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The Suburbanite
  • Local man pays record price for photo of Edison

  • It took three years for David Grabowsky to find an autographed photo of Thomas Edison that he coveted enough to pay a record price.

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  • It took three years for David Grabowsky to find an autographed photo of Thomas Edison that he coveted enough to pay a record price.
    Grabowsky, president of Standard Plumbing & Heating Co. at Fifth Street and Walnut Avenue SE, said he valued the photo of Edison because of the inventor’s work ethic, perseverance and other reasons.
    “I would say his ideals and his passion and his tenacity I definitely relate to,” Grabowsky said. “He constantly was creating and pushing the envelope, and that’s what we try to do here.”
    The photo is 100 years old, and next year, Standard Plumbing — founded by Grabowsky’s grandfather, Herman, then headed by his father, Robert — also will be a century old, Grabowsky said.
    Amherst, N.H.-based RR Auction said Grabowsky paid a world-record $32,310, including a buyer’s premium, in an online auction Wednesday.
    The rare 1911 photograph shows Edison holding an alkaline battery with a statement about the invention’s importance.
    “I believe time will prove that the Alkaline Storage Battery will produce important changes in our present transportation systems,” Edison wrote underneath the photo to Walter Holland, who worked with Edison on the battery and published his reports on the project.
    The photo was part of Holland’s estate, and came to the auction through a third party, Grabowsky said.
    Edison’s importance can’t be overestimated, he said. “I think, if you go anywhere in the world and asked people, ‘Who were the most innovative people in the world?’ I think you’d hear ‘Thomas Edison.’ ”
    He’s followed auctions and seen hundreds of Edison photos. “This is by far the finest,” he said.
    The battery in the photo fills Edison’s lap.
    “A hundred years from now, our kids will be in museums looking at internal-combustion engines, and batteries powering cars will be the size of lunchboxes,” Grabowsky said. “His prediction will be worth more in a hundred years than it is today.”
    The photograph, along with a number of other Holland items included in the auction, will be displayed in a secure location, and Grabowsky’s plans are to “keep it forever. It’s really not for sale.”
    Edison started working on the alkaline battery in the 1890s, just after the motorcar had been introduced. His plan was to create a lighter and more efficient battery to power electric vehicles.
    He produced a battery in 1910, but by then, the internal combustion engine was entrenched as the way to power vehicles, Grabowsky said.