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July 13, 1961     Times
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July 13, 1961
 

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'ii  , --SIL.TENNIAL EDITION (Times.Hews, Mr. Pulaski, IlL) THURSDAY. JULY 13. 1961 FRANN L. CAPPS-- just the effect he wanted is well (Continued from preceding page) enough known and his business has grown from a small labora- ing my real feelings they were tory to a flourishing enterprise. overjoyed and insisted on giving Those who know about those me a second helping because I experimental years from 1930 to he finally succeeded in getting had seemed to enjoy the first so much! Some people really like the stuff," he goes on, "but to me it was awful. That was the hard- est thing I ever did." Mr. Capps was with Columbia for many years after that, super- vising the manufacture of records and the building of machines, working far into the night at home on new mechanical im- provements to be tried out at the factory. He was with them in fact, except for an interval when he performed similar services for the Pathe company in Brooklyn, until a few years ago when he set up once more in business for himself. Radio Pioneer It is typical of him that he fore-saw new possibilities that radio would bring to the re- cording field and set out in ad- vance to meet them. With the advent of radio his home became one large experimental labora- tory. Wires were strung all over the place and whole boxloads of radio parts cluttered up his workshop. He said radio was go- ing to change the whole record- ing field and before more than an isolated one or two people had thought of it, he was mak- ing recordings off the air at home, static and all. Some day, he said, there would be a lot of recording off the air. His prize such recording is Woodrow Wil. son's last speech, delivered from the White House bedroom when Wilson lay at the point of death. It is not a very good recording; it was a pioneer. Invented Needle Then in 1929 he made the de- cision that has brought about the triumphant climax of his career. Talking to his daughter about it he said, "You know I think that there is going to be a big demand for recording needles soon. Engineers are busy now perfecting a new kind of record- ing machine and there is a new kind of disc that can be played right back without having to be processed. I think radio stations and studios will start making re- cordings as soon as these ma- chines are built; and people will buy them to use in their homes too. But it is going to require a different kind of needle than we use for cutting wax and I think I'll go into the business of making them." He admits now that he did not anticipate the vastness of the present demand. Neverthe- less, seeing the possibilities for a business of his own he set out to perfect a cutting needle that could be used successfully in the new instantaneous recording technique. Friends who saw him at work during the year or two that fol- lowed this decision, marvelled at the energy, the patience and the wonderful skill of the man. His health at that time was poor, in fact several years before that he had been pronounced incurably ill by several surgeons. Frank Capps, however, not only disagreed with them but characteristically worked out his own treatment. He studied him- self as impartially, as thorough- ly, as he would have studied any mechanical problem. When he had isolated reactions that could be called facts he worked out the means for counteracting the symptoms. His friends and as- sociates were amused, considered him merely eccentric. Today they know that this study of himself was a real scientific experiment for he is in better health now than for many years. Hours No Object So it was with the handicap of bad health that he put in long patient hours of experimenting on a new type of recording needle. Two, three and four o'clock in the morning would find him still at work, using his lathe to make new tools and the tools in turn to put new finishes on his needles. And while he worked engineers were constant- ly in and out or calling him on the phone for advice on the de- signing of new machines. That 1933 credit him with making new strides in recording technique possible. Herbert Berliner of Can- ada, himself an expert recording technician with a life long as- sociation in the phonograph field said recently, "You know, there's no possible doubt about it, the phonograph industry and par- ticularly this new instantaneous recording technique would not be where it is today, if it had not had the help that Frank Capps has given it. He advised the en- gineers on how to build the ma- chines and he perfected a needle capable of the same high qual- ity they used to get only on wax. He is a great man." He is a big silver haired man today, with kindly eyes and the careless poise that comes from wide travels and a deep simplic- ity. From long habit his mind singles out the essential things, discards irrelevancies, a habit which automatically keeps him from worrying. A care in point is his unconcern in the follow- ing matter. Some time last win- ter a man announced over the radio that he was the inventor of the first spring motor for the Edison phonograph. More recent- ly a magazine printed the state- ment that still another man in- vented not only the spring motor but the duplicating machine as well. I asked him about it. For reply he got up and sorted out the patents, a great sheaf of them, that had been issued to i him from time to time in Wash- ington. The spring motor and duplicating machine patents were both there, plainly issued to Frank L. Capps, a man who never bothered about getting publicity for what he had made because he was too busy mak- ing something else. He showed me the patents and smiled. "All I know," he quipped, "is what I read in these papers." He was- n't bothered about it. His employees literally adore him not only because he is a monument of achievement but because he never fails to enliven the day with his dry wit. Recently he sent a suit out to be cleaned and donned a very old one as a temporary expedi- ent. Wally Rose, startled at the sudden transformation said, "Well. hello CappsyI I think I've seen that suit before." "Yes," Capps replied, "but have you seen it behind?" and turning a- round he revealed a gaping tear in the seat of his pants. On another occasion standing beside the bench where one of his employees was making re- producing needles, a friend ask- ed him if he might have one. Mr. Capps handed him the needle with his usual elaborate casual- ness. "Take it along," he said, and waved his friend away. The friend, however, reached for his wallet. "No, no!" he exclaimed. "I'm paying for it." "Why should you?" Mr. Capps grinned. "It doesn't cost me any- thing! All I have to do is ask the girl for one!" If his lathe could talk it would tell a fascinating story. Beside it the great and near great, ex- ecutives, artists, engineers, and an occasional friend in distress have sat and talked while Frank Capps worked. The reminiscenc- es, the witty conversations, tech- nical discussions and hard luck stories that have taken place in its presence would fill a volume of highly entertaining reading. Together Frank Capps and his lathe have had a remarkable career and bid fair for many years to come. No doubt Frank's father, if he were alive today, would be proud of his son and glad that he gave a lathe to the boy who was always "monkey- mg around with tools". Frank Capps has always super- vised in a big way and the lathe was where he made the neces- sary parts for his brain children. When he had the model perfect- ed he would turn it over to his machinists, of which he always had the best, and they would take it up from there. He is an exceptional executive and most NEW YORK TIMES CARRIES STORY OF MASTER POINT MAKER F. CAPPS Russian Imperial Looks On As He Records Czar's Band The accompanying article is re- printed from the New York Times, Sunday, Feb. 21, 1943: By T. R. Kennedy. Jr. "This is the story of a master 'point-maker' whom man), today acclaim as the dean of artisans now active in the upkeep of America's tremendously growing wartime recording industry. When you buy a phonograph record, or listen to a transcribed air program, chances are the wavering 'needle' groove on the original or 'master' recording was initially cut by a jewel point fashioned by this expert, whose sanctum is an obscure little workshop in this city. "Point-making" today is im- portant war business because American radio entertainment or music now finds its way to our distant war camps and fronts principally on recorded disks of one sort or another. The current shipment overseas to the Army alone, is about 26,000 per month. MOre than a half million have been sent to all branches of the service. A recording "point", it should be explained, is generally a fine- ly shaped and polished bit of sapphire. In use, the finished point literally plows out the or- iginal needle track on the mast- er disk, thus transferring the "sound" of voice or music to the disk's groove as a lot of kinks and wiggles. Skill Is Required Synthetic sapphire, of near. diamond hardness, is now large. ly used. Roughed out of the or- !ginal material on diamond-dust Impregnated 'wheels', then lap- ped to within a few thousandths of an inch -- all under high- power viewing lenses -- point- making is now a skill that rivals that of the most artful gem-cut- ters. The modern point fabricator therefore, must be expert in "near-microscopic mechanics." Such, in a nutshell, is Frank L. Capps, who is so busy these days that he is seldom seen except a- mong his unique collection of tools, wheels and sco floor back--244 W. 49th St." America's new wartime record ing industry perhaps owes as much to the uncanny skill of Mr. Capps as any living artisan in sound, and there's plenty of sup- porting evidence. In Manhattan, the "Hollywood" of sound-on- disk recordings, "Ask Capps" is a common expression. Early Days Are Recalled Mr. Capps' interest in record- ing dates back just 50 years. His sister was a pianist. It would be interesting, he thought, in 1893, to make records of her playing. Of course, Thomas A. !Edison had invented the phono- graph and made a few machin- es, but they were scarce and ex- pensive. One day in Chicago the mechanic met a music-loving truckman who had an Edison hidden under his mattress in a nearby flop house. A deal was made -- in return for fixing up the machine Mr. Capps was al- lowed to make a copy of it for himself. He fashioned not only one, but two, exactly like the or- iginal, and with an early form of microphone made not only orig- inal cylinder records but repro- duced them in small quantities by "dubbing" one from another. An early maker of Edison ma- chines, hearing of Mr. Capps' success and needing the system, hired the man that built it. But soon the mechanic was "on his own" again, having invented a sapphire "ball" to play the old "wax" cylinder records without destroying the groove. Actually the cylinders were made of hard "soap". His peculiar mechanical ability, however, could not long be hidden. An offer came from Camden, N.J., to help produce a complete.ly new machine. The re- sult, it is said, had much to do of his work came under that heading. The lathe was his hob- by and outlet resulting in his ap- proximately 50 patents. with the beginning of the Victor Talking Machine Co. Then came another offer -- to join the Columbia Phonograph Co. He Went To Europe Columbia, it seems, had uncov- ered a new "quantity" method of producing or processing re- cordings by pouring hot wax in- to molds. A new type of sap. phire point was needed to cut the masters. Mr. Capps made it. When records of foreign singers and bands were needed the me- chanic turned recordist and jour- neyed to Europe. He set up a recorder in the Summer Palace at Peterhof and made disks of the Czar's band and favorite singers, as the Imperial Russian court looked on. Later, in this country, he adjusted his ma- chine and 48-inch horn for such as Edouard de Reszke, Schu- mann-Heink, Scotti and Sem- brich. The microphone wasn't so well-known in those days. "Often," Mr. Capps recalled, "the powerful" singers wrecked ASHES OF FRANK CAPPS BURIED HERE (Oct. 21, 1943) Memorial services for Frank L. Capps, will be held at the grave on the old Beidler family lot in :Mount Pulaski cemetery about 3 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 24, 1943, im- mediately following the inter- ment of his cousin, Donald C. Beidler, who died suddenly at 5 p.m., Monday, Oct. 18, in his photographic studio in Manhas- sett, Long Island, N. Y. The ash- es of Mr. Capps arrived Mort- the machine by singing loud. We had to wear the l by many repeats, and it took hours." Music "'Off The ' Years passed. Early in with the record business what it once was," Mr. again on his own--was of work, when ho heard band leader, who, with apparatus linked to his set in a New York Hotel was "taking music off Would Mr. Capps help perfect the fashion a few cutting would ! Result No. 1--The phire cutter---a Capps --which not only cuts ishes the groove too, a now considered quite ible in recording. Result No. 2The Capps workshop has moment to spare from of helping to turn points to cut the new cordings, of one type er, from which to press Uncle Sam's overseas tered throughout the day morning at the al home, from New York Only last week Donald ler wrote to his brother, Beidler, and wife, the ashes of his cousin ed on the Beidler lot, where he would be the final summons did he dream those days ago that he, too, called, and that of them would be held day. The memorial be in charge of J. pastor of the Christian OUR MOTTO .. NOW AS THEN." "FAIR DEALING and COURTEOUS TREATMENT" -4 Back when this picture was taken of the three Hanger Brothers. founders . the oldest established musical enterpr_. in Logan County. they set the above their motto. Today, we still serve yon ,s3 the same courteous, fair way with tls best in musical instruments and relateo items. We are proud that our business had .6 part in the early history of Mount PulaSio" and we appreciate the patronage the pie of your community continue to give year after year. We salute the citizens of Mount polar" ki on the 125th Anniversary of the fouS.,una ing of their city, and wish them the Dc.- for the years to come! HAHGER'S SToREMUSIG NORTH KICKAPOO ST.