Volume I: Narrative History


Chapter 3 (1910): Spying on Thanhouser

The Thanhouser Company was viewed with suspicion by Edison and other Patents Company members. An interesting insight into the filming of The Actor's Children and other affairs of the formative period is provided by the reports of W.E. Lowenkamp, known as Operative No. 2, a detective sent by Edison to spy on the Thanhouser operation to determine what type of camera was being used and to gather other information. Note The sneaky sleuth filed the following reports:


February 26, 1910:

I went to New Rochelle where I found the above company located at the corner of Grove and Warren Street, and found a stage standing in front of their place. At 1 P.M. they came out of the building, got in the stage and went to a restaurant at 242 Huguenot St. for dinner.

Upon leaving the restaurant they took a picture along Huguenot Street. I was told that the manager's name is O'Neil, and the operator [cameraman] is a Mr. Smith. They took some Italian picture, had a man with a hand organ, children dancing and playing around him, etc. Note

The camera was about four inches thick, seven inches wide, and 10 inches high, made of metal, and had two small boxes that contained the film. One box was put on top of the camera, and the other at the back. I saw the operator slide the film down from the top to connect with the box at the back. The camera was not opened during the time it was in use. Note


March 10, 1910:

Going to the neighborhood of Thanhouser & Co., New Rochelle, I met Mr. Standish [Lowenkamp's supervisor] and covered the above place. I saw nothing of any party taking pictures, but there was a bright light inside the building and it looked to me as if they might be taking pictures inside. Mr. Standish told me that they would take pictures tomorrow at 11 A.M. and I discontinued. Note


March 11, 1910:

I reported at the above place in New Rochelle, and covered it. At 12:50 P.M. I saw the operator, Mr. Smith, in the restaurant getting his lunch with his wife. After eating they returned to the Thanhouser Co., and I could see them taking off their hats and coats. During the A.M. it looked as though they were doing some studio work for I could see them moving the scenery about.

At 2 P.M. a woman and four men came out and took an automobile belonging to Mr. Thanhouser and went to the railroad station, stopped a moment, and then started off in the direction of Pelham. It looked like a picture party, and although I walked down the road a ways I could not see anything of them and had no means of following them. Note


March 14, 1910:

I arrived at New Rochelle and went to the above firm. At 10:45 A.M. Mr. Thanhouser's auto, a taxi, and a stage drove up to the door. At 11:45 A.M. they left the factory with the actors and went to Rochelle Heights where they took four acts of a picture. They used the same camera as before and which I described in a previous report. The camera was not opened. A Mr. Smith operated the camera, and Mr. L.B. Carleton was the manager.

I got into conversation with the different actors and they took me for a real estate man. They told me that Mr. Thanhouser is looking for a house to purchase. I became quite friendly with Mr. Thanhouser's sister-in-law [Carey L. Hastings] who is a member of the company, and she told me that Mr. Carleton is looking for a house to rent. The sister-in-law said the house they were using to take pictures would just suit Mr. Thanhouser, so I called a real estate office and gave them the tip so they will try and sell the house to Mr. Thanhouser and cover me. If I meet this lady once or twice more I think I can get an invitation to visit the plant and go through same. Note


March 15, 1910:

Arriving at New Rochelle I proceeded to watch the place and at 12 o'clock went to cafe on Huguenot Street for lunch. At 12:30 P.M. Mr. Carleton entered same cafe and I spoke to him. Mr. Carleton told me they were not going to take any pictures outside today. Later I had a talk with the chauffeur for Mr. Thanhouser, who told me they were doing studio work, and he was told they were not going on the outside today; he further said the company has its first picture out today, and it is showing at the 14th Street Theatre; said picture is called The Actor's Children. Note


March 18, 1910:

I reported at Thanhouser & Co., New Rochelle, and covered the place. From appearance I should say they were doing studio work, and at noon hour I met the chauffeur, who informed me that they were doing street work now and expected to take a picture tomorrow outdoors. Note


March 19, 1910:

I arrived at Thanhouser & Co., New Rochelle, and at 11:45 A.M. they left factory in two autos and went to the Shore Road, between New Rochelle and Pelham, where they took a picture, then returned to New Rochelle for lunch.

After eating they took a picture on Main St. next to Loew's Theatre, and then returned to factory at 3 P.M. They used the same camera as usual, and also used the perforated film in the camera. Note


June 17, 1910:

Reported at New Rochelle, seen Mr. Standish. I found that Mr. Blair Smith's address was No. 46 Treno Street, Halcyon Park, New Rochelle. Note


June 18, 1910:

Reported at No. 46 Treno St., New Rochelle, at 5 A.M. Covered house; at 7:35 Mr. Smith came out of house going to pick flowers in his garden, returning to house. At 8:25 Mr. Smith left, he going to the Thanhouser factory. Could see him talking with Mr. O'Neil, the manager, through the window, did not seem to be any other people in there. Mr. Thanhouser left the factory in his auto about 9:15 alone. Covered the factory until 10:30 A.M., did not see any actors go in, I then discontinued and returned to New York as instructed by Mr. Standish. Note


Copyright © 1995 Q. David Bowers. All Rights Reserved.