Leaving the telephone, let us now turn our attention to the telegraph, and endeavor to show as best we can some idea of the measure to which it has been affected by Edison's inventions. Although, as we have seen in a previous part of this book, his earliest fame arose from his great practical work in telegraphic inventions and improvements, there is no way in which any definite computation can be made of the value of his contributions in the art except, perhaps, in the case of his quadruplex, through which alone it is estimated that there has been saved from $15,000,000 to $20,000,000 in the cost of line construction in this country. If this were the only thing that he had ever accomplished, it would entitle him to consideration as an inventor of note. The quadruplex, however, has other material advantages, but how far they and the natural growth of the business have contributed to the investment and earnings of the telegraph companies, is beyond practicable computation.
It would, perhaps, be interesting to speculate upon what might have been the growth of the telegraph and the resultant benefit to the community had Edison's automatic telegraph inventions been allowed to take their legitimate place in the art, but we shall not allow ourselves to indulge in flights of fancy, as the value of this chapter rests not upon conjecture, but only upon actual fact. Nor shall we attempt to offer any statistics regarding Edison's numerous inventions relating to telegraphs and kindred devices, such as stock tickers, relays, magnets, rheotomes, repeaters, printing telegraphs, messenger calls, etc., on which he was so busily occupied as an inventor and manufacturer during the ten years that began with January, 1869. The principles of many of these devices are still used in the arts, but have become so incorporated in other devices as to be inseparable, and cannot now be dealt with separately. To show what they mean, however, it might be noted that New York City alone has 3000 stock "tickers," consuming 50,000 miles of record tape every year.
Turning now to other important arts and industries which have been created by Edison's inventions, and in which he is at this time taking an active personal interest, let us visit Orange, New Jersey. When his present laboratory was nearing completion in 1887, he wrote to Mr. J. Hood Wright, a partner in the firm of Drexel, Morgan & Co.: "My ambition is to build up a great industrial works in the Orange Valley, starting in a small way and gradually working up."
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.
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