Who’s that dude with Tommy Edison there? Wait, is that Dr. Miller Reese Hutchison? Hey, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Dr. Miller Reese Hutchison!
Miller Hutchison (born late August 6, 1876, died February 16, 1944) was an inventor for Edison at the Menlo Park lab, one of dozens of people that Edison called his “muckers.” What a crappy name for associates, right? So, as you would think from the name, the “muckers” were the people that cleaned the horse stalls, toilets, and other things that have to do with muck, right?
No. Edison’s muckers were the geniuses he hired to realize his ideas. He paid them next to nothing, and took all the credit for their work. We’re talking about people like William Kennedy Dickson, Francis Robbins Upton, Arthur E. Kennelly, and Nikola Tesla – real major players, kings of science and industrial processes. Edison treated these people like Wal-Mart workers, but they were the ones who made our technology what it evolved into today. But Edison played on the desire of these genius inventors to get them to work so cheap – they could invent in the Menlo Park lab, with nearly any supply imaginable and next to no limitations. They made pitiful wages for their work, but they loved their jobs. Kinda like us lighting folk!
Dr. Miller Reese Hutchison was quite the inventor and “mucker,” and quite the Edison company man, too. Hutchison was responsible for several aspects of Edison’s business, including marketing Edison batteries to the Secretary of the Navy at that time. In essence, were it not for Dr. Hutchison’s advertising prowess, submarine development might not be where it is today! The story of Hutchison’s pre-Edison days is also kind of awesome: Miller Hutchison was a member of the United States Light House Brigade (which is totally new to me but WHAT A COOL NAME), and helped lay submarine cables in the Gulf of Mexico during the Spanish-American War.
Regardless of where I put the rest of Miller Reese Hutchison’s accomplishments and inventions, one of the cooler ones (and not light-related) is the Klaxon horn – you know, the aaWOOOOOga sound, often found on ships and submarines, and typically in movies when the poo is about to intersect with the fan? Yeah, Hutchison invented that. Also, maybe in a tinge of irony, Hutchison also invented the hearing aid (which he called the Acousticon). The St. Louis Dispatch published a memorial article many years after his death that semi-accused him of creating the Klaxon horn to increase the number of candidates that would need his hearing aid.
Cool. Happy Birthday, Dr. Miller Reese Hutchison! If you weren’t dead, I’d totally buy you a Shiner Bock and ask you about batteries.