Author Topic: Edward Beech Craft: A Hackensack Pioneer (Photos)  (Read 5325 times)

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Edward Beech Craft: A Hackensack Pioneer (Photos)
« on: June 15, 2006, 05:45:51 PM »
PIONEER TALKING MOTION PICTURE INVENTOR LIVED IN HACKENSACK: 1907-1929


(Submitted by Dr. Charles D. Wrege, Cornell University, June 15, 2006. Reprinted with permission).
 
Edward Beech Craft, a Director of Bell Telephone Laboratories, lived in Hackensack  from about 1907, until his death, at age 47, on August 20, 1929.  Craft, born in Cortland, Ohio, September 12, 1881.  At the age of ten, he had a small workshop in his family's home at Mercer and Belmont Street in Warren, Ohio, and repaired electric bells for neighbors and friends. Although he attended public schools, he never completed high school because of his deep interest in electricity.
 
In 1900, at the age of 19 he became Superintendent of the lamp Department of the Warren Electric and Speciality Company, but resigned in 1902 to go to Chicago, where he obtained a position with the Western Electric Company at their huge Hawthorne Works in Cicero, Illinois.
 
From 1902 to 1904, Craft was in the Telephone Switchboard Department at Hawthorne where his electrical abilities were employed in improving switchboard operations. His work was so outstanding that he was placed in charge of developing improved switchboards.
 
In February, 1904, Craft applied for a patent for an "Alarm-Fuse for Telephone-Exchanges" designed to indicate a problem by a coiled spring that brought a clear glass bead into an easily viewed position as an indication of a blown fuse. This fuse was so useful that as No. 35 type fuse it was still being used at the time of his death in 1929.
 
By 1907, Craft had organized a research team that was so successful in developing new telephone applications (Craft alone had 58 inventions) that with the consolidation of development and research work within Western Electric they were moved to New York City. By 1918, he was Assistant Chief Engineer, responsible for all the developmental work within Western Electric.  In 1917, Craft's abilities were utilized by the United States Army Signal Corps. From March , 1917 to May, 1918,first as a Captain and later as a Major.  In June 1918 he became a technical advisor to the United States Navy in London.  In the military, Craft developed devices to detect submarines and to enable radio communucation with planes and dirigibles.
 
From his early workshop in Warren, Ohio, until his death in 1929, Craft enjoyed working in his own workshop instead of the large laboratories at Western Electric.  While no deed search has been made, the evidence seems to indicate that he purchase a home at 436 Summit Avenue, Hackensack, (perhaps in 1917) where he could have his own workshop and still be within easy travel, by train and ferry, to Western Electric in New York City. On November 28, 1919, Craft and Edwin H. Colpitts, filed for a patent on a "Method and Apparatus for Recording Sound." In their application, Craft gave his address as Hackensack, New Jersey and Colpitts, his address as East Orange, New Jersey.
 
Starting in 1920, Western Electric began investigating the possibility of talking motion pictures. Two groups were established, one headed by I.B. Crandall, experimenting with sound on film, the second by J.P. Maxfield with sound on disc. The sound on disc system, however progressed rapidly through the invention , by Craft, of an improved sound on disc system. This disc (or "sound reproducer")  was so successful that Craft with his characteristic enthusiasm was able to convince western Electric officals that his method of electrical recording on disc should be demonstrated to the motion picture industry.  A special set of records was made to provide the commentary to a Western Electric film entitled "The Audion". This was an animation that explained the workings of a three stage vacuum tube. The sound disc was synchronized with the film, Craft demonstrated this system at Yale University on October 27, 1922.  This demonstration was a success and in the Spring of 1923, urged by Craft, Western Electric decided to make real talking motion pictures. These first short "talkies" were made at 463 West Street, New York City, using employees as actors.  The results were so successful thst Craft decided to make some short pictures with professional talent and they were shot in Room 1109, at West Street. These early talking motion pictures were later incorporated into a film, released in 1925, called the "Voice From The Screen".
 
On August 1, 1923, Craft filed for a patent on "Sound Reproduction" system (granted March 30, 1926) once again giving his address as Hackensack, New Jersey. Apparently to demonstrate this system to Bell System executives, Craft produced what is believed to be the first industrial sound film. (If anyone has any information about the whereabouts of the film, please email: c.wrege@verizon.net).  It presented an overview of the manufacturing facilities of Western Electric at the Hawthorne Works in Cicero, Illinois, by the use of talking captions. The film was demonstrated in New York City on February 13, 1924. People have searched for this pioneer film for many years,but no copy has been located. The writer is currently searching for this film in connection with its use in a planned "Western Electric Hawthorne Works Museum " at Morton College in Cicero, Illinois because a majority of Cicero residents, in the past (since the facility is now torn down) worked at "Hawthorne."  This search has been extensive and has now been expanded to cover the entire globe. It is the writer's belief that a copy of this historic film does exist somewhere and awaits its discovery in a location that, at present,is unknown. Suggestions regarding this search would be appreciated.
 
A projection booth was built at 463 West Street to enable demonstrations. Motion picture executives came to visit, including Sam Warner (of Warner Brothers) who realized that Craft's disc system had provided a turning point in the motion picture industry.  Western Electric licensed Walter J. Rich to form a company to commercially produce sound motion pictures. Rich and Sam Warner soon joined forces to create the Vitaphone Corporation which would use Craft's sound-on-disc system.  By the summer of 1925, plans were made to produce a full length sound movie within a year . They were successful and the first Talking, Motion Picture, "Don Juan" opened at the Warner Theatre on Broadway, New York City, on August 6, 1926.  A special edition of Variety said it was a sensation and silent motion pictures became onsolete overnight. Craft became the spokesman for Vitaphone, and a director in the newly firmed Bell Laboratories. Craft, however, did not live long to enjoy his success. In the summer of 1928, he became very ill and the Bell Laboratories, in February 1929, gave him a year's vacation, sending him and his family on a voyage to the South Pacific. On returning to California , he was operated on for a brain tumor and his condition apparently improved so he went to Maine in July. He became ill once again and died on August 20, 1929.  His funeral was held at his Hackensack home on August 3, 1929. He left his wife, May Richards Craft and his daughter Virginia. Burial was in New Jersey, although the location, at the present time, is unknown.
 
In its newspaper, The Western Electric News, for September, 1929, Western Electric paid the following tribute to Craft and his work: "To Mr. Craft's vision and energy the modern talking machine and sound picture are largely due. He early realized that the high-quality microphone, and the vacuum-tube amplifier held possibilities for sound-recording and reproduction of hitherto unknown fidelity. Under his stimulus, a program of development was initiated and carried forward which has led to the public address system, to many of the devices used in broadcasting; to the modern phonograph, and to the Western Electric Systems of sound-pictures."
 
Hackensack should be proud that one of its citizens, although forgotten for too long, made such contributions to our society.

Dr. Charles D.Wrege, Cornell University, June 15, 2006.



« Last Edit: January 31, 2007, 02:19:54 PM by Editor »



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Re: Edward Beech Craft: A Hackensack Pioneer (Photos)
« Reply #1 on: June 16, 2006, 04:00:41 PM »
That's the house.

Here's an old ad with a picture of the house. It's been modified and apparently had an addition that was later "subtracted". It could be another house, but I doubt it. The roof line is also a little different now.

« Last Edit: June 16, 2006, 04:12:34 PM by Editor »

ericmartindale

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Re: Edward Beech Craft: A Hackensack Pioneer (Photos)
« Reply #2 on: June 18, 2006, 10:45:18 AM »
That's a splendid example of Greek Revival architecture with some Federal influences.  I flipped through the pages of "The Architecture of Bergen County" by T. Robins Brown and Schuyler Warmflash, published in 2001, in making that determination. (Great book, by the way, and available at major bookstores). It probably dates to the 1840's or 1850's, although it is very possible that it was built around 1900-1910 with the specific intention of looking older. There was a little bit of nostalgia in the 1900-1910 era. Most of the houses in that neighborhood are early 1900's.

The small second story windows on the "addition" imply the age of the house.  Chances are the addition was either the original house or it was constructed with the main house. 

I'm e-mailing a current picture of the house to post (please post both photos on your historic homes picture section).  This way we can compare and see if it is the same house.

I think we should be doing more to identify and post online all the historic houses in Hackensack.

Do you have a date of that ad ?