We must not forget that the basic patent of Edison on the phonograph has long since expired, thus throwing open to the world the wonderful art of reproducing human speech and other sounds. The world was not slow to take advantage of the fact, hence there are in the field numerous other concerns in the same business. It is conservatively estimated by those who know the trade and are in position to form an opinion, that the figures above given represent only about one-half of the entire business of the country in phonographs, records, cylinders, and supplies.
Taking next his inventions that pertain to a more recently established but rapidly expanding branch of business that provides for the amusement of the public, popularly known as "motion pictures," we also find a general recognition of value created. Referring the reader to a previous chapter for a discussion of Edison's standing as a pioneer inventor in this art, let us glance at the commercial proportions of this young but lusty business, whose ramifications extend to all but the most remote and primitive hamlets of our country.
The manufacture of the projecting machines and accessories, together with the reproduction of films, is carried on at the Orange Valley plant, and from the inception of the motion-picture business to the present time there have been made upward of 16,000 projecting machines and many million feet of films carrying small photographs of moving objects. Although the motion-picture business, as a commercial enterprise, is still in its youth, it is of sufficient moment to call for the annual production of thousands of machines and many million feet of films in Edison's shops, having a sale value of not less than $750,000. To produce the originals from which these Edison films are made, there have been established two "studios," the largest of which is in the Bronx, New York City.
In this, as well as in the phonograph business, there are many other manufacturers in the field. Indeed, the annual product of the Edison Manufacturing Company in this line is only a fractional part of the total that is absorbed by the 8000 or more motion- picture theatres and exhibitions that are in operation in the United States at the present time, and which represent an investment of some $45,000,000. Licensees under Edison patents in this country alone produce upward of 60,000,000 feet of films annually, containing more than a billion and a half separate photographs. To what extent the motion-picture business may grow in the not remote future it is impossible to conjecture, for it has taken a place in the front rank of rapidly increasing enterprises.
The manufacture and sale of the Edison-Lalande primary battery, conducted by the Edison Manufacturing Company at the Orange Valley plant, is a business of no mean importance. Beginning about twenty years ago with a battery that, without polarizing, would furnish large currents specially adapted for gas-engine ignition and other important purposes, the business has steadily grown in magnitude until the present output amounts to about 125,000 cells annually; the total number of cells put into the hands of the public up to date being approximately 1,500,000. It will be readily conceded that to most men this alone would be an enterprise of a lifetime, and sufficient in itself to satisfy a moderate ambition. But, although it has yielded a considerable profit to Edison and gives employment to many people, it is only one of the many smaller enterprises that owe an existence to his inventive ability and commercial activity.
So it also is in regard to the mimeograph, whose forerunner, the electric pen, was born of Edison's brain in 1877. He had been long impressed by the desirability of the rapid production of copies of written documents, and, as we have seen by a previous chapter, he invented the electric pen for this purpose, only to improve upon it later with a more desirable device which he called the mimeograph, that is in use, in various forms, at this time. Although the electric pen had a large sale and use in its time, the statistics relating to it are not available. The mimeo- graph, however, is, and has been for many years, a standard office appliance, and is entitled to consideration, as the total number put into use up to this time is approximately 180,000, valued at $3,500,000, while the annual output is in the neighborhood of 9000 machines, sold for about $150,000, besides the vast quantity of special paper and supplies which its use entails in the production of the many millions of facsimile letters and documents. The extent of production and sale of supplies for the mimeograph may be appreciated when it is stated that they bring annually an equivalent of three times the amount realized from sales of machines. The manufacture and sale of the mimeograph does not come within the enterprises conducted under Edison's personal direction, as he sold out the whole thing some years ago to Mr. A. B. Dick, of Chicago.
In making a somewhat radical change of subject, from duplicating machines to cement, we find ourselves in a field in which Edison has made a most decided impression. The reader has already learned that his entry into this field was, in a manner, accidental, although logically in line with pronounced convictions of many years' standing, and following up the fund of knowledge gained in the magnetic ore-milling business. From being a new-comer in the cement business, his corporation in five years has grown to be the fifth largest producer in the United States, with a still increasing capacity. From the inception of this business there has been a steady and rapid development, resulting in the production of a grand total of over 7,300,000 barrels of cement up to the present date, having a value of about $6,000,000, exclusive of package. At the time of this writing, the rate of production is over 8000 barrels of cement per day, or, say, 2,500,000 barrels per year, having an approximate selling value of a little less than $2,000,000, with prospects of increasing in the near future to a daily output of 10,000 barrels. This enterprise is carried on by a corporation called the Edison Portland Cement Company, in which he is very largely interested, and of which he is the active head and guiding spirit.
Had not Edison suspended the manufacture and sale of his storage battery a few years ago because he was not satisfied with it, there might have been given here some noteworthy figures of an extensive business, for the company's books show an astonishing number of orders that were received during the time of the shut-down. He was implored for batteries, but in spite of the fact that good results had been obtained from the 18,000 or 20,000 cells sold some years ago, he adhered firmly to his determination to perfect them to a still higher standard before resuming and continuing their manufacture as a regular commodity. As we have noted in a previous chapter, however, deliveries of the perfected type were begun in the summer of 1909, and since that time the business has continued to grow in the measure indicated by the earlier experience.
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