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Chapter X - The Tickless Clock, Teleview, and the "Classified" Patent

hile I was in Detroit, I had started to invent - I went back to my original aim of being an independent inventor. I was able to get my own place to experiment. I had two ideas I wanted to develop. One was a mechanical tickless clock - because the ticking of a clock annoys some people. The other was three-dimensional motion pictures -- stereoscopic -- and this involved two cameras the same distance apart as your eyes. Their pictures would be projected onto a screen, superimposed. Then you needed a device to divide the image so the right eye would see only what the camera on the right saw, and vice versa. One device, a bit corny, was red and green glasses.

Another way was to use a shutter that rotates before your eyes, allowing each eye to see only what it is supposed to. I left the Gray Motor Company, rented space in a machine shop in Detroit, worked on both the inventions and developed them.

To finance the tickless clock, I found three young men who had some money and were interested, and after much talk and planning they formed a company. I had made a wind-up clock that didn't tick, and it worked; I had demonstrated it to them. They wanted to build a factory, but it turned out this would cost more than they had. I had an idea I could get someone to make it for a little more than a regular alarm clock. The Ansonia Clock Company seemed the most likely. But we couldn't get a reasonable price, so the clock never was produced.

However, what Hammond learned about clocks from this exploration was to come in very handy a few years later, when the name Hammond would become associated with clocks - - tickless, but of a very different kind.

For the other invention I could make a demonstration - not with movies, but with slides. I could show two slides, one image projected upon the other; with a magic lantern I could make an astonishing demonstration - you'd see the figures come forward and stand right out in space; if you really achieve a proper stereoscopic projection, it's a perfectly startling thing to see: the subjects hang out in the air right in front of you. I had to find somebody to put money into that. For I had already decided that I would put my time in, but under no circumstance would I ever put a cent of my money into any of my projects. Because somebody else has to think well of your invention, or maybe the whole thing is silly.

y mother said, "You know all sorts of people in Chicago - why not go there and see if you can get some money?"

I went there, and found there was a man named Barney Goodspeed, a very wealthy man who had married a girl I had used to take around in high school, and I called up his wife and told her I had something that would amuse her and her husband, and I was demonstrating this thing in a rented room in an office building on Michigan Avenue. I said, I'm not hiding from you that I'm here trying to raise money, but not necessarily from you. I want to demonstrate this thing - it's a lot of fun to watch."

So she appeared with her husband. And I put on a demonstration; and they were absolutely flabbergasted - if you've never seen it before, it's an astonishing thing. And this fellow said, "I have a friend who is just wild about stereoscopic pictures. He has one of these box things you sit in front of, and it has two lenses, and you turn a crank, and you see the pictures stereoscopically - and I know that he would be interested in this thing. His name is John Borden." Borden was a man with a very strange career. He had been to Annapolis and in the navy for a short time, and had inherited vast sums of money. And the first three-quarter million he had inherited, he just blew it all. But fortunately there was more. Well, Borden came to see the pictures. And he said, "Why, I've always been told it was impossible to project this thing out like that. I understand exactly what it is, but it's just absolutely remarkable. If this is going to be a company in which I can buy an interest, why, I'll tell you right now that I'm in."

oodspeed said, "What do you mean, you're in?" "Well, said Borden, "You saw the fellow first, and anything you don't want, I'll take."
"What do you mean, you'll take?" said Goodspeed.
"Well," Borden said, "I'll put in whatever it takes to establish the company and make a movie and do whatever needs to be done to give this thing a fair shake. I can't imagine that a thing like this would fail."

I spoke up and said, "Well, Mr. Borden, to get all the equipment and get a movie made is, I think, a very expensive thing. I don't really know how much it takes. You sort of take my breath away when you say you're just going to put in whatever is necessary, but it takes a lot of money."
"Well", he said, "Make a guess."
I said, "Well, I should think the simplest demonstration - I really can't answer - but it's a big number - certainly over a hundred thousand dollars."
And he said, "Oh, well - naturally."
I said, "Well, I would think maybe two hundred thousand dollars would give it some kind of trial - but I have no actual knowledge about this thing. I know about what I could build these slide things for, but the movie isn't like this one - it will look entirely different and work on an entirely different principle, with a motor. And it's going to take a lot of doing. We'll have to make enough of these to equip a good-sized theatre, with one for every seat."
orden said, "Well, I tell you what we'll do. We'll be partners in this thing, 50-50, and we have to make our major decisions unanimously, but in case we don't agree, then our mutual friend here, Barney, is to come out and listen to us and he is to decide. How will that be?"

I said, " I can't think of anything fairer than that, provided Barney is willing to do all this." Borden said, "Why, you're willing to do that, aren't you Barney?"
And Barney said, "Well, seeing its you, O.K., O.K., I will." The whole transaction was sold out like that - he was practically the first person who had appeared - the only one before him was Barney.

I eventually came up with a very ingeniously made device with a little window, and inside was a whirling shutter that made you see one picture with one eye just as that picture was flashed on the screen - and the next picture with the other eye just as that picture was flashed on the screen. I had designed the little motor that whirled the shutter, synchronized with the projector motor - they were both keeping time with the special generator, which I had installed in the Selwyn Theatre in New York for this purpose. We had rented the Selwyn, and each seat in the theatre was equipped with one of these devices. Meanwhile we had the problem of getting the motion picture made. John Borden said, "Well, if you want a really beautiful woman to put in the movie, I know one. And I know her very well. She works for Ziegfeld, and Ziegfeld refers to her as the most beautiful woman in the world. The catch to it is that her face, and the upper part of her body, are simply marvelous, but she has funny legs. She cannot play showgirl, but he uses her as the woman in the funny sketch. If you're going to have a movie, I'd like her to be in it."

o this brought up the situation of the sweetie-pie of the man who was financing the production, where you can't do anything about it. So we had her for the heroine. For the leading man we got Grant Mitchell, who was a very competent stage actor, but had never been in the movies. We didn't know any movie star we could get, but playing in our thing put him in the movies, and he became successful in character parts in the movies. I knew him for years.

As there weren't any movies in existence really appropriate to this new technique, I had written the scenario myself, but the property man didn't know that. One day he found he was supposed to hoist in to the sky a man holding a pair of enormous dumb-bells. "I didn't know who wrote this," he announced, "but I know he's a fool."

Our production was called Teleview. We made the picture, had contracted for the theatre, and it was going to open as an accomplished fact on December 27th, 1922, when lo and behold I found another patent in which a man had invented a pair of glasses that were going to be worn by the viewer, and the glasses had two little shutters in them - individual to each eye - to look at the picture. Now the actual structure that he had was not a practical thing, but the patent claim read smack on the thing we were going to open. So I told John Borden about this, and said I was going to go out there and see what I could do. In those days you didn't fly, you went on the train. I rode out to Los Angeles on the train, and so I had a lot of time to think about how I was going to approach this fellow to buy his patent for very little money. And I hit upon an idea, which was very successful with him. I went in and said I had just read his patent and I was overwhelmed by what a wonderful idea this thing was - this thing should be worth millions of dollars - I laid it on terribly thick, and I was terribly naive about all this -- we could go in and we could do this and we could do that --.

he man that was out there had a little engraving business. Well, I appeared to be so terribly naive about this thing; I said I can put through this, and the movie companies will all buy it, and so on; and of course by that time he'd had this patent for a long time and he'd tried to make it work, but he hadn't been able to; he'd built some models, but he couldn't make anything work, and as far as he was concerned, the whole thing was useless. And I was so damned naive the way I talked that he granted me a license to use his invention - because he knew the thing he had was unsalable - for a ridiculously small sum of money.

I'm sure that if I'd acted in a more sophisticated way, he might have smelt a rat; and I thought, boy, will he be surprised! There was an article that was about to appear in the Literary Digest with a great big picture of me, sitting in a chair with a thing in front of my face, and saying that it was about to be produced - the whole thing was just going to break in any moment, you see. But I got a license.

When Teleview opened at the Selwyn, Abie's Irish Rose had just started. Ethel Barrymore was starring in Romeo and Juliet, Jeanne Eagels in Rain. In the movies were Douglas Fairbanks in Robin Hood, Nazimova in Salome, Jackie Coogan in Oliver Twist; Will Rogers, Mary Pickford and Harold Lloyd were being featured, and Marian Davies was billed in When Knighthood was in Flower. Broadway was at its height - and so was Hammond's anticipation.

Well, the Teleview pictures were marvelous - incredibly clear. "You couldn't see that anything was moving in that little window you looked through, but it gave the element of depth. You would see trains go right by you, and children swim right over you," says one who saw them. But they couldn't tell a story - they put you up too close. When we showed the Grand Canyon, or Indians, doing a war-dance, it didn't matter, - but who wants to look up the heroine's nostrils? It showed you things you didn't want to see - all the perspiration on the actress's forehead under the Kleig lights. You couldn't follow the story - the details were too confusing. But it was the most marvelous photography you'd ever seen.

Perhaps, as the New York Times indicated, the photoplay, unlike the shorts, was a bit tedious. At any rate, something happened that had never happened on Broadway: People would leave the theatre when the story began; they'd get up and go out and say, "Where's the box office?" and buy tickets for their friends, saying, "Oh, Joe would love this!" But they'd seen it, as far as they were concerned. There was no more entertainment in it for them.

Well, when I realized that the thing wasn't going to play, I cried in my sleep, so that when I woke up in the morning, I found out, though I hadn't been aware or it, that the whole pillow and the top of the bed was drenched with my tears which I'd cried during my sleep. Oh, that was a most God-awful thing. We had to close at the end of two weeks.

The movies and the radio industry all got it wrong. People would say, "Well, Hammond, if you could only put this thing on without that funny gadget on the chair, then you'd really have something."

The only person who got it right was my sister Eunice. She said, "Larry, who asked you to put three dimensions into the movies? That's ridiculous! If you could abstract the pictures, it would improve them. The story's the thing; it isn't actresses running in and out of doorways."

Years later, people put on 3-D movies where they gave out red and green spectacles to the audience, and the first ones shown made money, and it was a great novelty, and so everyone wanted to be in it, and so then - that was strictly Hollywood - the Hollywood people immediately set their hounds to find out who had ever done anything like this - so of course they all found me. And lo and behold one day suddenly the telephone started to ring, and the operator would start to say, "It's somebody from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer who wants permission to talk to you." I'd say, "Put him on."
Then the man would start in right away on; "We understand that you are the man who knows the most about stereoscope motion pictures, and that you did this years ago, and we want to make a stereoscopic picture, and we would like to see if we could get some information from you, and if you will just consent to it, we'll send a little delegation out right away to interview you."

I think I would have succumbed to letting them come out, except that they all kept calling up at once. It was going to be a pest. So I just got very tough about it, and just begged off, and said, "Well, you can call try it with red and green glasses and make your movie and distribute the glasses; but people aren't going to like it; it's just a flash in the pan. People just don't take that idea seriously. It isn't going to be any good." I said that to everybody - all of which was perfectly true, because that's the way it came out.

John Borden took his financial loss as a good sport. Twenty-five years later when Hammond discovered that Borden had run through all his fortune and was almost destitute, he acquainted relatives of Borden with the fact and contributed with them to the support of the man who had financed his first venture. He continued his support as long as Borden lived. If Borden had to lose all his money, it was fortunate for him he lost part of it backing someone who would take care of him at the end, when he was down and out.*

fter the Selwyn performance closed down, D.W. Griffiths was making pictures at Mamaroneck, N.Y. He thought Teleview would be commercial, and he had me come out and make pictures with my double-lens camera beside his photographer, Billy Bitzer; but by that time I had great reservations about Teleview. Griffiths had made Little Old New York, featuring Marian Davies dressed kind of like a boy with a cap. She looked cute and attractive, at least in single lens photography. He showed the movie to William Randolph Hearst. But Hearst spent most of his time kissing Marian Davies: he didn't watch the movie. This kind of thing unsold me on the production.

It was about that time that I had an idea about how to save movie theatres a lot of money. The moving projector in those days contained a powerful arc light. Now, you could run those arc lights on alternating current, with transformers, and things like that, but the light actually goes out 120 times a second, and that has a way of heterodyning with the passage of the films, and you get flickering movies. When there is a big direct current grid, as there was in New York City, you get an arc that is perfectly stable - but there again you waste an awful lot of current, Because you have to have resistors, and that wastes a lot of money, as I found out in my high school days. Now I thought of another way of doing it, and that is to put in series with the arc a motor which draws current and acts as the resistor, and have that motor drive a generator which generates direct current, and you can feed that back into the system in such a way that you have a stable arc light and you're not wasting any electricity at all!

Well, I thought, maybe I'll offer this thing to some Theatres, and I can just make this up by ordering standard pieces of equipment from somebody - General Electric is the best, I guess - and then connect them in this way. But I must be sure and patent the way to do it. Otherwise, nothing will prevent other people from buying equipment and hooking it up this way. So I went to my patent attorney - I was always connected with a patent attorney - and I explained this thing and drew a diagram and told him to make a search and apply for a patent if it was patentable.

Then I went down to the General Electric office on Broadway and talked to an engineer and said I wanted to get a price on what they would sell me this and that for, in their catalog. And I explained this idea that I had that I thought might be salable to movie theatres, but that I wanted to find what the pieces would cost.

He was going to submit prices. Then I called the patent attorney. And he said, "Well, your thing is exactly anticipated by a patent, which was assigned to the General Electric Company." The inventor was an employee in the General Electric Company, and the company had patented this thing because it was going to be of use on battleships, saving current, and so they could have more and bigger searchlights. And the patent was identical to mine - even the diagrams looked alike. So when I saw that, I thought, oh, good God, there goes another idea - there's no use pursuing that.

But then I got a call from General Electric. It was the engineer. He said, "Mr. Hammond, I have now all the information you want and we are ready to supply you with this equipment - but we'd like you to talk to one of our vice-presidents - he says the General Electric Company thinks this is a wonderful idea, and they don't see why you should struggle with a thing like this - why not just sell them a license under your patent? We're prepared to pay you very good royalties, and this should turn out to be a very good thing for you, and we think we can sell a lot of these things, not only in New York, but everywhere."

I said, "Well, that's all very wonderful, but the fact is that the thing belongs to you."
And he said, "What do you mean, belongs to us?"
And I said, "Well, you have a patent that is precisely the same thing that I applied for - and it belongs to you."
"Well, we don't know anything about that", he said, "We referred this thing to our Patent Department, and they said this seemed to be a very patentable thing, and we're prepared to buy the patent or pay you a very substantial sum of money."

"Well", I said, I don't think you can very well pay me for something that really belongs to you.**"

Because it was for use on battleships, the patent had been filed away with some classified information - and they had forgotten all about it - didn't even know they owned it!

*This is only one example of Hammond's generosity to old friends in need.
**This was no five-dollar derby hat.


 
   
Chapter XI. - Ziegfeld Days    Index

ęCopyright 1974, Stuyvesant Barry All Rights Reserved May not be copied, published, used on anyone else's web pages or in any way without express written permission.


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