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Edison, His Life and Inventions by Frank Lewis Dyer and Thomas Commerford Martin

Part 9 out of 17

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work of this nature it had been customary, as above
stated, to depend upon a high explosive, such as
dynamite, to shatter and break the ore to lumps of
one hundred pounds or less. This, however, he
deemed to be a most uneconomical process, for energy
stored as heat units in dynamite at $260 per ton was
much more expensive than that of calories in a ton
of coal at $3 per ton. Hence, he believed that only
the minimum of work should be done with the costly
explosive; and, therefore, planned to use dynamite
merely to dislodge great masses of rock, and depended
upon the steam-shovel, operated by coal under the
boiler, to displace, handle, and remove the rock in
detail. This was the plan that was subsequently put
into practice in the great works at Edison, New Jersey.
A series of three-inch holes twenty feet deep were
drilled eight feet apart, about twelve feet back of the
ore-bank, and into these were inserted dynamite
cartridges. The blast would dislodge thirty to thirty-
five thousand tons of rock, which was scooped up by
great steam-shovels and loaded on to skips carried
by a line of cars on a narrow-gauge railroad running
to and from the crushing mill. Here the material
was automatically delivered to the giant rolls. The
problem included handling and crushing the "run
of the mine," without selection. The steam-shovel
did not discriminate, but picked up handily single
pieces weighing five or six tons and loaded them on
the skips with quantities of smaller lumps. When
the skips arrived at the giant rolls, their contents
were dumped automatically into a superimposed
hopper. The rolls were well named, for with ear-
splitting noise they broke up in a few seconds the great
pieces of rock tossed in from the skips.

It is not easy to appreciate to the full the daring
exemplified in these great crushing rolls, or rather
"rock-crackers," without having watched them in
operation delivering their "solar-plexus" blows. It
was only as one might stand in their vicinity and hear
the thunderous roar accompanying the smashing and
rending of the massive rocks as they disappeared from
view that the mind was overwhelmed with a sense
of the magnificent proportions of this operation. The
enormous force exerted during this process may be
illustrated from the fact that during its development,
in running one of the early forms of rolls,
pieces of rock weighing more than half a ton would
be shot up in the air to a height of twenty or twenty-
five feet.

The giant rolls were two solid cylinders, six feet in
diameter and five feet long, made of cast iron. To the
faces of these rolls were bolted a series of heavy,
chilled-iron plates containing a number of projecting
knobs two inches high. Each roll had also two rows
of four-inch knobs, intended to strike a series of
hammer-like blows. The rolls were set face to face
fourteen inches apart, in a heavy frame, and the total
weight was one hundred and thirty tons, of which
seventy tons were in moving parts. The space between
these two rolls allowed pieces of rock measuring
less than fourteen inches to descend to other smaller
rolls placed below. The giant rolls were belt-driven, in
opposite directions, through friction clutches, although
the belt was not depended upon for the actual crushing.
Previous to the dumping of a skip, the rolls were
speeded up to a circumferential velocity of nearly a
mile a minute, thus imparting to them the terrific
momentum that would break up easily in a few
seconds boulders weighing five or six tons each. It
was as though a rock of this size had got in the way
of two express trains travelling in opposite directions
at nearly sixty miles an hour. In other words, it was
the kinetic energy of the rolls that crumbled up the
rocks with pile-driver effect. This sudden strain
might have tended to stop the engine driving the
rolls; but by an ingenious clutch arrangement the
belt was released at the moment of resistance in the
rolls by reason of the rocks falling between them.
The act of breaking and crushing would naturally
decrease the tremendous momentum, but after the
rock was reduced and the pieces had passed through,
the belt would again come into play, and once more
speed up the rolls for a repetition of their regular
prize-fighter duty.

On leaving the giant rolls the rocks, having been reduced
to pieces not larger than fourteen inches, passed
into the series of "Intermediate Rolls" of similar
construction and operation, by which they were still
further reduced, and again passed on to three other
sets of rolls of smaller dimensions. These latter rolls
were also face-lined with chilled-iron plates; but, unlike
the larger ones, were positively driven, reducing
the rock to pieces of about one-half-inch size, or
smaller. The whole crushing operation of reduction
from massive boulders to small pebbly pieces having
been done in less time than the telling has occupied,
the product was conveyed to the "Dryer," a tower
nine feet square and fifty feet high, heated from below
by great open furnace fires. All down the inside
walls of this tower were placed cast-iron plates, nine
feet long and seven inches wide, arranged alternately
in "fish-ladder" fashion. The crushed rock, being delivered
at the top, would fall down from plate to plate,
constantly exposing different surfaces to the heat,
until it landed completely dried in the lower portion of
the tower, where it fell into conveyors which took it
up to the stock-house.

This method of drying was original with Edison.
At the time this adjunct to the plant was required,
the best dryer on the market was of a rotary type,
which had a capacity of only twenty tons per hour,
with the expenditure of considerable power. As
Edison had determined upon treating two hundred
and fifty tons or more per hour, he decided to devise
an entirely new type of great capacity, requiring a
minimum of power (for elevating the material), and
depending upon the force of gravity for handling it
during the drying process. A long series of experiments
resulted in the invention of the tower dryer
with a capacity of three hundred tons per hour.

The rock, broken up into pieces about the size of
marbles, having been dried and conveyed to the
stock-house, the surplusage was automatically carried
out from the other end of the stock-house by con-
veyors, to pass through the next process, by which it
was reduced to a powder. The machinery for accomplishing
this result represents another interesting and
radical departure of Edison from accepted usage. He
had investigated all the crushing-machines on the
market, and tried all he could get. He found them
all greatly lacking in economy of operation; indeed,
the highest results obtainable from the best were 18
per cent. of actual work, involving a loss of 82 per cent.
by friction. His nature revolted at such an immense
loss of power, especially as he proposed the crushing
of vast quantities of ore. Thus, he was obliged to
begin again at the foundation, and he devised a
crushing-machine which was subsequently named the
"Three-High Rolls," and which practically reversed
the above figures, as it developed 84 per cent. of work
done with only 16 per cent. loss in friction.

A brief description of this remarkable machine will
probably interest the reader. In the two end pieces
of a heavy iron frame were set three rolls, or cylinders
--one in the centre, another below, and the other
above--all three being in a vertical line. These rolls
were of cast iron three feet in diameter, having
chilled-iron smooth face-plates of considerable thickness.
The lowest roll was set in a fixed bearing at
the bottom of the frame, and, therefore, could only
turn around on its axis. The middle and top rolls
were free to move up or down from and toward the
lower roll, and the shafts of the middle and upper
rolls were set in a loose bearing which could slip up
and down in the iron frame. It will be apparent,
therefore, that any material which passed in between
the top and the middle rolls, and the middle and bottom
rolls, could be ground as fine as might be desired,
depending entirely upon the amount of pressure
applied to the loose rolls. In operation the material
passed first through the upper and middle rolls, and
then between the middle and lowest rolls.

This pressure was applied in a most ingenious manner.
On the ends of the shafts of the bottom and top
rolls there were cylindrical sleeves, or bearings, having
seven sheaves, in which was run a half-inch endless
wire rope. This rope was wound seven times over the
sheaves as above, and led upward and over a single-
groove sheave which was operated by the piston of
an air cylinder, and in this manner the pressure was
applied to the rolls. It will be seen, therefore, that
the system consisted in a single rope passed over
sheaves and so arranged that it could be varied in
length, thus providing for elasticity in exerting
pressure and regulating it as desired. The efficiency
of this system was incomparably greater than that
of any other known crusher or grinder, for while a
pressure of one hundred and twenty-five thousand
pounds could be exerted by these rolls, friction was
almost entirely eliminated because the upper and
lower roll bearings turned with the rolls and revolved
in the wire rope, which constituted the bearing proper.

The same cautious foresight exercised by Edison
in providing a safety device--the fuse--to prevent
fires in his electric-light system, was again displayed
in this concentrating plant, where, to save
possible injury to its expensive operating parts, he
devised an analogous factor, providing all the crush-
ing machinery with closely calculated "safety pins,"
which, on being overloaded, would shear off and thus
stop the machine at once.

The rocks having thus been reduced to fine powder,
the mass was ready for screening on its way to the
magnetic separators. Here again Edison reversed
prior practice by discarding rotary screens and devising
a form of tower screen, which, besides having
a very large working capacity by gravity, eliminated
all power except that required to elevate the material.
The screening process allowed the finest part of the
crushed rock to pass on, by conveyor belts, to the
magnetic separators, while the coarser particles were
in like manner automatically returned to the rolls for
further reduction.

In a narrative not intended to be strictly technical,
it would probably tire the reader to follow this material
in detail through the numerous steps attending
the magnetic separation. These may be seen in a
diagram reproduced from the above-named article
in the Iron Age, and supplemented by the following
extract from the Electrical Engineer, New York,
October 28, 1897: "At the start the weakest magnet
at the top frees the purest particles, and the second
takes care of others; but the third catches those to
which rock adheres, and will extract particles of
which only one-eighth is iron. This batch of material
goes back for another crushing, so that everything is
subjected to an equality of refining. We are now in
sight of the real `concentrates,' which are conveyed
to dryer No. 2 for drying again, and are then delivered
to the fifty-mesh screens. Whatever is fine enough
goes through to the eight-inch magnets, and the remainder
goes back for recrushing. Below the eight-
inch magnets the dust is blown out of the particles
mechanically, and they then go to the four-inch
magnets for final cleansing and separation.... Obviously,
at each step the percentage of felspar and
phosphorus is less and less until in the final concentrates
the percentage of iron oxide is 91 to 93 per cent.
As intimated at the outset, the tailings will be 75 per
cent. of the rock taken from the veins of ore, so that
every four tons of crude, raw, low-grade ore will have
yielded roughly one ton of high-grade concentrate
and three tons of sand, the latter also having its value
in various ways."

This sand was transported automatically by belt
conveyors to the rear of the works to be stored and
sold. Being sharp, crystalline, and even in quality,
it was a valuable by-product, finding a ready sale for
building purposes, railway sand-boxes, and various
industrial uses. The concentrate, in fine powdery
form, was delivered in similar manner to a stock-

As to the next step in the process, we may now
quote again from the article in the Iron Age: "While
Mr. Edison and his associates were working on the
problem of cheap concentration of iron ore, an added
difficulty faced them in the preparation of the
concentrates for the market. Furnacemen object to more
than a very small proportion of fine ore in their
mixtures, particularly when the ore is magnetic, not
easily reduced. The problem to be solved was to
market an agglomerated material so as to avoid the
drawbacks of fine ore. The agglomerated product
must be porous so as to afford access of the furnace-
reducing gases to the ore. It must be hard enough
to bear transportation, and to carry the furnace burden
without crumbling to pieces. It must be waterproof,
to a certain extent, because considerations
connected with securing low rates of freight make it
necessary to be able to ship the concentrates to market
in open coal cars, exposed to snow and rain. In
many respects the attainment of these somewhat conflicting
ends was the most perplexing of the problems
which confronted Mr. Edison. The agglomeration of
the concentrates having been decided upon, two other
considerations, not mentioned above, were of primary
importance--first, to find a suitable cheap binding
material; and, second, its nature must be such that
very little would be necessary per ton of concentrates.
These severe requirements were staggering,
but Mr. Edison's courage did not falter. Although
it seemed a well-nigh hopeless task, he entered upon
the investigation with his usual optimism and vim.
After many months of unremitting toil and research,
and the trial of thousands of experiments, the goal was
reached in the completion of a successful formula for
agglomerating the fine ore and pressing it into briquettes
by special machinery."

This was the final process requisite for the making
of a completed commercial product. Its practice, of
course, necessitated the addition of an entirely new
department of the works, which was carried into
effect by the construction and installation of the novel
mixing and briquetting machinery, together with ex-
tensions of the conveyors, with which the plant had
already been liberally provided.

Briefly described, the process consisted in mixing
the concentrates with the special binding material in
machines of an entirely new type, and in passing the
resultant pasty mass into the briquetting machines,
where it was pressed into cylindrical cakes three
inches in diameter and one and a half inches thick,
under successive pressures of 7800, 14,000, and 60,000
pounds. Each machine made these briquettes at the
rate of sixty per minute, and dropped them into
bucket conveyors by which they were carried into
drying furnaces, through which they made five loops,
and were then delivered to cross-conveyors which
carried them into the stock-house. At the end of
this process the briquettes were so hard that they
would not break or crumble in loading on the cars or
in transportation by rail, while they were so porous
as to be capable of absorbing 26 per cent. of their own
volume in alcohol, but repelling water absolutely--
perfect "old soaks."

Thus, with never-failing persistence and patience,
coupled with intense thought and hard work,
Edison met and conquered, one by one, the complex
difficulties that confronted him. He succeeded in
what he had set out to do, and it is now to be noted
that the product he had striven so sedulously to obtain
was a highly commercial one, for not only did
the briquettes of concentrated ore fulfil the purpose
of their creation, but in use actually tended to increase
the working capacity of the furnace, as the
following test, quoted from the Iron Age, October
28, 1897, will attest: " The only trial of any magnitude
of the briquettes in the blast-furnace was carried
through early this year at the Crane Iron Works,
Catasauqua, Pennsylvania, by Leonard Peckitt.

"The furnace at which the test was made produces
from one hundred to one hundred and ten tons per
day when running on the ordinary mixture. The
charging of briquettes was begun with a percentage
of 25 per cent., and was carried up to 100 per cent.
The following is the record of the results:

Quantity of Phos- Man-
Date Briquette Tons Silica phorus Sulphur ganese
Per Cent.
January 5th 25 104 2.770 0.830 0.018 0.500
January 6th 37 1/2 4 1/2 2.620 0 740 0.018 0.350
January 7th 50 138 1/2 2.572 0.580 0.015 0.200
January 8th 75 119 1.844 0.264 0.022 0.200
January 9th 100 138 1/2 1.712 0.147 0.038 0.185

"On the 9th, at 5 P.M., the briquettes having been
nearly exhausted, the percentage was dropped to
25 per cent., and on the 10th the output dropped to
120 tons, and on the 11th the furnace had resumed
the usual work on the regular standard ores.

"These figures prove that the yield of the furnace
is considerably increased. The Crane trial was too
short to settle the question to what extent the increase
in product may be carried. This increase in
output, of course, means a reduction in the cost of
labor and of general expenses.

"The richness of the ore and its purity of course
affect the limestone consumption. In the case of the
Crane trial there was a reduction from 30 per cent. to
12 per cent. of the ore charge.

"Finally, the fuel consumption is reduced, which
in the case of the Eastern plants, with their relatively
costly coke, is a very important consideration. It is
regarded as possible that Eastern furnaces will be
able to use a smaller proportion of the costlier coke
and correspondingly increase in anthracite coal, which
is a cheaper fuel in that section. So far as foundry
iron is concerned, the experience at Catasauqua,
Pennsylvania, brief as it has been, shows that a
stronger and tougher metal is made."

Edison himself tells an interesting little story in
this connection, when he enjoyed the active help of
that noble character, John Fritz, the distinguished
inventor and pioneer of the modern steel industry in
America. He says: "When I was struggling along
with the iron-ore concentration, I went to see several
blast-furnace men to sell the ore at the market price.
They saw I was very anxious to sell it, and they would
take advantage of my necessity. But I happened to
go to Mr. John Fritz, of the Bethlehem Steel Company,
and told him what I was doing. `Well,' he
said to me, `Edison, you are doing a good thing for
the Eastern furnaces. They ought to help you, for
it will help us out. I am willing to help you. I mix
a little sentiment with business, and I will give you
an order for one hundred thousand tons.' And he
sat right down and gave me the order."

The Edison concentrating plant has been sketched
in the briefest outline with a view of affording merely
a bare idea of the great work of its projector. To tell
the whole story in detail and show its logical sequence,
step by step, would take little less than a volume in
itself, for Edison's methods, always iconoclastic
when progress is in sight, were particularly so at the
period in question. It has been said that "Edison's
scrap-heap contains the elements of a liberal education,"
and this was essentially true of the "discard"
during the ore-milling experience. Interesting as it
might be to follow at length the numerous phases of
ingenious and resourceful development that took
place during those busy years, the limit of present
space forbids their relation. It would, however, be
denying the justice that is Edison's due to omit all
mention of two hitherto unnamed items in particular
that have added to the world's store of useful devices.
We refer first to the great travelling hoisting-crane
having a span of two hundred and fifteen feet, and
used for hoisting loads equal to ten tons, this being the
largest of the kind made up to that time, and afterward
used as a model by many others. The second item was
the ingenious and varied forms of conveyor belt,
devised and used by Edison at the concentrating
works, and subsequently developed into a separate
and extensive business by an engineer to whom he
gave permission to use his plans and patterns.

Edison's native shrewdness and knowledge of human
nature was put to practical use in the busy days
of plant construction. It was found impossible to
keep mechanics on account of indifferent residential
accommodations afforded by the tiny village, remote
from civilization, among the central mountains of
New Jersey. This puzzling question was much discussed
between him and his associate, Mr. W. S.
Mallory, until finally he said to the latter: "If we
want to keep the men here we must make it attractive
for the women--so let us build some houses that
will have running water and electric lights, and rent
at a low rate." He set to work, and in a day finished
a design for a type of house. Fifty were quickly built
and fully described in advertising for mechanics.
Three days' advertisements brought in over six hundred
and fifty applications, and afterward Edison had no
trouble in obtaining all the first-class men he required,
as settlers in the artificial Yosemite he was creating.

We owe to Mr. Mallory a characteristic story of this
period as to an incidental unbending from toil, which
in itself illustrates the ever-present determination to
conquer what is undertaken: "Along in the latter
part of the nineties, when the work on the problem
of concentrating iron ore was in progress, it became
necessary when leaving the plant at Edison to wait
over at Lake Hopatcong one hour for a connecting
train. During some of these waits Mr. Edison had
seen me play billiards. At the particular time this
incident happened, Mrs. Edison and her family were
away for the summer, and I was staying at the Glenmont
home on the Orange Mountains.

"One hot Saturday night, after Mr. Edison had
looked over the evening papers, he said to me: `Do
you want to play a game of billiards?' Naturally this
astonished me very much, as he is a man who cares
little or nothing for the ordinary games, with the single
exception of parcheesi, of which he is very fond. I said
I would like to play, so we went up into the billiard-
room of the house. I took off the cloth, got out the
balls, picked out a cue for Mr. Edison, and when we
banked for the first shot I won and started the game.
After making two or three shots I missed, and a long
carom shot was left for Mr. Edison, the cue ball and
object ball being within about twelve inches of each
other, and the other ball a distance of nearly the
length of the table. Mr. Edison attempted to make
the shot, but missed it and said `Put the balls back.'
So I put them back in the same position and he missed
it the second time. I continued at his request to put
the balls back in the same position for the next
fifteen minutes, until he could make the shot every
time--then he said: `I don't want to play any
more.' "

Having taken a somewhat superficial survey of
the great enterprise under consideration; having had
a cursory glance at the technical development of the
plant up to the point of its successful culmination
in the making of a marketable, commercial product
as exemplified in the test at the Crane Furnace, let
us revert to that demonstration and note the events
that followed. The facts of this actual test are far
more eloquent than volumes of argument would be
as a justification of Edison's assiduous labors for over
eight years, and of the expenditure of a fortune in
bringing his broad conception to a concrete possibility.
In the patient solving of tremendous problems
he had toiled up the mountain-side of success--
scaling its topmost peak and obtaining a view of the
boundless prospect. But, alas! "The best laid plans
o' mice and men gang aft agley." The discovery of
great deposits of rich Bessemer ore in the Mesaba
range of mountains in Minnesota a year or two previous
to the completion of his work had been followed
by the opening up of those deposits and the marketing
of the ore. It was of such rich character that, being
cheaply mined by greatly improved and inexpensive
methods, the market price of crude ore of like iron
units fell from about $6.50 to $3.50 per ton at the
time when Edison was ready to supply his concentrated
product. At the former price he could have
supplied the market and earned a liberal profit on
his investment, but at $3.50 per ton he was left without
a reasonable chance of competition. Thus was
swept away the possibility of reaping the reward so
richly earned by years of incessant thought, labor,
and care. This great and notable plant, representing
a very large outlay of money, brought to completion,
ready for business, and embracing some of
the most brilliant and remarkable of Edison's
inventions and methods, must be abandoned by force
of circumstances over which he had no control, and
with it must die the high hopes that his progressive,
conquering march to success had legitimately engendered.

The financial aspect of these enterprises is often
overlooked and forgotten. In this instance it was
of more than usual import and seriousness, as Edison
was virtually his own "backer," putting into the
company almost the whole of all the fortune his
inventions had brought him. There is a tendency to
deny to the capital that thus takes desperate chances
its full reward if things go right, and to insist that it
shall have barely the legal rate of interest and far less
than the return of over-the-counter retail trade. It
is an absolute fact that the great electrical inventors
and the men who stood behind them have had little return
for their foresight and courage. In this instance,
when the inventor was largely his own financier, the
difficulties and perils were redoubled. Let Mr. Mallory
give an instance: "During the latter part of the
panic of 1893 there came a period when we were
very hard up for ready cash, due largely to the panicky
conditions; and a large pay-roll had been raised with
considerable difficulty. A short time before pay-day
our treasurer called me up by telephone, and said:
`I have just received the paid checks from the bank,
and I am fearful that my assistant, who has forged
my name to some of the checks, has absconded with
about $3000.' I went immediately to Mr. Edison
and told him of the forgery and the amount of money
taken, and in what an embarrassing position we
were for the next pay-roll. When I had finished
he said: `It is too bad the money is gone, but
I will tell you what to do. Go and see the president
of the bank which paid the forged checks. Get him
to admit the bank's liability, and then say to him
that Mr. Edison does not think the bank should
suffer because he happened to have a dishonest clerk
in his employ. Also say to him that I shall not ask
them to make the amount good.' This was done;
the bank admitting its liability and being much
pleased with this action. When I reported to Mr.
Edison he said: `That's all right. We have made a
friend of the bank, and we may need friends later
on.' And so it happened that some time afterward,
when we greatly needed help in the way of loans,
the bank willingly gave us the accommodations we
required to tide us over a critical period."

This iron-ore concentrating project had lain close
to Edison's heart and ambition--indeed, it had permeated
his whole being to the exclusion of almost
all other investigations or inventions for a while.
For five years he had lived and worked steadily at
Edison, leaving there only on Saturday night to
spend Sunday at his home in Orange, and returning
to the plant by an early train on Monday morning.
Life at Edison was of the simple kind--work, meals,
and a few hours' sleep--day by day. The little village,
called into existence by the concentrating works,
was of the most primitive nature and offered nothing
in the way of frivolity or amusement. Even the
scenery is austere. Hence Edison was enabled to
follow his natural bent in being surrounded day
and night by his responsible chosen associates, with
whom he worked uninterrupted by outsiders from
early morning away into the late hours of the evening.
Those who were laboring with him, inspired by
his unflagging enthusiasm, followed his example and
devoted all their long waking hours to the furtherance
of his plans with a zeal that ultimately bore
fruit in the practical success here recorded.

In view of its present status, this colossal enterprise
at Edison may well be likened to the prologue
of a play that is to be subsequently enacted for the
benefit of future generations, but before ringing
down the curtain it is desirable to preserve the unities
by quoting the words of one of the principal actors,
Mr. Mallory, who says: "The Concentrating Works
had been in operation, and we had produced a considerable
quantity of the briquettes, and had been
able to sell only a portion of them, the iron market
being in such condition that blast-furnaces were not
making any new purchases of iron ore, and were
having difficulty to receive and consume the ores
which had been previously contracted for, so what
sales we were able to make were at extremely low
prices, my recollection being that they were between
$3.50 and $3.80 per ton, whereas when the works had
started we had hoped to obtain $6.00 to $6.50 per ton
for the briquettes. We had also thoroughly
investigated the wonderful deposit at Mesaba, and it
was with the greatest possible reluctance that Mr.
Edison was able to come finally to the conclusion
that, under existing conditions, the concentrating
plant could not then be made a commercial success.
This decision was reached only after the most careful
investigations and calculations, as Mr. Edison was
just as full of fight and ambition to make it a success
as when he first started.

"When this decision was reached Mr. Edison and
I took the Jersey Central train from Edison, bound
for Orange, and I did not look forward to the immediate
future with any degree of confidence, as the
concentrating plant was heavily in debt, without any
early prospect of being able to pay off its indebtedness.
On the train the matter of the future was discussed,
and Mr. Edison said that, inasmuch as we had the
knowledge gained from our experience in the concentrating
problem, we must, if possible, apply it to
some practical use, and at the same time we must
work out some other plans by which we could make
enough money to pay off the Concentrating Company's
indebtedness, Mr. Edison stating most positively
that no company with which he had personally
been actively connected had ever failed to pay its
debts, and he did not propose to have the Concentrating
Company any exception.

"In the discussion that followed he suggested several
kinds of work which he had in his mind, and
which might prove profitable. We figured carefully
over the probabilities of financial returns from the
Phonograph Works and other enterprises, and after
discussing many plans, it was finally decided that we
would apply the knowledge we had gained in the
concentrating plant by building a plant for manufacturing
Portland cement, and that Mr. Edison would
devote his attention to the developing of a storage
battery which did not use lead and sulphuric acid.
So these two lines of work were taken up by Mr.
Edison with just as much enthusiasm and energy as
is usual with him, the commercial failure of the
concentrating plant seeming not to affect his spirits in
any way. In fact, I have often been impressed
strongly with the fact that, during the dark days of
the concentrating problem, Mr. Edison's desire was
very strong that the creditors of the Concentrating
Works should be paid in full; and only once did I
hear him make any reference to the financial loss
which he himself made, and he then said: `As far as
I am concerned, I can any time get a job at $75 per
month as a telegrapher, and that will amply take
care of all my personal requirements.' As already
stated, however, he started in with the maximum
amount of enthusiasm and ambition, and in the course
of about three years we succeeded in paying off all
the indebtedness of the Concentrating Works, which
amounted to several hundred thousand dollars.

"As to the state of Mr. Edison's mind when the
final decision was reached to close down, if he was
specially disappointed, there was nothing in his manner
to indicate it, his every thought being for the
future, and as to what could be done to pull us out
of the financial situation in which we found ourselves,
and to take advantage of the knowledge which we had
acquired at so great a cost."

It will have been gathered that the funds for this
great experiment were furnished largely by Edison.
In fact, over two million dollars were spent in the
attempt. Edison's philosophic view of affairs is given
in the following anecdote from Mr. Mallory: "During
the boom times of 1902, when the old General Electric
stock sold at its high-water mark of about $330,
Mr. Edison and I were on our way from the cement
plant at New Village, New Jersey, to his home at
Orange. When we arrived at Dover, New Jersey,
we got a New York newspaper, and I called his attention
to the quotation of that day on General Electric.
Mr. Edison then asked: `If I hadn't sold any of mine,
what would it be worth to-day?' and after some figuring
I replied: `Over four million dollars.' When Mr.
Edison is thinking seriously over a problem he is in
the habit of pulling his right eyebrow, which he did
now for fifteen or twenty seconds. Then his face
lighted up, and he said: `Well, it's all gone, but we
had a hell of a good time spending it.' " With which
revelation of an attitude worthy of Mark Tapley himself,
this chapter may well conclude.



NEW developments in recent years have been more
striking than the general adoption of cement
for structural purposes of all kinds in the United
States; or than the increase in its manufacture here.
As a material for the construction of office buildings,
factories, and dwellings, it has lately enjoyed an
extraordinary vogue; yet every indication is
confirmatory of the belief that such use has barely begun.
Various reasons may be cited, such as the growing
scarcity of wood, once the favorite building material
in many parts of the country, and the increasing dearness
of brick and stone. The fact remains, indisputable,
and demonstrated flatly by the statistics
of production. In 1902 the American output of
cement was placed at about 21,000,000 barrels, valued
at over $17,000,000. In 1907 the production is given
as nearly 49,000,000 barrels. Here then is an
industry that doubled in five years. The average rate
of industrial growth in the United States is 10 per
cent. a year, or doubling every ten years. It is a
singular fact that electricity also so far exceeds the
normal rate as to double in value and quantity of
output and investment every five years. There is
perhaps more than ordinary coincidence in the as-
sociation of Edison with two such active departments
of progress.

As a purely manufacturing business the general
cement industry is one of even remote antiquity, and
if Edison had entered into it merely as a commercial
enterprise by following paths already so well
trodden, the fact would hardly have been worthy of
even passing notice. It is not in his nature, however,
to follow a beaten track except in regard to the
recognition of basic principles; so that while the
manufacture of Edison Portland cement embraces the
main essentials and familiar processes of cement-
making, such as crushing, drying, mixing, roasting,
and grinding, his versatility and originality, as
exemplified in the conception and introduction of some
bold and revolutionary methods and devices, have
resulted in raising his plant from the position of an
outsider to the rank of the fifth largest producer in
the United States, in the short space of five years
after starting to manufacture.

Long before his advent in cement production,
Edison had held very pronounced views on the value
of that material as the one which would obtain largely
for future building purposes on account of its stability.
More than twenty-five years ago one of the writers of
this narrative heard him remark during a discussion
on ancient buildings: "Wood will rot, stone will chip
and crumble, bricks disintegrate, but a cement and
iron structure is apparently indestructible. Look at
some of the old Roman baths. They are as solid as
when they were built." With such convictions, and
the vast fund of practical knowledge and experience
he had gained at Edison in the crushing and manipulation
of large masses of magnetic iron ore during the
preceding nine years, it is not surprising that on that
homeward railway journey, mentioned at the close
of the preceding chapter, he should have decided to
go into the manufacture of cement, especially in view
of the enormous growth of its use for structural purposes
during recent times.

The field being a new one to him, Edison followed
his usual course of reading up every page of
authoritative literature on the subject, and seeking
information from all quarters. In the mean time,
while he was busy also with his new storage battery,
Mr. Mallory, who had been hard at work on the
cement plan, announced that he had completed
arrangements for organizing a company with sufficient
financial backing to carry on the business; concluding
with the remark that it was now time to engage
engineers to lay out the plant. Edison replied
that he intended to do that himself, and invited Mr.
Mallory to go with him to one of the draughting-
rooms on an upper floor of the laboratory.

Here he placed a large sheet of paper on a draughting-
table, and immediately began to draw out a plan
of the proposed works, continuing all day and away
into the evening, when he finished; thus completing
within the twenty-four hours the full lay-out of the
entire plant as it was subsequently installed, and as
it has substantially remained in practical use to this
time. It will be granted that this was a remarkable
engineering feat, especially in view of the fact that
Edison was then a new-comer in the cement busi-
ness, and also that if the plant were to be rebuilt
to-day, no vital change would be desirable or
necessary. In that one day's planning every part
was considered and provided for, from the crusher to
the packing-house. From one end to the other, the
distance over which the plant stretches in length is
about half a mile, and through the various buildings
spread over this space there passes, automatically,
in course of treatment, a vast quantity of material
resulting in the production of upward of two and a
quarter million pounds of finished cement every
twenty-four hours, seven days in the week.

In that one day's designing provision was made not
only for all important parts, but minor details, such,
for instance, as the carrying of all steam, water, and
air pipes, and electrical conductors in a large subway
running from one end of the plant to the other; and,
an oiling system for the entire works. This latter
deserves special mention, not only because of its
arrangement for thorough lubrication, but also on
account of the resultant economy affecting the cost
of manufacture.

Edison has strong convictions on the liberal
use of lubricants, but argued that in the ordinary
oiling of machinery there is great waste, while much
dirt is conveyed into the bearings. He therefore
planned a system by which the ten thousand bearings
in the plant are oiled automatically; requiring the
services of only two men for the entire work. This
is accomplished by a central pumping and filtering
plant and the return of the oil from all parts of the
works by gravity. Every bearing is made dust-
proof, and is provided with two interior pipes. One
is above and the other below the bearing. The oil
flows in through the upper pipe, and, after lubricating
the shaft, flows out through the lower pipe back to
the pumping station, where any dirt is filtered out and
the oil returned to circulation. While this system of
oiling is not unique, it was the first instance of its
adaptation on so large and complete a scale, and
illustrates the far-sightedness of his plans.

In connection with the adoption of this lubricating
system there occurred another instance of his knowledge
of materials and intuitive insight into the nature
of things. He thought that too frequent circulation
of a comparatively small quantity of oil would, to
some extent, impair its lubricating qualities, and
requested his assistants to verify this opinion by
consultation with competent authorities. On making
inquiry of the engineers of the Standard Oil Company,
his theory was fully sustained. Hence, provision
was made for carrying a large stock of oil, and
for giving a certain period of rest to that already used.

A keen appreciation of ultimate success in the
production of a fine quality of cement led Edison to
provide very carefully in his original scheme for those
details that he foresaw would become requisite--such,
for instance, as ample stock capacity for raw materials
and their automatic delivery in the various stages of
manufacture, as well as mixing, weighing, and frequent
sampling and analyzing during the progress
through the mills. This provision even included the
details of the packing-house, and his perspicacity in
this case is well sustained from the fact that nine
years afterward, in anticipation of building an additional
packing-house, the company sent a representative
to different parts of the country to examine
the systems used by manufacturers in the packing of
large quantities of various staple commodities involving
somewhat similar problems, and found that
there was none better than that devised before the
cement plant was started. Hence, the order was
given to build the new packing-house on lines similar
to those of the old one.

Among the many innovations appearing in this
plant are two that stand out in bold relief as
indicating the large scale by which Edison measures
his ideas. One of these consists of the crushing and
grinding machinery, and the other of the long kilns.
In the preceding chapter there has been given a
description of the giant rolls, by means of which great
masses of rock, of which individual pieces may weigh
eight or more tons, are broken and reduced to about
a fourteen-inch size. The economy of this is apparent
when it is considered that in other cement plants
the limit of crushing ability is "one-man size"--that
is, pieces not too large for one man to lift.

The story of the kiln, as told by Mr. Mallory, is
illustrative of Edison's tendency to upset tradition
and make a radical departure from generally accepted
ideas. "When Mr. Edison first decided to go
into the cement business, it was on the basis of his
crushing-rolls and air separation, and he had every
expectation of installing duplicates of the kilns which
were then in common use for burning cement. These
kilns were usually made of boiler iron, riveted, and
were about sixty feet long and six feet in diameter,
and had a capacity of about two hundred barrels of
cement clinker in twenty-four hours.

"When the detail plans for our plant were being
drawn, Mr. Edison and I figured over the coal capacity
and coal economy of the sixty-foot kiln, and each
time thought that both could he materially bettered.
After having gone over this matter several times,
he said: `I believe I can make a kiln which will give
an output of one thousand barrels in twenty-four
hours.' Although I had then been closely associated
with him for ten years and was accustomed to see
him accomplish great things, I could not help feeling
the improbability of his being able to jump into an
old-established industry--as a novice--and start by
improving the `heart' of the production so as to
increase its capacity 400 per cent. When I pressed
him for an explanation, he was unable to give any
definite reasons, except that he felt positive it could
be done. In this connection let me say that very
many times I have heard Mr. Edison make predictions
as to what a certain mechanical device ought
to do in the way of output and costs, when his statements
did not seem to be even among the possibilities.
Subsequently, after more or less experience, these
predictions have been verified, and I cannot help coming
to the conclusion that he has a faculty, not possessed
by the average mortal, of intuitively and correctly
sizing up mechanical and commercial possibilities.

"But, returning to the kiln, Mr. Edison went to
work immediately and very soon completed the design
of a new type which was to be one hundred and
fifty feet long and nine feet in diameter, made up in
ten-foot sections of cast iron bolted together and
arranged to be revolved on fifteen bearings. He had
a wooden model made and studied it very carefully,
through a series of experiments. These resulted so
satisfactorily that this form was finally decided upon,
and ultimately installed as part of the plant.

"Well, for a year or so the kiln problem was a
nightmare to me. When we started up the plant
experimentally, and the long kiln was first put in
operation, an output of about four hundred barrels
in twenty-four hours was obtained. Mr. Edison was
more than disappointed at this result. His terse
comment on my report was: `Rotten. Try it again.'
When we became a little more familiar with the operation
of the kiln we were able to get the output up to
about five hundred and fifty barrels, and a little later
to six hundred and fifty barrels per day. I would
go down to Orange and report with a great deal of
satisfaction the increase in output, but Mr. Edison
would apparently be very much disappointed, and
often said to me that the trouble was not with the
kiln, but with our method of operating it; and he
would reiterate his first statement that it would
make one thousand barrels in twenty-four hours.

"Each time I would return to the plant with the
determination to increase the output if possible, and
we did increase it to seven hundred and fifty, then to
eight hundred and fifty barrels. Every time I reported
these increases Mr. Edison would still be disappointed.
I said to him several times that if he was
so sure the kiln could turn out one thousand barrels
in twenty-four hours we would be very glad to have
him tell us how to do it, and that we would run it
in any way he directed. He replied that he did not
know what it was that kept the output down, but he
was just as confident as ever that the kiln would
make one thousand barrels per day, and that if he
had time to work with and watch the kiln it would
not take him long to find out the reasons why. He
had made a number of suggestions throughout these
various trials, however, and, as we continued to
operate, we learned additional points in handling,
and were able to get the output up to nine hundred
barrels, then one thousand, and finally to over eleven
hundred barrels per day, thus more than realizing the
prediction made by Mr. Edison before even the plans
were drawn. It is only fair to say, however, that
prolonged experience has led us to the conclusion that
the maximum economy in continuous operation of
these kilns is obtained by working them at a little less
than their maximum capacity.

"It is interesting to note, in connection with the
Edison type of kiln, that when the older cement
manufacturers first learned of it, they ridiculed the
idea universally, and were not slow to predict our
early `finish' as cement manufacturers. The ultimate
success of the kiln, however, proved their criticisms
to be unwarranted. Once aware of its possibility,
some of the cement manufacturers proceeded to
avail themselves of the innovation (at first without
Mr. Edison's consent), and to-day more than one-half
of the Portland cement produced in this country is
made in kilns of the Edison type. Old plants are
lengthening their kilns wherever practicable, and no
wide-awake manufacturer building a modern plant
could afford to install other than these long kilns.
This invention of Mr. Edison has been recognized
by the larger cement manufacturers, and there is
every prospect now that the entire trade will take
licenses under his kiln patents."

When he decided to go into the cement business,
Edison was thoroughly awake to the fact that he
was proposing to "butt into" an old-established
industry, in which the principal manufacturers were
concerns of long standing. He appreciated fully its
inherent difficulties, not only in manufacture, but
also in the marketing of the product. These
considerations, together with his long-settled principle
of striving always to make the best, induced him
at the outset to study methods of producing the
highest quality of product. Thus he was led to
originate innovations in processes, some of which have
been preserved as trade secrets; but of the others
there are two deserving special notice--namely, the
accuracy of mixing and the fineness of grinding.

In cement-making, generally speaking, cement rock
and limestone in the rough are mixed together in such
relative quantities as may be determined upon in
advance by chemical analysis. In many plants this
mixture is made by barrow or load units, and may be
more or less accurate. Rule-of-thumb methods are
never acceptable to Edison, and he devised therefore
a system of weighing each part of the mixture,
so that it would be correct to a pound, and, even at
that, made the device "fool-proof," for as he observed
to one of his associates: "The man at the scales
might get to thinking of the other fellow's best girl,
so fifty or a hundred pounds of rock, more or less,
wouldn't make much difference to him." The Edison
checking plan embraces two hoppers suspended above
two platform scales whose beams are electrically
connected with a hopper-closing device by means of
needles dipping into mercury cups. The scales are
set according to the chemist's weighing orders, and
the material is fed into the scales from the hoppers.
The instant the beam tips, the connection is broken
and the feed stops instantly, thus rendering it impossible
to introduce any more material until the charge
has been unloaded.

The fine grinding of cement clinker is distinctively
Edisonian in both origin and application. As has
been already intimated, its author followed a thorough
course of reading on the subject long before reaching
the actual projection or installation of a plant, and
he had found all authorities to agree on one important
point--namely, that the value of cement depends
upon the fineness to which it is ground.[16] He also
ascertained that in the trade the standard of fineness
was that 75 per cent. of the whole mass would pass
through a 200-mesh screen. Having made some
improvements in his grinding and screening apparatus,
and believing that in the future engineers, builders,
and contractors would eventually require a higher
degree of fineness, he determined, in advance of
manufacturing, to raise the standard ten points, so that at
least 85 per cent. of his product should pass through
a 200-mesh screen. This was a bold step to be taken
by a new-comer, but his judgment, backed by a full
confidence in ability to live up to this standard, has
been fully justified in its continued maintenance,
despite the early incredulity of older manufacturers
as to the possibility of attaining such a high degree
of fineness.

[16] For a proper understanding and full appreciation of the
importance of fine grinding, it may be explained that Portland
cement (as manufactured in the Lehigh Valley) is made from
what is commonly spoken of as "cement rock," with the addition
of sufficient limestone to give the necessary amount of lime.
The rock is broken down and then ground to a fineness of 80 to
90 per cent. through a 200-mesh screen. This ground material
passes through kilns and comes out in "clinker." This is ground
and that part of this finely ground clinker that will pass a 200-
mesh screen is cement; the residue is still clinker. These coarse
particles, or clinkers, absorb water very slowly, are practically
inert, and have very feeble cementing properties. The residue
on a 200-mesh screen is useless.

If Edison measured his happiness, as men often
do, by merely commercial or pecuniary rewards of
success, it would seem almost redundant to state
that he has continued to manifest an intense interest
in the cement plant. Ordinarily, his interest as an
inventor wanes in proportion to the approach to mere
commercialism--in other words, the keenness of his
pleasure is in overcoming difficulties rather than the
mere piling up of a bank account. He is entirely
sensible of the advantages arising from a good balance
at the banker's, but that has not been the goal of his
ambition. Hence, although his cement enterprise
reached the commercial stage a long time ago, he has
been firmly convinced of his own ability to devise
still further improvements and economical processes
of greater or less fundamental importance, and has,
therefore, made a constant study of the problem as
a whole and in all its parts. By means of frequent
reports, aided by his remarkable memory, he keeps
in as close touch with the plant as if he were there in
person every day, and is thus enabled to suggest
improvement in any particular detail. The engineering
force has a great respect for the accuracy of his
knowledge of every part of the plant, for he remembers
the dimensions and details of each item of machinery,
sometimes to the discomfiture of those who
are around it every day.

A noteworthy instance of Edison's memory occurred
in connection with this cement plant. Some
years ago, as its installation was nearing completion,
he went up to look it over and satisfy himself as to
what needed to be done. On the arrival of the train
at 10.40 in the morning, he went to the mill, and,
with Mr. Mason, the general superintendent, started
at the crusher at one end, and examined every detail
all the way through to the packing-house at the other
end. He made neither notes nor memoranda, but
the examination required all the day, which happened
to be a Saturday. He took a train for home at 5.30
in the afternoon, and on arriving at his residence at
Orange, got out some note-books and began to write
entirely from memory each item consecutively. He
continued at this task all through Saturday night,
and worked steadily on until Sunday afternoon,
when he completed a list of nearly six hundred items.
The nature of this feat is more appreciable from
the fact that a large number of changes included
all the figures of new dimensions he had decided
upon for some of the machinery throughout the

As the reader may have a natural curiosity to learn
whether or not the list so made was practical, it may
be stated that it was copied and sent up to the general
superintendent with instructions to make the
modifications suggested, and report by numbers as
they were attended to. This was faithfully done, all
the changes being made before the plant was put into
operation. Subsequent experience has amply proven
the value of Edison's prescience at this time.

Although Edison's achievements in the way of improved
processes and machinery have already made a
deep impression in the cement industry, it is probable
that this impression will become still more profoundly
stamped upon it in the near future with the
exploitation of his "Poured Cement House." The
broad problem which he set himself was to provide
handsome and practically indestructible detached
houses, which could be taken by wage-earners at very
moderate monthly rentals. He turned this question
over in his mind for several years, and arrived at the
conclusion that a house cast in one piece would be
the answer. To produce such a house involved the
overcoming of many engineering and other technical
difficulties. These he attacked vigorously and disposed
of patiently one by one.

In this connection a short anecdote may be quoted
from Edison as indicative of one of the influences
turning his thoughts in this direction. In the story
of the ore-milling work, it has been noted that the
plant was shut down owing to the competition of
the cheap ore from the Mesaba Range. Edison says:
"When I shut down, the insurance companies cancelled
my insurance. I asked the reason why. `Oh,' they
said, `this thing is a failure. The moral risk is too
great.' `All right; I am glad to hear it. I will now
construct buildings that won't have any moral risk.'
I determined to go into the Portland cement business.
I organized a company and started cement-works
which have now been running successfully for several
years. I had so perfected the machinery in trying
to get my ore costs down that the making of cheap
cement was an easy matter to me. I built these
works entirely of concrete and steel, so that there is
not a wagon-load of lumber in them; and so that
the insurance companies would not have any possibility
of having any `moral risk.' Since that time
I have put up numerous factory buildings all of steel
and concrete, without any combustible whatever
about them--to avoid this `moral risk.' I am carrying
further the application of this idea in building
private houses for poor people, in which there will be
no `moral risk' at all--nothing whatever to burn,
not even by lightning."

As a casting necessitates a mold, together with a
mixture sufficiently fluid in its nature to fill all the
interstices completely, Edison devoted much attention
to an extensive series of experiments for producing
a free-flowing combination of necessary
materials. His proposition was against all precedent.
All expert testimony pointed to the fact that a mixture
of concrete (cement, sand, crushed stone, and
water) could not be made to flow freely to the small-
est parts of an intricate set of molds; that the heavy
parts of the mixture could not be held in suspension,
but would separate out by gravity and make an unevenly
balanced structure; that the surface would
be full of imperfections, etc.

Undeterred by the unanimity of adverse opinions,
however, he pursued his investigations with the
thorough minuteness that characterizes all his
laboratory work, and in due time produced a mixture
which on elaborate test overcame all objections and
answered the complex requirements perfectly,
including the making of a surface smooth, even, and
entirely waterproof. All the other engineering
problems have received study in like manner, and have
been overcome, until at the present writing the whole
question is practically solved and has been reduced
to actual practice. The Edison poured or cast cement
house may be reckoned as a reality.

The general scheme, briefly outlined, is to prepare
a model and plans of the house to be cast, and then
to design a set of molds in sections of convenient
size. When all is ready, these molds, which are of
cast iron with smooth interior surfaces, are taken to
the place where the house is to be erected. Here
there has been provided a solid concrete cellar floor,
technically called "footing." The molds are then
locked together so that they rest on this footing.
Hundreds of pieces are necessary for the complete
set. When they have been completely assembled, there
will be a hollow space in the interior, representing the
shape of the house. Reinforcing rods are also placed
in the molds, to be left behind in the finished house.

Next comes the pouring of the concrete mixture
into this form. Large mechanical mixers are used,
and, as it is made, the mixture is dumped into tanks,
from which it is conveyed to a distributing tank on
the top, or roof, of the form. From this tank a large
number of open troughs or pipes lead the mixture to
various openings in the roof, whence it flows down
and fills all parts of the mold from the footing in
the basement until it overflows at the tip of the

The pouring of the entire house is accomplished in
about six hours, and then the molds are left undisturbed
for six days, in order that the concrete may
set and harden. After that time the work of taking
away the molds is begun. This requires three or
four days. When the molds are taken away an entire
house is disclosed, cast in one piece, from cellar
to tip of roof, complete with floors, interior walls,
stairways, bath and laundry tubs, electric-wire
conduits, gas, water, and heating pipes. No plaster is
used anywhere; but the exterior and interior walls
are smooth and may be painted or tinted, if desired.
All that is now necessary is to put in the windows,
doors, heater, and lighting fixtures, and to connect
up the plumbing and heating arrangements, thus
making the house ready for occupancy.

As these iron molds are not ephemeral like the
wooden framing now used in cement construction, but
of practically illimitable life, it is obvious that they
can be used a great number of times. A complete
set of molds will cost approximately $25,000, while
the necessary plant will cost about $15,000 more.
It is proposed to work as a unit plant for successful
operation at least six sets of molds, to keep the men
busy and the machinery going. Any one, with a
sheet of paper, can ascertain the yearly interest on
the investment as a fixed charge to be assessed against
each house, on the basis that one hundred and forty-
four houses can be built in a year with the battery of
six sets of molds. Putting the sum at $175,000, and
the interest at 6 per cent. on the cost of the molds
and 4 per cent. for breakage, together with 6 per
cent. interest and 15 per cent. depreciation on
machinery, the plant charge is approximately $140
per house. It does not require a particularly acute
prophetic vision to see "Flower Towns" of "Poured
Houses" going up in whole suburbs outside all our
chief centres of population.

Edison's conception of the workingman's ideal
house has been a broad one from the very start. He
was not content merely to provide a roomy, moderately
priced house that should be fireproof, waterproof,
and vermin-proof, and practically indestructible, but
has been solicitous to get away from the idea of a
plain "packing-box" type. He has also provided for
ornamentation of a high class in designing the details
of the structure. As he expressed it: "We will
give the workingman and his family ornamentation
in their house. They deserve it, and besides, it costs
no more after the pattern is made to give decorative
effects than it would to make everything plain."
The plans have provided for a type of house that
would cost not far from $30,000 if built of cut stone.
He gave to Messrs. Mann & McNaillie, architects,
New York, his idea of the type of house he wanted.
On receiving these plans he changed them considerably,
and built a model. After making many more
changes in this while in the pattern shop, he produced
a house satisfactory to himself.

This one-family house has a floor plan twenty-five
by thirty feet, and is three stories high. The first
floor is divided off into two large rooms--parlor and
living-room--and the upper floors contain four large
bedrooms, a roomy bath-room, and wide halls. The
front porch extends eight feet, and the back porch
three feet. A cellar seven and a half feet high extends
under the whole house, and will contain the boiler,
wash-tubs, and coal-bunker. It is intended that the
house shall be built on lots forty by sixty feet, giving
a lawn and a small garden.

It is contemplated that these houses shall be built
in industrial communities, where they can be put up
in groups of several hundred. If erected in this manner,
and by an operator buying his materials in large
quantities, Edison believes that these houses can
be erected complete, including heating apparatus and
plumbing, for $1200 each. This figure would also rest
on the basis of using in the mixture the gravel
excavated on the site. Comment has been made by
persons of artistic taste on the monotony of a cluster
of houses exactly alike in appearance, but this
criticism has been anticipated, and the molds are so
made as to be capable of permutations of arrangement.
Thus it will be possible to introduce almost
endless changes in the style of house by variation of
the same set of molds.

For more than forty years Edison was avowedly
an inventor for purely commercial purposes; but
within the last two years he decided to retire from
that field so far as new inventions were concerned,
and to devote himself to scientific research and
experiment in the leisure hours that might remain after
continuing to improve his existing devices. But
although the poured cement house was planned during
the commercial period, the spirit in which it was
conceived arose out of an earnest desire to place within
the reach of the wage-earner an opportunity to better
his physical, pecuniary, and mental conditions in so
far as that could be done through the medium of
hygienic and beautiful homes at moderate rentals.
From the first Edison has declared that it was not
his intention to benefit pecuniarily through the
exploitation of this project. Having actually demonstrated
the practicability and feasibility of his plans,
he will allow responsible concerns to carry them into
practice under such limitations as may be necessary
to sustain the basic object, but without any payment
to him except for the actual expense incurred. The
hypercritical may cavil and say that, as a manufacturer
of cement, Edison will be benefited. True,
but as ANY good Portland cement can be used,
and no restrictions as to source of supply are enforced,
he, or rather his company, will be merely one
of many possible purveyors.

This invention is practically a gift to the workingmen
of the world and their families. The net result
will be that those who care to avail themselves of the
privilege may, sooner or later, forsake the crowded
apartment or tenement and be comfortably housed
in sanitary, substantial, and roomy homes fitted with
modern conveniences, and beautified by artistic
decorations, with no outlay for insurance or repairs; no
dread of fire, and all at a rental which Edison
believes will be not more, but probably less than, $10
per month in any city of the United States. While his
achievement in its present status will bring about
substantial and immediate benefits to wage-earners,
his thoughts have already travelled some years ahead
in the formulation of a still further beneficial project
looking toward the individual ownership of these
houses on a basis startling in its practical possibilities.



THE preceding chapters have treated of Edison in
various aspects as an inventor, some of which
are familiar to the public, others of which are believed
to be in the nature of a novel revelation, simply because
no one had taken the trouble before to put the
facts together. To those who have perhaps grown
weary of seeing Edison's name in articles of a sensational
character, it may sound strange to say that,
after all, justice has not been done to his versatile
and many-sided nature; and that the mere prosaic
facts of his actual achievement outrun the wildest
flights of irrelevant journalistic imagination. Edison
hates nothing more than to be dubbed a genius or
played up as a "wizard"; but this fate has dogged
him until he has come at last to resign himself to it
with a resentful indignation only to be appreciated
when watching him read the latest full-page Sunday
"spread" that develops a casual conversation into
oracular verbosity, and gives to his shrewd surmise
the cast of inspired prophecy.

In other words, Edison's real work has seldom been
seriously discussed. Rather has it been taken as a
point of departure into a realm of fancy and romance,
where as a relief from drudgery he is sometimes quite
willing to play the pipe if some one will dance to it.
Indeed, the stories woven around his casual suggestions
are tame and vapid alongside his own essays
in fiction, probably never to be published, but which
show what a real inventor can do when he cuts loose
to create a new heaven and a new earth, unrestrained
by any formal respect for existing conditions of servitude
to three dimensions and the standard elements.

The present chapter, essentially technical in its
subject-matter, is perhaps as significant as any in this
biography, because it presents Edison as the Master
Impresario of his age, and maybe of many following
ages also. His phonographs and his motion pictures
have more audiences in a week than all the theatres
in America in a year. The "Nickelodeon" is the central
fact in modern amusement, and Edison founded
it. All that millions know of music and drama he
furnishes; and the whole study of the theatrical managers
thus reaching the masses is not to ascertain the
limitations of the new art, but to discover its boundless
possibilities. None of the exuberant versions of
things Edison has not done could endure for a moment
with the simple narrative of what he has really done
as the world's new Purveyor of Pleasure. And yet
it all depends on the toilful conquest of a subtle and
intricate art. The story of the invention of the
phonograph has been told. That of the evolution
of motion pictures follows. It is all one piece of
sober, careful analysis, and stubborn, successful
attack on the problem.

The possibility of making a record of animate movement,
and subsequently reproducing it, was predicted
long before the actual accomplishment. This, as we
have seen, was also the case with the phonograph,
the telephone, and the electric light. As to the
phonograph, the prediction went only so far as the
RESULT; the apparent intricacy of the problem being
so great that the MEANS for accomplishing the desired
end were seemingly beyond the grasp of the imagination
or the mastery of invention.

With the electric light and the telephone the prediction
included not only the result to be accomplished,
but, in a rough and general way, the mechanism
itself; that is to say, long before a single sound
was intelligibly transmitted it was recognized that
such a thing might be done by causing a diaphragm,
vibrated by original sounds, to communicate its
movements to a distant diaphragm by a suitably
controlled electric current. In the case of the electric
light, the heating of a conductor to incandescence in
a highly rarefied atmosphere was suggested as a
scheme of illumination long before its actual
accomplishment, and in fact before the production of a
suitable generator for delivering electric current in a
satisfactory and economical manner.

It is a curious fact that while the modern art of
motion pictures depends essentially on the development
of instantaneous photography, the suggestion
of the possibility of securing a reproduction of animate
motion, as well as, in a general way, of the
mechanism for accomplishing the result, was made
many years before the instantaneous photograph became
possible. While the first motion picture was
not actually produced until the summer of 1889, its
real birth was almost a century earlier, when Plateau,
in France, constructed an optical toy, to which the
impressive name of "Phenakistoscope" was applied,
for producing an illusion of motion. This toy in turn
was the forerunner of the Zoetrope, or so-called
"Wheel of Life," which was introduced into this
country about the year 1845. These devices were
essentially toys, depending for their successful
operation (as is the case with motion pictures) upon a
physiological phenomenon known as persistence of
vision. If, for instance, a bright light is moved
rapidly in front of the eye in a dark room, it appears
not as an illuminated spark, but as a line of fire; a
so-called shooting star, or a flash of lightning produces
the same effect. This result is purely physiological,
and is due to the fact that the retina of the eye may
be considered as practically a sensitized plate of
relatively slow speed, and an image impressed upon it
remains, before being effaced, for a period of from
one-tenth to one-seventh of a second, varying according
to the idiosyncrasies of the individual and the intensity
of the light. When, therefore, it is said that
we should only believe things we actually see, we
ought to remember that in almost every instance we
never see things as they are.

Bearing in mind the fact that when an image is
impressed on the human retina it persists for an
appreciable period, varying as stated, with the
individual, and depending also upon the intensity of the
illumination, it will be seen that, if a number of pictures
or photographs are successively presented to the
eye, they will appear as a single, continuous photo-
graph, provided the periods between them are short
enough to prevent one of the photographs from being
effaced before its successor is presented. If, for
instance, a series of identical portraits were rapidly
presented to the eye, a single picture would apparently
be viewed, or if we presented to the eye the series
of photographs of a moving object, each one representing
a minute successive phase of the movement,
the movements themselves would apparently again
take place.

With the Zoetrope and similar toys rough drawings
were used for depicting a few broadly outlined
successive phases of movement, because in their day
instantaneous photography was unknown, and in addition
there were certain crudities of construction that
seriously interfered with the illumination of the pictures,
rendering it necessary to make them practically
as silhouettes on a very conspicuous background.
Hence it will be obvious that these toys produced
merely an ILLUSION of THEORETICAL motion.

But with the knowledge of even an illusion of
motion, and with the philosophy of persistence of
vision fully understood, it would seem that, upon the
development of instantaneous photography, the
reproduction of ACTUAL motion by means of pictures
would have followed, almost as a necessary consequence.
Yet such was not the case, and success was
ultimately accomplished by Edison only after
persistent experimenting along lines that could not
have been predicted, including the construction of
apparatus for the purpose, which, if it had not been
made, would undoubtedly be considered impossible.
In fact, if it were not for Edison's peculiar mentality,
that refuses to recognize anything as impossible until
indubitably demonstrated to be so, the production
of motion pictures would certainly have been delayed
for years, if not for all time.

One of the earliest suggestions of the possibility of
utilizing photography for exhibiting the illusion of
actual movement was made by Ducos, who, as early
as 1864, obtained a patent in France, in which he said:
"My invention consists in substituting rapidly and
without confusion to the eye not only of an individual,
but when so desired of a whole assemblage, the enlarged
images of a great number of pictures when taken
instantaneously and successively at very short
intervals.... The observer will believe that he sees
only one image, which changes gradually by reason of
the successive changes of form and position of the
objects which occur from one picture to the other.
Even supposing that there be a slight interval of
time during which the same object was not shown,
the persistence of the luminous impression upon the
eye will fill this gap. There will be as it were a living
representation of nature and . . . the same scene will
be reproduced upon the screen with the same degree
of animation.... By means of my apparatus I am
enabled especially to reproduce the passing of a
procession, a review of military manoeuvres, the
movements of a battle, a public fete, a theatrical scene,
the evolution or the dances of one or of several persons,
the changing expression of countenance, or, if
one desires, the grimaces of a human face; a marine
view, the motion of waves, the passage of clouds in
a stormy sky, particularly in a mountainous country,
the eruption of a volcano," etc.

Other dreamers, contemporaries of Ducos, made
similar suggestions; they recognized the scientific
possibility of the problem, but they were irretrievably
handicapped by the shortcomings of photography.
Even when substantially instantaneous photographs
were evolved at a somewhat later date they
were limited to the use of wet plates, which have
to be prepared by the photographer and used immediately,
and were therefore quite out of the question
for any practical commercial scheme. Besides
this, the use of plates would have been impracticable,
because the limitations of their weight and size would
have prevented the taking of a large number of pictures
at a high rate of speed, even if the sensitized
surface had been sufficiently rapid.

Nothing ever came of Ducos' suggestions and those
of the early dreamers in this essentially practical and
commercial art, and their ideas have made no greater
impress upon the final result than Jules Verne's
Nautilus of our boyhood days has developed the
modern submarine. From time to time further
suggestions were made, some in patents, and others in
photographic and scientific publications, all dealing
with the fascinating thought of preserving and
representing actual scenes and events. The first serious
attempt to secure an illusion of motion by photography
was made in 1878 by Eadward Muybridge as a result
of a wager with the late Senator Leland Stanford,
the California pioneer and horse-lover, who had
asserted, contrary to the usual belief, that a trotting-
horse at one point in its gait left the ground entirely.
At this time wet plates of very great rapidity were
known, and by arranging a series of cameras along
the line of a track and causing the horse in trotting
past them, by striking wires or strings attached to the
shutters, to actuate the cameras at the right instant,
a series of very clear instantaneous photographs was
obtained. From these negatives, when developed,
positive prints were made, which were later mounted
on a modified form of Zoetrope and projected upon
a screen.

One of these early exhibitions is described in the
Scientific American of June 5, 1880: "While the
separate photographs had shown the successive positions
of a trotting or running horse in making a
single stride, the Zoogyroscope threw upon the screen
apparently the living animal. Nothing was wanting
but the clatter of hoofs upon the turf, and an occasional
breath of steam from the nostrils, to make the
spectator believe that he had before him genuine
flesh-and-blood steeds. In the views of hurdle-leaping,
the simulation was still more admirable, even
to the motion of the tail as the animal gathered for
the jump, the raising of his head, all were there.
Views of an ox trotting, a wild bull on the charge,
greyhounds and deer running and birds flying in mid-
air were shown, also athletes in various positions."
It must not be assumed from this statement that
even as late as the work of Muybridge anything like
a true illusion of movement had been obtained, because
such was not the case. Muybridge secured
only one cycle of movement, because a separate
camera had to be used for each photograph and
consequently each cycle was reproduced over and
over again. To have made photographs of a trotting-
horse for one minute at the moderate rate of twelve
per second would have required, under the Muybridge
scheme, seven hundred and twenty separate cameras,
whereas with the modern art only a single camera is
used. A further defect with the Muybridge pictures
was that since each photograph was secured when
the moving object was in the centre of the plate, the
reproduction showed the object always centrally on
the screen with its arms or legs in violent movement,
but not making any progress, and with the scenery
rushing wildly across the field of view!

In the early 80's the dry plate was first introduced
into general use, and from that time onward its rapidity
and quality were gradually improved; so much
so that after 1882 Prof. E. J. Marey, of the French
Academy, who in 1874 had published a well-known
treatise on "Animal Movement," was able by the
use of dry plates to carry forward the experiments of
Muybridge on a greatly refined scale. Marey was,
however, handicapped by reason of the fact that glass
plates were still used, although he was able with
a single camera to obtain twelve photographs on
successive plates in the space of one second. Marey,
like Muybridge, photographed only one cycle of the
movements of a single object, which was subsequently
reproduced over and over again, and the
camera was in the form of a gun, which could follow
the object so that the successive pictures would be
always located in the centre of the plates.

The review above given, as briefly as possible,
comprises substantially the sum of the world's
knowledge at the time the problem of recording and
reproducing animate movement was first undertaken
by Edison. The most that could be said of the
condition of the art when Edison entered the field was
that it had been recognized that if a series of
instantaneous photographs of a moving object could
be secured at an enormously high rate many times
per second--they might be passed before the eye
either directly or by projection upon a screen, and
thereby result in a reproduction of the movements.
Two very serious difficulties lay in the way of actual
accomplishment, however--first, the production of a
sensitive surface in such form and weight as to be
capable of being successively brought into position
and exposed, at the necessarily high rate; and, second,
the production of a camera capable of so taking
the pictures. There were numerous other workers
in the field, but they added nothing to what had already
been proposed. Edison himself knew nothing
of Ducos, or that the suggestions had advanced beyond
the single centrally located photographs of
Muybridge and Marey. As a matter of public policy,
the law presumes that an inventor must be familiar
with all that has gone before in the field within which
he is working, and if a suggestion is limited to a patent
granted in New South Wales, or is described in a
single publication in Brazil, an inventor in America,
engaged in the same field of thought, is by legal fiction
presumed to have knowledge not only of the existence
of that patent or publication, but of its contents.
We say this not in the way of an apology for the
extent of Edison's contribution to the motion-picture
art, because there can be no question that he was as
much the creator of that art as he was of the phonographic
art; but to show that in a practical sense the
suggestion of the art itself was original with him. He
himself says: "In the year 1887 the idea occurred
to me that it was possible to devise an instrument
which should do for the eye what the phonograph
does for the ear, and that by a combination of the
two, all motion and sound could be recorded and
reproduced simultaneously. This idea, the germ of
which came from the little toy called the Zoetrope
and the work of Muybridge, Marey, and others, has
now been accomplished, so that every change of
facial expression can be recorded and reproduced life-
size. The kinetoscope is only a small model illustrating
the present stage of the progress, but with
each succeeding month new possibilities are brought
into view. I believe that in coming years, by my
own work and that of Dickson, Muybridge, Marey,
and others who will doubtless enter the field, grand
opera can be given at the Metropolitan Opera House
at New York without any material change from the
original, and with artists and musicians long since

In the earliest experiments attempts were made
to secure the photographs, reduced microscopically,
arranged spirally on a cylinder about the size of a
phonograph record, and coated with a highly sensitized
surface, the cylinder being given an intermittent
movement, so as to be at rest during each
exposure. Reproductions were obtained in the same
way, positive prints being observed through a
magnifying glass. Various forms of apparatus following
this general type were made, but they were all open
to the serious objection that the very rapid emulsions
employed were relatively coarse-grained and prevented
the securing of sharp pictures of microscopic
size. On the other hand, the enlarging of the
apparatus to permit larger pictures to be obtained
would present too much weight to be stopped and
started with the requisite rapidity. In these early
experiments, however, it was recognized that, to
secure proper results, a single camera should be used,
so that the objects might move across its field just
as they move across the field of the human eye; and
the important fact was also observed that the rate
at which persistence of vision took place represented
the minimum speed at which the pictures should be
obtained. If, for instance, five pictures per second
were taken (half of the time being occupied in
exposure and the other half in moving the exposed
portion of the film out of the field of the lens and
bringing a new portion into its place), and the same ratio
is observed in exhibiting the pictures, the interval of
time between successive pictures would be one-tenth
of a second; and for a normal eye such an exhibition
would present a substantially continuous photograph.
If the angular movement of the object across the field
is very slow, as, for instance, a distant vessel, the
successive positions of the object are so nearly coincident
that when reproduced before the eye an impression
of smooth, continuous movement is secured. If, how-
ever, the object is moving rapidly across the field of
view, one picture will be separated from its successor
to a marked extent, and the resulting impression will
be jerky and unnatural. Recognizing this fact, Edison
always sought for a very high speed, so as to give
smooth and natural reproductions, and even with his
experimental apparatus obtained upward of forty-
eight pictures per second, whereas, in practice, at the
present time, the accepted rate varies between twenty
and thirty per second. In the efforts of the present
day to economize space by using a minimum length
of film, pictures are frequently taken at too slow a
rate, and the reproductions are therefore often
objectionable, by reason of more or less jerkiness.

During the experimental period and up to the early
part of 1889, the kodak film was being slowly
developed by the Eastman Kodak Company. Edison
perceived in this product the solution of the problem
on which he had been working, because the film presented
a very light body of tough material on which
relatively large photographs could be taken at rapid
intervals. The surface, however, was not at first
sufficiently sensitive to admit of sharply defined
pictures being secured at the necessarily high rates.
It seemed apparent, therefore, that in order to obtain
the desired speed there would have to be sacrificed
that fineness of emulsion necessary for the securing
of sharp pictures. But as was subsequently seen,
this sacrifice was in time rendered unnecessary.
Much credit is due the Eastman experts--stimulated
and encouraged by Edison, but independently of
him--for the production at last of a highly sensitized,
fine-grained emulsion presenting the highly sensitized
surface that Edison sought.

Having at last obtained apparently the proper
material upon which to secure the photographs, the
problem then remained to devise an apparatus by
means of which from twenty to forty pictures per
second could be taken; the film being stationary
during the exposure and, upon the closing of the
shutter, being moved to present a fresh surface. In
connection with this problem it is interesting to note
that this question of high speed was apparently regarded
by all Edison's predecessors as the crucial
point. Ducos, for example, expended a great deal
of useless ingenuity in devising a camera by means
of which a tape-line film could receive the photographs
while being in continuous movement, necessitating
the use of a series of moving lenses. Another
experimenter, Dumont, made use of a single large
plate and a great number of lenses which were
successively exposed. Muybridge, as we have seen,
used a series of cameras, one for each plate. Marey
was limited to a very few photographs, because the
entire surface had to be stopped and started in
connection with each exposure.

After the accomplishment of the fact, it would seem
to be the obvious thing to use a single lens and move
the sensitized film with respect to it, intermittently
bringing the surface to rest, then exposing it, then
cutting off the light and moving the surface to a
fresh position; but who, other than Edison, would
assume that such a device could be made to repeat
these movements over and over again at the rate of
twenty to forty per second? Users of kodaks and
other forms of film cameras will appreciate perhaps
better than others the difficulties of the problem,
because in their work, after an exposure, they have
to advance the film forward painfully to the extent of
the next picture before another exposure can take
place, these operations permitting of speeds of but a
few pictures per minute at best. Edison's solution of
the problem involved the production of a kodak in
which from twenty to forty pictures should be taken
IN EACH SECOND, and with such fineness of adjustment
that each should exactly coincide with its predecessors
even when subjected to the test of enlargement by
projection. This, however, was finally accomplished,
and in the summer of 1889 the first modern motion-
picture camera was made. More than this, the
mechanism for operating the film was so constructed
that the movement of the film took place in one-
tenth of the time required for the exposure, giving
the film an opportunity to come to rest prior to the
opening of the shutter. From that day to this the
Edison camera has been the accepted standard for
securing pictures of objects in motion, and such
changes as have been made in it have been purely
in the nature of detail mechanical refinements.

The earliest form of exhibiting apparatus, known
as the Kinetoscope, was a machine in which a positive
print from the negative obtained in the camera
was exhibited directly to the eye through a peep-
hole; but in 1895 the films were applied to modified
forms of magic lanterns, by which the images are
projected upon a screen. Since that date the industry
has developed very rapidly, and at the present time
(1910) all of the principal American manufacturers
of motion pictures are paying a royalty to Edison
under his basic patents.

From the early days of pictures representing simple
movements, such as a man sneezing, or a skirt-dance,
there has been a gradual evolution, until now the
pictures represent not only actual events in all their
palpitating instantaneity, but highly developed dramas
and scenarios enacted in large, well-equipped
glass studios, and the result of infinite pains and
expense of production. These pictures are exhibited
in upward of eight thousand places of amusement in
the United States, and are witnessed by millions of
people each year. They constitute a cheap, clean
form of amusement for many persons who cannot
spare the money to go to the ordinary theatres, or
they may be exhibited in towns that are too small
to support a theatre. More than this, they offer to
the poor man an effective substitute for the saloon.
Probably no invention ever made has afforded more
pleasure and entertainment than the motion picture.

Aside from the development of the motion picture
as a spectacle, there has gone on an evolution in its
use for educational purposes of wide range, which
must not be overlooked. In fact, this form of utilization
has been carried further in Europe than in this
country as a means of demonstration in the arts and
sciences. One may study animal life, watch a surgical
operation, follow the movement of machinery,
take lessons in facial expression or in calisthenics.
It seems a pity that in motion pictures should at last
have been found the only competition that the ancient
marionettes cannot withstand. But aside from
the disappearance of those entertaining puppets, all
else is gain in the creation of this new art.

The work at the Edison laboratory in the development
of the motion picture was as usual intense and
concentrated, and, as might be expected, many of
the early experiments were quite primitive in their
character until command had been secured of relatively
perfect apparatus. The subjects registered
jerkily by the films were crude and amusing, such as
of Fred Ott's sneeze, Carmencita dancing, Italians
and their performing bears, fencing, trapeze stunts,
horsemanship, blacksmithing--just simple movements
without any attempt to portray the silent drama.
One curious incident of this early study occurred
when "Jim" Corbett was asked to box a few rounds
in front of the camera, with a "dark un" to be selected
locally. This was agreed to, and a celebrated
bruiser was brought over from Newark. When this
"sparring partner" came to face Corbett in the imitation
ring he was so paralyzed with terror he could
hardly move. It was just after Corbett had won
one of his big battles as a prize-fighter, and the dismay
of his opponent was excusable. The "boys" at the
laboratory still laugh consumedly when they tell
about it.

The first motion-picture studio was dubbed by the
staff the "Black Maria." It was an unpretentious
oblong wooden structure erected in the laboratory
yard, and had a movable roof in the central part.
This roof could be raised or lowered at will. The
building was covered with black roofing paper, and
was also painted black inside. There was no scenery
to render gay this lugubrious environment, but the
black interior served as the common background for
the performers, throwing all their actions into high
relief. The whole structure was set on a pivot so
that it could be swung around with the sun; and
the movable roof was opened so that the accentuating
sunlight could stream in upon the actor whose
gesticulations were being caught by the camera.
These beginnings and crudities are very remote from
the elaborate and expensive paraphernalia and machinery
with which the art is furnished to-day.

At the present time the studios in which motion
pictures are taken are expensive and pretentious
affairs. An immense building of glass, with all the
properties and stage-settings of a regular theatre,
is required. The Bronx Park studio of the Edison
company cost at least one hundred thousand dollars,
while the well-known house of Pathe Freres in
France--one of Edison's licensees--makes use of no
fewer than seven of these glass theatres. All of the
larger producers of pictures in this country and
abroad employ regular stock companies of actors,
men and women selected especially for their skill in
pantomime, although, as most observers have perhaps
suspected, in the actual taking of the pictures the
performers are required to carry on an animated and
prepared dialogue with the same spirit and animation
as on the regular stage. Before setting out on
the preparation of a picture, the book is first written
--known in the business as a scenario--giving a
complete statement as to the scenery, drops and

Book of the day: