On December 28, 1938, the silent-film star Florence Lawrence committed suicide in Beverly Hills. She was 52 years old.
Best known for her roles in nearly 250 films, Lawrence was also an inventor: She designed the first “auto signaling arm,” a mechanical turn signal, along with the first mechanical brake signal. She did not patent these inventions, however, and as a result she received no credit for–or profit from–either one.
In its first 15 years, film gave recognition to no one in its studios, not its directors, producers, screenwriters or even actors were given credit on a film. This was done mainly to keep people from asking for raises from big film company moguls.
Florence Lawrence had done 40 films for Vitagraph studio in her first year and was making $25 a week with zero recognition for her role. She had made over 200 films before her name was ever mentioned in a film but when it was, it created stardom.
After Lawrence was badly burned while rescuing another actor from a studio fire in 1915, she had a hard time finding work. Her first and second husbands died tragically, and she was divorced from her third less than a year after marrying him. She also had a rare bone-marrow disease that caused her a great deal of pain.
Florence Lawrence paved the way for folks like Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin.
Info compiled and obtained via history.com and triviahive.com