[D0326AAQ], Letter from William Edgar Gilmore to Thomas Alva Edison, September 16th, 1903


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[D0326AAQ], Letter from William Edgar Gilmore to Thomas Alva Edison, September 16th, 1903




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Thomas A. Edison Papers, School of Arts and Sciences, Rutgers University


Letterhead of Foreign Department of the National Phonograph Co. Edison Manufacturing Co. Bates Manufacturing Co.
32, Rempart St. Georges.
Antwerp, Belgium.
Sept. 16th. 1903.
My Dear Mr. Edison:-
Well we have at last secured the first record making plant, and it will be located at Brussels, Belgium. Mr. Riehl looked [illegible overstruck text] over 21 distinct plants in Brussels and 7 plants here, but the best one is the one we have selected. We shall start off with two kettles, but we can increase to a total of four kettles if necessary. With two kettles we will turn out 5,000 records per day of twenty hours, and with the four kettles we can double this. This means good records. If we can get our men working here as well as we do in America the total output with four kettles can be increased to 13,000 good records per day of twenty hours. The plant is equipped with a 60 HP engine (nominal) and if necessary we can get 80 HP out of it, and also with a boiler of from 80 HP to 100 HP, both in excellent condition. The rent of this plant is $1,600. per year, and in addition we pay for City water $10. per year per faucet. We also pay other taxes, including those of the ground and buildings, but altogether this will not exceed $120. per annum. The plant is located directly on a canal, so that the cost of bringing in our fuel and other materials will be very low indeed. Water for the boiler and for flushing and other general purposes is taken from the canal, the cost being about $15. per year for a 1 1/2" pipe. Mr. Riehl has looked the labor market over quite thoroughly and assures me that he will have no trouble in securing such labor as he will require. We can get men for from six to eight cents per hour, as we only pay our engineer eighty cents per day, and first class mechanics can be obtained for from eight to ten cents per hour. We should therefore get the records out cheap. We were obliged to abandon the Antwerp plant that I mentioned [illegible overstruck text] in my previous letter as it was in the hands of some politicians, and there was so much red tape about securing rights and privileges from the authorities that I decided to abandon it and at once Riehl to drop it and go ahead at the Brussels end, as it was very much better. We also find that we have good shipping facilities from Brussels to London, as the depot is only about ten minutes drive from our plant. It is my intention to make both Belgium and London, or British, records at Brussels for the present at least. I doubt if we could keep the plant going to capacity for Belgium alone. I shall bring with me a sketch showing the plant, as well as the leases, which run for five, ten or fifteen years, so that we are only tied up for five years at $1,600. per year, plus the taxes, or about $8,000. We have the privilege of subletting also, should we decide to give up the plant. Letterhead of National Phonograph Company,
European Office.
We expect to be running fully within two months time.
Regarding the Paris record making plant, the plant we took over from Desbriere is small, and we shall have to enlarge this. However, we shall begin here and make such alterations as are necessary to have a capacity of about 2,500 good records per day of twenty hours. We realize that this will not be sufficient later on, but we have got to give the Frenchmen first class records or they will not purchase. The motive power here will be electric motors, current supplied by a local company. The rent is very cheap, but labor is higher, and very hard to get, as the general run of Frenchemen do not work any more than they have to. However, Mr. Riehl thinks he will be able to take care of this.
The French and German plants will be taken up and put through simultaneously, so that they will practically go into work about the same time. In fact the three plants will be pushed right ahead to a rapid completion.
Regarding the working of the patents on the new reproducer balls in France and Germany this has already been taken up and Riehl has prices of $7. per 100, which can no doubt be reduced if ordered in large quantities. I know that Orange cannot do them for this price, and later I expect to go into it most carefully.
Well I have met Stollwerck, and all told I have spent a week with him. He is a HOG of the first water. He is kicking about the jobbers and wants us to eliminate them entirely. Of course that is out the question so far as America is concerned, but I do not know but what we will have to cut out the jobbers or factors over here if we ever intend to establish our business on a firm foundation. I am afraid we will have trouble with them all the time. However, I shall go into this with you when I return.
I am leaving here to-morrow (Thursday) afternoon for Paris, where I shall take up and conclude all patent matters with Brandon Bros., leaving Paris for London on Sunday, so as to arrive in London Monday. I shall stay in London until the 30th., when I leave for home. There is a great deal still to be done in London, so that my time will be fully occupied. I have not seen the Edison-Bell crowd as yet, but will do so before I leave and report to you on my return. The Agreements are being signed up pretty well by the jobbers, although I am satisfied that some of them will not sign and as a consequence we shall cut them out. White will have his hands full, but I think I have coached his enough, and I feel that, in connection with Marks, they will be able to get the jobbers and dealers to understand that we mean business and that the agreements must be lived up to absolutely. There are some of them that think we do not mean what we say, but rest assured they will think differently if they do not live up to their agreement.
I have full information that the Columbia Co. have cut the price of the record to 25 cents list. I am very glad to know that you did not approve of our meeting the cut. This is I firmly believe the last straw, and they think that by cutting the price now they will get all of the business, but I am inclined to the opinion that dealers and jobbers generally will not take up their line again. I hope, however, that you have had good results with your new recorder experiements, and that we will soon be able to produce a much better record, which will offset this very radical move on their part. They are very much out of the cylinder business over here, and are giving the best part of their effort to the disc line. Prices have already been cut by the Gramophone Co. to meet a cut made by the Columbia, so if they keep it up between now and Christmas the public will of course be the gainer.
Disc machines and records are coming on the marker I understand galore for the Christmas trade, and before long I expect to hear that they can be bought for almost any price.
Trusting that this finds you enjoying your [illegible overstruck text] health in every way, an and with kind regards, in which Mrs. Gilmore joins me, I remain,
Yours very truly,
W. E. Gilmore
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