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Mt. Pulaski , Illinois
July 13, 1961     Times
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July 13, 1961

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--SIL.TENNIAL EDITION (Tlmm.News, Mr. Pulaski, Ill.) THURSDAY, JULY 12, IMI L. Capps World-Wide Known Inventor IN RECORDING MACHINE FORMER MOUNT A00A00rS PHONOGRAPH INDUSTRY ed Wih He is recognized today as an A. Edison; outstanding expert in the record- o Europe ing field, is labelled a genius by those who know him and yet he has never been given wide pub- Mount Pulaski is licity. He never wanted it for that he 125th year of its matter. 1836) by Jabez In the past few years, however, others coming from many people have wanted an year of 1961, it article written about him. The time to tell the demand comes not so much be. dividuals who had cause of the specific things he the world and at- has done as because of the out- standing personality that he is. Case it is the story of This article is written in response of Frank Lushbaugh to that demand, and I have chos- by his daugh- en the title, "Frank L. Capps and Capps Rainey, in His Lathe," because they had in 1941. The writ- been so closely associated thru- raention his boyhood out Mr. Capps' entire career. In itfformation is given fact his lathe is as much a part into the story, of him as his powerful eyes and IIUopolis skilled hands. Capps was, He was 19 when his father gave in Illiopolis, :him the lathe. His father was a R. and Eliz-fairly prosperous business man Capps. The in Springfield, Ill., who knew Mount Pulaski that he would never succeed in his first schooling making a storekeeper or real es- Logan county tate broker like himself, out of in the pub- his son Frank. an Abraham Lin- , Shrine, owned and Workshop Chief Interest the State of Ill- Frank, from his boyhood, had remained here had just one consuming interest, on South Wash. his workshop. He would come the place known home from school, do his chores, as the Phinney and immediately disappear into moved to Spring. i his bedroom. There he had tools attended high and books, electricity, sound FRKNK CAPPS, noted inventor in the field of recording in the an act- transmission and so on. So ab- early days, and inventor of the power spring and sapphire needle w York City and sorbed would he be "monkeying for fine recordings, was a well.known pioneer in the industry. became widely around", as he put it, that he on follow- i would have to be called a dozen was the day of wax cylinders, of Will tell. times to his supper and scolded enormous tin horns and of the Here later at night into blowing out expensive business of having to w York City, N. Y. his lamp and getting to sleep, recall the artist to make an or-: and his body was His bedroom was his first I iginal recording whenever a sec- The ashes workshop, and only twice in all in October when the years since has he been at the Sehahl without a well-equipped shop in in Mount Pulaski his own home, the two times mind to work on this problem. same day that when setting up in business for Again he and his lathe went to Cameron Beid- himself, he transferrred his prec- work. The result was a dupli- Idenly in Man- lous lathe to the business prem- cating machine that effectively across the ises. eliminated this previously awk- New York City. Frank was a quiet boy, rangy ward and expensive process and visit to Mount Pul- in build, shy in manner, and made copies a simple matter. Beidler, the two always devoted to his family. He Characteristically he did no1 they wanted to was particularly proud of his attempt to make a fortune or Mount Pulaski mother, a remarkably energetic seek publicity with his inven. side in the old and intelligent woman whose tion, although he undoubtedly did they think lifelong hobby was collecting could have. buried the same Lincolniana. "Didn't you patent it. #'' I asked of Mr. Beidler Her mother had been Lincoln's him. "Oh yes," he replied, cas. and funeral nearest neighbor in Springfield ually, almost disinterestedly. in the Sehahl in her own childhood. She de- "But -- didn't you make any Oct. 24, lighted in telling Frank, togeth- money out of it?" I persisted. Rev. Frank E. er with his two brothers and sis- "Well," said he, "the United of the Metho- ters, how she used to go over to States Phonograph Company in the corn- Abraham Lincoln's house and Newark offered me double the grave, a memor- climb up on the great man's salary I was making with the Frank L. Capps knee; and how Lincoln would J. Wayne Stal- come across the street to her l the Mount Pul- home to borrow coals to start his who paid fire. his fine From her Frank inherited his I night he invented and patented USeful career as remarkable vitality and energy, the magnetic principle now used were the wish. Even today he can outwork the for picking-up sound, the first carried out. youngest of his employees; a re- important work he and his new writtten by markable feat when one consid- lathe turned out. The magnetic ers that he has always scorned principle is still used, of course Inventor vacations and for years has spent in magnetic pickups. is another almost every night until the Whether Capps was led into whose small hours of the morning, his work with the telephone brought him working in his laboratory at his company because of an interest and fame. home or in the shop. He also in- in the whole field of sound, or in the herited his vigorous independ- found himself absorbed in it aft- ence and splendid eyesight from er his experience as trouble- man, I do not know. Musical tal- son of John her. In spite of the fact that he Jabez has been doing precision work ent was pronounced in his faro. Pulaski. for so many years, fashioning ily, and while his sister Mabel, little girl, often delicate little mechanisms too low Mrs. John Bretz, of Spring- field, Ill., became a distinguish- of Abraham small for the naked eye to see, radio broad- he seldom needs glasses today, ed concert pianist, he seems to Mr. Capps' His capacity for taking infinite have resolved at this time to de- and as the in- pains with his work, his pa- vote his talent and love of music needle, tience, his easy-going, tolerant to the instrument of sound, the story was good nature, and droll sense of phonograph. True there was a Isabel humor he acquired from his flute lying about in his workshop father, in those days. He admits, with a 40 years Frank Frank's working career began wry grin, that he sometimes en- enormous- at 17. He got a job then in the joyed making horrible noises on of sound and superintendent's office In a it. But he evidently abandoned His earlier in- watch factory in Springfield, Ill. the idea of making music him- in the At 19 he was making the tools self for the broader one of per- phonograph, used by the watch-makers In the fecting the instrument through recent one, a factory, which great music and great for instantan. After work at night he would artists might be preserved. has been a eat his dinnner and disappear, Developed ph the building as usual, into his workshop now The phonograph industry was removed to a more spacious place in its infancy at that time, It in the cellar. His mind was be- ginning to produce original ideas and he probably talked a great deal to his father about them. At any rate, that was when the lathe was bought. In all his life, he says, he never received a present that thrilled him so much. Certainly no gift could have been more lastingly useful. He was 19 when the Bell Company offered him a job as Trouble Man. He liked it well enough until the Boston office passed a ruling that the Trouble Man must go out and climb the poles whenever anything went wrong on the line. Weather ]k=d Quit Job "I didn't mind climbing poles," he says, "but I didn't always like the weather. So I quit." Invented Magnetic Principle Two weeks later they called aim back and asked him to go to Chicago and work in the Bell Research Department there. Their recalling him is not surprising because, young and relatively in- experienced as he was, it was while performing his daytime tuties as trouble man that at terested, though," he said. Nev. l ertheless, he took it out to Edi- son's plant. He said, "Mr. Edison, here is a new kind of motor that I want you to let me show you. It is driven by a spring and eliminat. es the need of storage batteries." Mr. Edison replied that there was only one way to run a mot- or, by electricity; but agreed to look at it. "First, though," he said, "listen to a really good re- cording," and, turning to an as. sistant, he asked him to demon- strate a machine. The assistant went off only to come back and report that there was not a single charged battery in the place at that moment. This was Mr. Tewkesbury's opportunity. "That's just what we're up a- gainst, Mr. Edison," he exclaim. ed. "People are constantly com- plaining because their machines fail when the batteries suddenly go dead. This motor does away with that." Motor Solves Problem So the Capps spring motor was demonstrated and Mr. Edison was immediately pleased. He got in touch with Capps at once and had him moved out to the Edison plant where for several months he supervised the building of his spring motors for Mr. Edison's talking machines. However, he made no attempt to reap large sums from it and was pleased when The Columbia Phonograph company of Bridge- port, Conn., immediately called i him there to supervise the build- ing of machines for them. The years 1901 and 1902 were spent perfecting the molds for the newly invented method of molding cylinder records, and the designing of recording ma- chines and apparatus for disc records which were Just being ond or third copy was desired, i perfected. 'This was for The Capps, still working in the Bell Columbia company. research laboratories, put his Spent Year Abroad telephone company if I would build duplicating machines for them. If you double your salary every once in a while you are do- ing all right, aren't you?" After he had built the dupli- cating machine for Mr. Tewkes- bury and his United States Phon- ograph Co., Capps decided to go into business for himself. He op- ened a shop in Newark, busying himself making phonograph parts, sapphire needles for wax recording, shaving knives and so on. His lathe, of course, went with him into his new shop and took part in the next invention. Phonograph machines were at that time driven by storage bat- teries. Storage batteries, of course are fine when charged, but they do have an annoying habit of giving out at the wrong moment. So Mr. Capps conceived and built a motor driven by a spring and took it around to Mr. Tewkesbury for a demonstration. Mr. Tewkes. bury was delighted. The United States Phonograph Co., I neg- lected to say, had the exclusive handling of all Thomas Edison's talking machine and record sal- es in addition to making record. lngs of their own. On seeing Capps' spring motor, Mr. Tew. kesbury, " therefore, naturally wanted to show the motor to Edi- son. "I doubt if Edison will be in- I In 1903 Columbia asked him to spend a year abroad making re- cordings for their European cata- logue. With his wife, a charm- ing and intelligent woman, and their two small children, he set out on this assignment with great excitement. It was a rich ex- perience for it took him into every country in Europe and brought him into close contact with artists and technical men everywhere. He learned to speak a half dozen languages suffici- ently well to make himself un* derstood, and he and wife made friends wherever they went. They both possessed great personal magnetism, both were entirely free from artificialty and were so genuinely friendly, so inter. ested in everyone and everything that they were extended an inti- mate hospitality denied the tray. elled. One such experience proved more of an ordeal than a pleas- ure, however. He is reminded of it whenever anyone ask him to sample a special dish. He will say, "It isn't raw fish, is it?" and then tell his story. "Some people in Vienna want. ed to give me a farewell din- ner because I was leaving Vien- na for Russia on the following day. Ordinarily the Viennese do not ask you to their home for dinner. When they have a guest they take him to a restaurant where cooking is on a par with home cooking anyway. Being in- vited into a home is a very spee. ial honor. Well, these people did invite me. They said they had a very special treat for me; won. derful dish; a great delicacy. raved about it. You can imagine how I felt when the delicacy was set before me and turned out to be raw fish, seasoned of course, but raw fish Just the same. Some. how I managed to eat it all be. cause I did not want to hurt their feelings. As I ate they never took their eyes off my face, watching for the delighted expression they expected to see. When I manag. ed to eat it all without betray. (Continued on next page)