Another of the industries at the Orange works is the manufacture of projecting kinetoscopes, by means of which the motion pictures are shown. While this of itself is also a business of considerable magnitude in its aggregate yearly transactions, it calls for no special comment in regard to commercial production, except to note that a corps of experimenters is con- stantly employed refining and perfecting details of the machine. Its basic features of operation as conceived by Edison remain unchanged.
On coming to consider the Edison battery enterprises, we must perforce extend the territorial view to include a special chemical-manufacturing plant, which is in reality a branch of the laboratory and the Orange works, although actually situated about three miles away.
Both the primary and the storage battery employ certain chemical products as essential parts of their elements, and indeed owe their very existence to the peculiar preparation and quality of such products, as exemplified by Edison's years of experimentation and research. Hence the establishment of his own chemical works at Silver Lake, where, under his personal supervision, the manufacture of these products is carried on in charge of specially trained experts. At the present writing the plant covers about seven acres of ground; but there is ample room for expansion, as Edison, with wise forethought, secured over forty acres of land, so as to be prepared for developments.
Not only is the Silver Lake works used for the manufacture of the chemical substances employed in the batteries, but it is the plant at which the Edison primary battery is wholly assembled and made up for distribution to customers. This in itself is a business of no small magnitude, having grown steadily on its merits year by year until it has now arrived at a point where its sales run into the hundreds of thousands of cells per annum, furnished largely to the steam railroads of the country for their signal service.
As to the storage battery, the plant at Silver Lake is responsible only for the production of the chemical compounds, nickel-hydrate and iron oxide, which enter into its construction. All the mechanical parts, the nickel plating, the manufacture of nickel flake, the assembling and testing, are carried on at the Orange works in two of the large concrete buildings above referred to. A visit to this part of the plant reveals an amazing fertility of resourcefulness and ingenuity in the devising of the special machines and appliances employed in constructing the mechanical parts of these cells, for it is practically impossible to fashion them by means of machinery and tools to be found in the open market, notwithstanding the immense variety that may be there obtained.
Since Edison completed his final series of investigations on his storage battery and brought it to its present state of perfection, the commercial values have increased by leaps and bounds. The battery, as it was originally put out some years ago, made for itself an enviable reputation; but with its improved form there has come a vast increase of business. Although the largest of the concrete buildings where its manufacture is carried on is over four hundred feet long and four stories in height, it has already become necessary to plan extensions and enlargements of the plant in order to provide for the production of batteries to fill the present demands. It was not until the summer of 1909 that Edison was willing to pronounce the final verdict of satisfaction with regard to this improved form of storage battery; but subsequent commercial results have justified his judgment, and it is not too much to predict that in all probability the business will assume gigantic proportions within a very few years. At the present time (1910) the Edison storage-battery enterprise is in its early stages of growth, and its status may be compared with that of the electric-light system about the year 1881.
There is one more industry, though of comparatively small extent, that is included in the activities of the Orange works, namely, the manufacture and sale of the Bates numbering machine. This is a well- known article of commerce, used in mercantile establishments for the stamping of consecutive, duplicate, and manifold numbers on checks and other documents. It is not an invention of Edison, but the organization owning it, together with the patent rights, were acquired by him some years ago, and he has since continued and enlarged the business both in scope and volume, besides, of course, improving and perfecting the apparatus itself. These machines are known everywhere throughout the country, and while the annual sales are of comparatively moderate amount in comparison with the totals of the other Edison industries at Orange, they represent in the aggregate a comfortable and encouraging business.
In this brief outline review of the flourishing and extensive commercial enterprises centred around the Orange laboratory, the facts, it is believed, contain a complete refutation of the idea that an inventor cannot be a business man. They also bear abundant evidence of the compatibility of these two widely divergent gifts existing, even to a high degree, in the same person. A striking example of the correctness of this proposition is afforded in the present case, when it is borne in mind that these various industries above described (whose annual sales run into many millions of dollars) owe not only their very creation (except the Bates machine) and existence to Edison's inventive originality and commercial initiative, but also their continued growth and prosperity to his incessant activities in dealing with their multifarious business problems. In publishing a portrait of Edison this year, one of the popular magazines placed under it this caption: "Were the Age called upon to pay Thomas A. Edison all it owes to him, the Age would have to make an assignment." The present chapter will have thrown some light on the idiosyncrasies of Edison as financier and as manufacturer, and will have shown that while the claim thus suggested may be quite good, it will certainly never be pressed or collected.
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