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It happened that on Fourteenth Street there was a place called the “Automat,” with phonographs, punching bags, weighing machines, chewing-gum machines and, of course, kinetoscopes. The Automat was one of the sights of the town, because no employees were needed, only a watchman. You dropped your nickels into the machines, and down in the basement there was a track running under the machines and a little car running on the track, and as it passed, the machines spilled their nickles into it, and then the car ran around to the other side of the room and dumped the nickels into a funnel, from the other end of which they emerged, all counted and wrapped for deposit in the bank. It was almost as marvelous as the Chicago stock-yards, where a hog was dropped into the machine at one end, and sausages and buttons and hair-combs came out the other end.

The Automat pleased W.F., and he made it known that he was in the market to buy an establishment of that sort. Soon there came an agent suggesting that there was one at 700 Broadway, Brooklyn, owned by a man named J. Stewart Blackton, then president of the Vitagraph Company of America, and destined to become of the big moving picture millionaires. W.F. made an appointment to inspect the property, and he tells this story:

“When I went there by appointment, there was a large crowd. When I went again a little later in the week, also by appointment, there was an even larger crowd. I thought it was a good thing, and after certain negotiations, I bought the establishment. I took charge of it the following Monday and only about two persons dropped in all day. I realized that someone had supplied the crowd on the two former occasions when I had gone to see the place. This was somewhere around in May, and I was told that business was always bad in summer.”
—from Upton Sinclair Presents William Fox (1933)

This presentation of the 1908 Vitagraph film, The Thieving Hand, directed by J. Stewart Blackton, is presented by Caz Dolowicz, serving Kings County since 1923. Brooklyn, make some noise!

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