In various ways there was a continual slow and steady growth of the industry thus created, necessitating the erection of many additional buildings as the years passed by. During part of the last decade there was a lull, caused mostly from the failure of corporate interests to carry out their contract relations with Edison, and he was thereby compelled to resort to legal proceedings, at the end of which he bought in the outstanding contracts and assumed command of the business personally.
Being thus freed from many irksome restrictions that had hung heavily upon him, Edison now proceeded to push the phonograph business under a broader policy than that which obtained under his previous contractual relations. With the ever-increasing simplification and efficiency of the machine and a broadening of its application, the results of this policy were manifested in a still more rapid growth of the business that necessitated further additions to the manufacturing plant. And thus matters went on until the early part of the present decade, when the factory facilities were becoming so rapidly outgrown as to render radical changes necessary. It was in these circumstances that Edison's sagacity and breadth of business capacity came to the front. With characteristic boldness and foresight he planned the erection of the series of magnificent concrete buildings that now stand adjacent to and around the laboratory, and in which the manufacturing plant is at present housed.
There was no narrowness in his views in designing these buildings, but, on the contrary, great faith in the future, for his plans included not only the phonograph industry, but provided also for the coming development of motion pictures and of the primary and storage battery enterprises.
In the aggregate there are twelve structures (including the administration building), of which six are of imposing dimensions, running from 200 feet long by 50 feet wide to 440 feet in length by 115 feet in width, all these larger buildings, except one, being five stories in height. They are constructed entirely of reinforced concrete with Edison cement, including walls, floors, and stairways, thus eliminating fire hazard to the utmost extent, and insuring a high degree of protection, cleanliness, and sanitation. As fully three-fourths of the area of their exterior framework consists of windows, an abundance of daylight is secured. These many advantages, combined with lofty ceilings on every floor, provide ideal conditions for the thousands of working people engaged in this immense plant.
In addition to these twelve concrete structures there are a few smaller brick and wooden buildings on the grounds, in which some special operations are conducted. These, however, are few in number, and at some future time will be concentrated in one or more additional concrete buildings. It will afford a clearer idea of the extent of the industries clustered immediately around the laboratory when it is stated that the combined floor space which is occupied by them in all these buildings is equivalent in the aggregate to over fourteen acres.
It would be instructive, but scarcely within the scope of the narrative, to conduct the reader through this extensive plant and see its many interesting operations in detail. It must suffice, however, to note its complete and ample equipment with modern machinery of every kind applicable to the work; its numerous (and some of them wonderfully ingenious) methods, processes, machines, and tools specially designed or invented for the manufacture of special parts and supplemental appliances for the phonograph or other Edison products; and also to note the interesting variety of trades represented in the different departments, in which are included chemists, electricians, electrical mechanicians, machinists, mechanics, pattern-makers, carpenters, cabinet-makers, varnishers, japanners, tool-makers, lapidaries, wax experts, photographic developers and printers, opticians, electroplaters, furnacemen, and others, together with factory experimenters and a host of general employees, who by careful training have become specialists and experts in numerous branches of these industries.
Edison's plans for this manufacturing plant were sufficiently well outlined to provide ample capacity for the natural growth of the business; and although that capacity (so far as phonographs is concerned) has actually reached an output of over 6000 complete phonographs PER WEEK, and upward of 130,000 molded records PER DAY--with a pay-roll embracing over 3500 employees, including office force--and amounting to about $45,000 per week--the limits of production have not yet been reached.
The constant outpouring of products in such large quantities bespeaks the unremitting activities of an extensive and busy selling organization to provide for their marketing and distribution. This important department (the National Phonograph Company), in all its branches, from president to office-boy, includes about two hundred employees on its office pay-roll, and makes its headquarters in the administration building, which is one of the large concrete structures above referred to. The policy of the company is to dispose of its wares through regular trade channels rather than to deal direct with the public, trusting to local activity as stimulated by a liberal policy of national advertising. Thus, there has been gradually built up a very extensive business until at the present time an enormous output of phonographs and records is distributed to retail customers in the United States and Canada through the medium of about one hundred and fifty jobbers and over thirteen thousand dealers. The Edison phonograph industry thus organized is helped by frequent conventions of this large commercial force.
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