Edwin C. Barnes - Successful People

Over a hundred years ago, a young man from the Midwest had a dream to become a partner of the greatest inventor on Earth, Thomas A. Edison. So strong was his desire to form this partnership, Barnes made up his mind that he would relentlessly pursue his goal of becoming a business associate of the famed inventor until he met success. 

There would be no retreat, and nothing was going to stop him from reaching his goal, the young man pledged to himself. Napoleon Hill tells the story of this man in his book “Think and Grow Rich.” Despite having no money and no relationship with Edison, Barnes hopped a freight train and managed to get an audience with the famous inventor.

Hill recounts that first meeting: Mr. Edison said, “He stood there before me, looking like an ordinary tramp, but there was something in the expression of his face which conveyed the impression that he was determined to get what he had come after. I had learned, from years of experience with men, that when a man really desires a thing so deeply that he is willing to stake his entire future on a single turn of the wheel in order to get it, he is sure to win.”

Barnes had no money to begin with. He had but little education. He had no influence. But he did have initiative, faith, and the will to win. With these intangible forces he made himself the number one man with the greatest inventor who ever lived. It should be noted that it took Barnes five years of nonstop effort, hustle and tenacity to get his chance to finally work side-by-side with Edison.

Notes Hill: Barnes did not say, “I will work there for a few months, and if I get no encouragement, I will quit and get a job somewhere else.” He did say, “I will start anywhere. I will do anything Edison tells me to do, but before I am through, I will be his associate.” He did not say, “I will keep my eyes open for another opportunity, in case I fail to get what I want in the Edison organization.” 

He said, “There is but one thing in this world that I am determined to have, and that is a business association with Thomas A. Edison. I will burn all bridges behind me, and stake my entire future on my ability to get what I want.” He left himself no possible way of retreat. He had to win or perish! That is all there is to the Barnes story of success!

Journey To Success

Barnes could not afford to purchase a train ticket for passenger fare, and he had no special technical skills. Furthermore, he had only meager clothes to wear. But, these obstacles could not stop this determined man from visiting Edison's famous laboratory in West Orange, New Jersey and pursuing his dream.

On a fateful day in 1905, and driven by a desire which transcended poverty and a lack of know-how, Barnes rolled into West Orange on a freight train. He then, poorly dressed and looking more like an outcast than a man of achievement, walked into the famous Edison Laboratory and told the great inventor that he had come to form a partnership with him. 

Nearby members of Edison's staff were amused by the boldness of the poor-looking man, and they laughed at him hysterically. But, Edison did not laugh. For, what he saw was a determined young man who was prepared to do whatever it would take to help bring new growth to his company.

Impressed with Barnes' ambition and internal drive, Edison decided to give the poor man a chance of realizing his dream — not as a partner, but rather as a floor sweeper. Barnes wisely accepted Edison's offer, not dejected in the slightest by the job his mentor had in mind for him. 

The new arrival understood that he was given a chance of a lifetime to show Edison what he could do for him. And, he knew that accepting the inventor's humbling offer would open the door for him to observe how the brilliant man thought. Barnes also understood that Thomas Edison was extending to him a tremendous opportunity to meet his friends and associates, some of the most influential and most powerful people in the world.

Starting with a broom in his hands, Edwin C. Barnes did the best work he possibly could for Edison, and he never once backed down from his goal of establishing a partnership with the world's leader of practical technology. Months went by, and, to the unobserved, nothing special seemed to happen. But, Barnes was learning what made Edison tick, and he was setting the stage to attract opportunities his way.

After working for Edison for nearly two years, Barnes “saw” a golden opportunity, and he seized it with full force. Following many years of preparation, the inventor was ready to commercialize the Edison Dictating Machine, a recorder specifically designed to capture the human voice. 

Edison's machine, later renamed the Ediphone, recorded “voice letters” on a wax cylinder, and its inventor thought very highly of it.
However, when members of Edison's sales force looked over his new machine, most of them doubted that the invention would prove successful commercially, and they expressed little interest in trying to sell it.

Edwin C. Barnes listens intently as Thomas Edison explains the transophone, a new device from the master inventor that features a dictating machine that can be controlled electrically from a typewriter keyboard. Barnes, in contrast, recognized that Edison's new machine could help thousands of executives across the country by allowing them to dictate at any time, day or night, for later playback. 

No longer would the executive need to have at his side a stenographer to record his thoughts, Edison's enthusiastic employee envisioned. Barnes also realized that the dictation machine could help business executives save time, accomplish more, and increase profits as a result.

After working out a marketing plan, Barnes approached Edison and urged him to let him sell his dictation machine. Edison, impressed with his employee's desire to sell the new machine and thoroughness of preparation for doing so, readily agreed to his proposition. And, within months Barnes had sold thousands of Edison dictating machines.

He also gained a lucrative contract to market and distribute the recording device across America. So successful was Barnes at selling Edison's dictating machine, he became a multimillionaire at a relatively young age. But, more importantly, Barnes became a man who helped thousands of people across the country benefit from Edison's device. 

It is probable that the true potential of Edison's machine would not have been realized had it not been for the uncanny insight that Barnes fostered during his working years at the famous laboratory complex in West Orange. However, the remarkable success that Barnes enjoyed can be attributed largely to these key habits that he consistently exhibited with full force. They were:
  • He knew what he wanted to accomplish;
  • He used the power of imagination to circumvent poverty and other difficulties;
  • He was willing to start at the “bottom” in order to gain know how and exposure;
  • He created and seized opportunity;
  • He maintained a dogged determination to bring his goal to reality;
  • He worked long hours with concentrated focus for many years to get what he wanted;
  • He talked relatively little and produced big;
  • He was not deterred by ridicule, criticism, setback, or obstacles;
  • He created ideas and made them happen;
  • In alignment with his goals, he found a way to help other people become more successful;
  • He made himself invaluable in his work;
  • He was committed to providing his customers with excellent service.

Edwin C. Barnes dressed not only to look successful, but to feel successful. There were many factors, both tangible and intangible, that transcended Edwin C. Barnes from a young man with little money and a rather lame portfolio to one of the most capable and accomplished salespersons Thomas Edison ever knew.

Edwin C. Barnes envisioned how thousands of business people could benefit from Edison's new dictating machine, a machine that few others thought could sell. Barnes also saved much of his initial earnings as an employee of Edison's West Orange laboratory complex to buy new and quality clothes. 

Eventually he built a rather impressive wardrobe. Referring to a time just before Barnes made it big within the Edison organization, Napoleon Hill wrote in the Law of Success: “In those days he had the largest and most expensive collection of clothes I had ever seen or heard of one man owning. His wardrobe consisted of thirty-one suits; one for each day of the month. He never wore the same suit two days in succession.”

When Napoleon Hill asked the upcoming salesman why it was that he paid special attention to his attire, Barnes replied, 
“I do not wear thirty-one suits of clothes entirely for the impression they make on other people; I do it mostly for the impression they have on me.”
Barnes did not judge his success by how much money he made or by how many sales he generated. He considered personal gain and sales numbers just a by-product of his true aim — to achieve 100% customer satisfaction! As such, Edison's “partner” did not resort to sales gimmicks or trickery. 

In fact, he would not urge a sale of a dictating machine without first verifying that the potential customer could benefit from it. And, once Barnes did sell a dictation machine to a qualifying customer, this was just the beginning. He followed up with service, making sure that the buyer was satisfied with the performance of the product and fixing any noted problems without hassle and without excessive delay.

So important was his commitment to his customers, Barnes considered his devotion to providing excellent service to be the single biggest influence on his success as a salesperson. The salesman understood that without customer satisfaction true success cannot be realized, no matter how much fame or fortune is obtained.

Edwin C. Barnes understood the power of persistence. Not only was the salesman persistent in his own pursuits, he inspired others to keep paving ahead as well. One such person was Napoleon Hill. In the Law of Success, the author gave Barnes credit for keeping him on track when temptations to give up on his chosen pursuit were abound. Hill related,

“Mr. Barnes became interested in my chosen work at its beginnings, and had it not been for his unwavering faith in the soundness of the philosophy behind the Law of Success, I would have yielded to the persuasion of others and sought the way of least resistance.”

Edwin C. Barnes was Edison's leading salesperson in large part because he loved his work and because he put his customers' needs and interests first.

Barnes was arguably the most successful salesperson ever employed by Thomas Edison, and they remained close associates until the death of the famed inventor in 1931.

The cross of honor badge was given to Edwin C. Barnes for "Doing, Not Talking."


In 1951, nearly 46 years after he rolled into Essex County in a freight train and informed Edison of his intent to be his business partner, Edwin C. Barnes retired from business life. Unfortunately, shortly afterwards the great salesman fell ill, and he passed away in Bradenton, Florida on September 23, 1952. Gone is a great and most generous man, but his story provides us with a most powerful formula for attaining success and happiness.

Hope is given by success stories. Success stories stir our enthusiasm. The success story of Edwin C. Barnes illustrates how his dream of being a business associate of the great inventor Thomas Edison was the consuming desire of his life. He grew his dream past hope. He did not know Thomas Edison.

Mr. Edison gave him some menial work because Edwin Barnes conveyed the impression that he was determined to get what he had come after. He remained ready. His success story continued on because of persistence. An opportunity arose in an unsuspected way. A queer looking machine the Edison Dictating Machine made all Edison’s salespeople reluctant. 

Barnes knew he could sell the newly invented machine, and he did. He was so successful that Edison gave him a contract to distribute and market the machine nationally. The success story of Edwin Barnes demonstrates Napoleon Hill’s first success principle –

Burning Desire: The success story of Edwin Barnes illustrates the dream that became a burning desire. When two or more people coordinate in a spirit of HARMONY, and work toward a definite objective they place themselves in a position, through that alliance to absorb power directly from God is what makes all the difference. Napoleon Hill as he describes the success story of Henry Ford. 

Ford overcame illiteracy, poverty and as he allied himself with Thomas Edison and other great people, he rapidly achieved the success story of his life. Faith is a strong component of the success story. When these success factors are in place, then Decisions, Organized Planning, and Specialized Training are the practical steps to be taken.

Persistence: Keeping on keeping on – is essential to any success story, and particularly evident in the success story of Thomas Edison, who tried 10,000 ways before he was successful with the filament in the light bulb. None of us are successful in a vacuum. We need contact with Infinite Intelligence and with a group of like-minded people. Masterminding was essential for the success story of Henry Ford.

Success story is what we want for ourselves. The success story can illuminate our way to success. Success stories inspire us. Success stories teach us. Success stories tell us about the realization of the desires, dreams and imaginations of others who go before us. Success stories help us believe that we too can be a success. 

Success stories are used to illustrate the secrets of success. Success stories show us the success factors of others. The success you have achieved probably contained some of the factors highlighted. Success stories repeatedly illuminate the characteristics necessary for success. A success story usually begins with a dream. The success story usually shows that dream become a burning desire. 

Faith mixed with the burning desire fuels the success story. Imagination combined with auto-suggestion moves around the conscious mind to activate the subconscious into the success story. Persistence, Specialized Knowledge, Organized Planning, and Decisions provide the tools for the success story.

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