviewed on January 29, 1898 in The Independent (London). Correspondence, Thomas Edison and Arthur Brisbane, Edison Papers. Said Edison: "Do you still want to try a phonograph for dictating of which you spoke to me about when at laboratory if so will send one over for you to try." January 15, 1898.

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