It is a far cry from the crude structure of early days--the "Black Maria" of 1891, swung around on its pivot in the Orange laboratory yard--to the well- appointed Edison theatres, or pantomime studios, in New York City. The largest of these is located in the suburban Borough of the Bronx, and consists of a three-story-and-basement building of reinforced concrete, in which are the offices, dressing-rooms, wardrobe and property-rooms, library and developing department. Contiguous to this building, and connected with it, is the theatre proper, a large and lofty structure whose sides and roof are of glass, and whose floor space is sufficiently ample for six different sets of scenery at one time, with plenty of room left for a profusion of accessories, such as tables, chairs, pianos, bunch-lights, search-lights, cameras, and a host of varied paraphernalia pertaining to stage effects.
The second Edison theatre, or studio, is located not far from the shopping district in New York City. In all essential features, except size and capacity, it is a duplicate of the one in the Bronx, of which it is a supplement.
To a visitor coming on the floor of such a theatre for the first time there is a sense of confusion in beholding the heterogeneous "sets" of scenery and the motley assemblage of characters represented in the various plays in the process of "taking," or rehearsal. While each set constitutes virtually a separate stage, they are all on the same floor, without wings or proscenium-arches, and separated only by a few feet. Thus, for instance, a Japanese house interior may be seen cheek by jowl with an ordinary prison cell, flanked by a mining-camp, which in turn stands next to a drawing-room set, and in each a set of appropriate characters in pantomimic motion. The action is incessant, for in any dramatic representation intended for the motion-picture film every second counts.
The production of several completed plays per week necessitates the employment of a considerable staff of people of miscellaneous trades and abilities. At each of these two studios there is employed a number of stage-directors, scene-painters, carpenters, property-men, photographers, costumers, electricians, clerks, and general assistants, besides a capable stock company of actors and actresses, whose generous num- bers are frequently augmented by the addition of a special star, or by a number of extra performers, such as Rough Riders or other specialists. It may be, occasionally, that the exigencies of the occasion require the work of a performing horse, dog, or other animal. No matter what the object required may be, whether animate or inanimate, if it is necessary for the play it is found and pressed into service.
These two studios, while separated from the main plant, are under the same general management, and their original negative films are forwarded as made to the Orange works, where the large copying department is located in one of the concrete buildings. Here, after the film has been passed upon by a committee, a considerable number of positive copies are made by ingenious processes, and after each one is separately tested, or "run off," in one or other of the three motion-picture theatres in the building, they are shipped out to film exchanges in every part of the country. How extensive this business has become may be appreciated when it is stated that at the Orange plant there are produced at this time over eight million feet of motion-picture film per year. And Edison's company is only one of many producers.
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.
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