In this plant, which represents an investment approximating the sum of $4,000,000, are grouped a number of industrial enterprises of which Edison is either the sole or controlling owner and the guiding spirit. These enterprises are the National Phonograph Company, the Edison Business Phonograph Company, the Edison Phonograph Works, the Edison Manufacturing Company, the Edison Storage Battery Company, and the Bates Manufacturing Company. The importance of these industries will be apparent when it is stated that at this plant the maximum pay-roll shows the employment of over 4200 persons, with annual earnings in salaries and wages of more than $2,750,000.
In considering the phonograph in its commercial aspect, and endeavoring to arrive at some idea of the world's estimate of the value of this invention, we feel the ground more firm under our feet, for Edison has in later years controlled its manufacture and sale. It will be remembered that the phonograph lay dormant, commercially speaking, for about ten years after it came into being, and then later invention reduced it to a device capable of more popular utility. A few years of rather unsatisfactory commercial experience brought about a reorganization, through which Edison resumed possession of the business. It has since been continued under his general direction and ownership, and he has made a great many additional inventions tending to improve the machine in all its parts.
The uses made of the phonograph up to this time have been of four kinds, generally speaking--first, and principally, for amusement; second, for instruction in languages; third, for business, in the dictation of correspondence; and fourth, for sentimental reasons in preserving the voices of friends. No separate figures are available to show the extent of its employment in the second and fourth classes, as they are probably included in machines coming under the first subdivision. Under this head we find that there have been upward of 1,310,000 phonographs sold during the last twenty years, with and for which there have been made and sold no fewer than 97,845,000 records of a musical or other character. Phonographic records are now being manufactured at Orange at the rate of 75,000 a day, the annual sale of phonographs and records being approximately $7,000,000, including business phonographs. This does not include blank records, of which large numbers have also been supplied to the public.
The adoption of the business phonograph has not been characterized by the unanimity that obtained in the case of the one used merely for amusement, as its use involves some changes in methods that business men are slow to adopt until they realize the resulting convenience and economy. Although it is only a few years since the business phonograph has begun to make some headway, it is not difficult to appreciate that Edison's prediction in 1878 as to the value of such an appliance is being realized, when we find that up to this time the sales run up to 12,695 in number. At the present time the annual sales of the business phonographs and supplies, cylinders, etc., are not less than $350,000.
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.
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