Scholla: Edison in Berks June 30, 1941
In July, 1884, Thomas Alva Edison was 31 years old. His invention of the incandescent lamp already had made him famous, but the young inventor’s interest in science did not confine itself to electricity. In 1884 he was experimenting with a new type of iron ore separator. He came to Bechtelsville to try out his new device.
A company of New York investors had purchased ore land on the Gilbert farm near Bechtelsville, and Edison, in company with a number of shareholders made his headquarters at the hotel owned by J.B. Bauman of Bechtelsville while they studied the operation of the new machine. While there they made additional leases of ore land from Augustus Fegley, also near Bechtelsville.
A contemporary account of the visit from Edison describes him as “a medium sized man, clean shaven, and rather pale-looking. He attracted a considerable amount of attention but “had very little to say.”
The Edison ore separator was patented. The following process was tried out at Bechtelsville in July, 1884, under the supervision of the “Wizard of Menlo Park.” The rock containing the ore passed through a crusher and was broken to egg-size. Then it was conveyed in buckets to a large hopper. From this container it was allowed to drop slowly along an inclined board, passing within a few inches of a powerful magnet.
The magnet was designed to attract pieces of rock containing good iron ore while the foreign elements would continue to drop down the incline to the refuse pile. In this way the ore could be separated from earth and be ready for the furnace.