Thomas Edison

Film on Friday

Ruth Rolland.jpg

We love movies here at the American Treasure Tour, and we’re not just talking about then blockbuster action thrillers and superhero films that are taking over the movie theaters these days.  We’re talking about movies since the beginning of the technology, which dates back to experiments made by William Kennedy Laurie Dickson in the West Orange, New Jersey laboratories of Thomas Edison, back in 1888. Using a celluloid strip photographic film developed by George Eastman of Kodak, the illusion of movement became a hugely successful form of entertainment (yes, we’re getting to Ruth Rolland here, somehow).  Films were silent, and the actors and actresses on the screen quickly became internationally famous movie stars.  Many of the early film celebrities are now long forgotten, but deserve a call out every now and again.

Ruth Rolland (1892 to 1937) was the first student at the now-famous Hollywood High School to become a movie star. That happened shortly after she appeared in the Kalem Film Studios’ A Chance Shot, which was released in 1911. In the next sixteen years, she performed in right around two hundred films (many short subject films) and became hugely successful.  Although she had a good voice for talkies, by 1930 her youth was gone and her career began to wane. Sadly, she died of cancer in 1937 at the age of forty-five. So, Ruth may not be well remembered by today’s film-going audience, but maybe we can help her star rise again!

Monday at the Museum

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The Treasure Tour blog gives and gives.  We share stories about pieces on display, we remind you that you should come to visit us on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays for General Admission and, when you get restless on the four days each week we're only open for Group Tours, we encourage you to visit other cool places around the United States.  And let's be realistic - there are thousands of them!  Today, we recommend taking a quick jaunt out to Dearborn, Michigan, and three fascinating sites in one, affectionately called The Henry Ford.

The Henry Ford Museum displays almost every important American artifact NOT at any of the Smithsonian Institute affiliates - including the chair in which Abraham Lincoln was sitting on April 14, 1865, the bus where Rosa Parks sat in the wrong seat based on the primitive laws of segregation, and an amazing collection of cars once used for heads of state.  Greenfield Village is an awe-inspiring collection of buildings where history was made, including Thomas Edison's Menlo Park, NJ laboratory, the Wright Brothers' home, and Henry Ford's own birth home. And the Rouge Factory is the place where Ford automobiles have been made for decades.  Honestly, The Henry Ford is almost as cool as the American Treasure Tour!

The Wurlitzer Family, Part 3 - Wednesday, February 19

Today, we continue our ongoing saga of the Wurlitzer Family, after discussing the patriarch on Monday and eldest son Howard yesterday.  Today, it is middle son Rudolph Henry's turn. Rudolph was born in 1873 in Cincinnati.  His passion, like that of his father and siblings, was in music; however, he concentrated his love on one specific instrument:  the violin.  In fact, Rudolph studied in Berlin, not too far from his ancestral home, and learned both how to play and manufacture the violin.  He established the Wurlitzer Collection of Rare Violins, which included some of the finest names in violin production during its day, the most famous being Stradivarius of which the company possessed close to half the six hundred ever produced at one time or another.

Rudolph never strayed too far from the family business, though, and took over the Wurlitzer Company as its president for five years, between 1927 and 1932, prior to serving as chairman from 1932 until 1942.


In which city did the Wurlitzer Company have offices?

a)  Cincinnati, Ohio

b)  Denver, Colorado

c)  North Tonawanda, New York

d)  Chicago, Illinois

e)  a, b and d

Answer Below


It was a bad day for former Vice President Aaron Burr in 1807.  He had already had a few bad days in his career, including the time when Alexander Hamilton destroyed his political ambitions in 1800 by behind-closed-door finagling to ensure that Thomas Jefferson would become the third President of the United States over him as the lesser of two evils (Hamilton didn't like Burr OR Jefferson, he just liked Burr a little bit less).  Another bad day happened in 1804 when his gun fired true and he killed Hamilton in a duel then charged with murder (he was the only vice president to ever be wanted for murder while he was in office, although he is not the only vice president to shoot a man while in office, thank you Mr. Cheney!).  Today, he was arrested under the orders of Jefferson and held for treason on the charge of trying to incite war between America and Spain with the intention of creating his own nation.  The penalty for treason is death, so Jefferson was playing for high stakes.  Fortunately for Burr, he would be acquitted of the charges, but his reputation was pretty much destroyed.  He left the country for a number of years but, ever the survivor, returned to New York after the heat died down and restarted his law practice.

Today is a great day for music!  Thomas Edison submitted his application for a patent on the phonograph on this day in 1878.  His original invention recorded sound and vibrations on cylinders.  It would take a few years before the technology advanced to larger flat discs, and much much longer before they would move to flash drives.  But you have to start somewhere, and we are grateful Edison took this first step!


A special little boy was born to Mr. and Mrs. Frankenheimer on this day in 1930. They named him John, and he would grow up to be a film director.  The movies he made would be considered thought provoking, exciting, and maybe even controversial.  One of his most famous/notorious films was 1962's The Manchurian Candidate, starring Angela Lansbury in one of the finest performances of her long and distinguished career.  It tells the story of a plot to assassinate a presidential candidate, but was not released upon completion, or for a number of years afterwards.  It is unclear whether this was because of contractual problems or the tragic death of John F. Kennedy made it too distasteful for the studio to distribute.  Frankenheimer also directed The Birdman of Alcatraz, Seven Days in May, and most infamously the 1996 version of The Island of Dr. Moreau.  Nobody is perfect!

Another great person the ATT blog would like to celebrate is Lou Christie!  Born today in 1943, this singer is most notable because of the three-octave range of his voice.  His biggest hit was 1966's "Lightnin' Strikes," with its pop tune and his falsetto voice.  Although the peak of his success was during the decade of the Sixties, Christie still shares his talents with the public, having done the concert circuit well into the millennium and even recording a live album in 2004, Greatest Hits From the Bottom Line.  Happy birthday, Lou, and keep on singin'!


I have gotten to a point in my life where I don't want to have dinner with someone I don't like. - John Frankenheimer

Answer:  e)  Wurlitzer became quite the behemoth in music production during its day and had offices in Cincinnati, North Tonawanda, and Chicago.