Small in character at Chautauqua

Peter Small demonstrates the phonograph as he portrays Thomas Edison, his Winter Chautauqua character, speaking to students at Glenwood Elementary School on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020.

ENID, Okla. — It is without dispute that Thomas Edison was a man of many talents.

Throughout his life, he recorded more than 1,000 patents, was a figurehead behind the development of the incandescent light bulb, worked to enhance the telephone and did much more.

Edison's well-known talents ... and many of his lesser-known ones ... are reasons why Peter Small has been portraying the famous inventor this week at Enid schools, as well as this Saturday at Winter Chautauqua at Northwestern Oklahoma State University-Enid.

In 1992, Small was hired by a theme park in Southern California to present a Thomas Edison workshop. In order to become more familiar with the role, Small "read and studied everything (he) could find about him and his inventions."

Edison would end up with 1,093 patents, to be exact, which is really closer to 1,100 than 1,000. Edison, as they say, was a man of his time, Small said. However, that doesn't mean he would be much different had he grown up in this era.

"Had he been born more than 100 years later, he would have been in Silicon Valley, and he would have been starting Apple or Google or Facebook," Small said.

Edison was actually an early pioneer of the rechargeable battery, Small said, one that would potentially work in an electric car. And this happened back in the early-1900s, not the early-2000s.

"All inventors did this ... they look at existing tech ... how do you improve it or take it the next step further? That's what Edison did," Small said.

For all the things Edison could do, he wasn't infallible.

Edison believed the future would be powered electrically by direct current (DC), but alternating current (AC) was what became widely used.

Small will answer questions both in character and out of character at the Saturday event.

Mary McDonald, immediate past president and board member of Chautauqua Council of Enid, says Chautauqua continues to bring history to life.

"Even though we read about these characters in history books and might have seen documentaries, it's a whole different experience to have someone in front of you talking in persona or character," she said.

For younger students, it helps them form questions about historical events, and the school visits are evidence of that, she said.

"I'm always amazed at the level of questions students have, and the adults too, but especially the students, even the young ones," McDonald said.

Winter Chautauqua is Saturday at NWOSU-Enid, with workshops at 10:30 a.m. and noon and feature presentation at 7 p.m. It is completely free to the public.

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Malan is entertainment editor and astronomy columnist for the News & Eagle.

Have a question about this story? Do you see something we missed? Do you have a story idea for Joe? Send an email to jmalan@enidnews.com.

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Entertainment Editor | Copy Editor | Astronomy Writer

Hi, I'm Joe. I've been with the Enid News & Eagle since June 2009. I design many of the pages you see each week in your newspaper. I love writing and talking about space, and I love listening to and writing about music as well.

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