December 6, 1877
the "anniversary" of the completion of Edison's Phonograph
Phonograph's Birthday, December 6, 1877
At his laboratory in
Menlo Park, New Jersey, on November 29, 1877, Thomas Alva Edison gave
a sketch for his tin-foil phonograph to John Kruesi and instructed
him to build it.
First sketch of
Edison's Phonograph, November 29, 1877 (Courtesy Allen Koenigsberg)
On December 4, 1877,
Charles Batchelor, Edison's associate and right-hand man, wrote in
his diary "Kruesi made phonograph today." (1)
On December 6 Batchelor's
diary reads: "Kruesi finished the phonograph." (2)
December 6, 1877,
therefore, is celebrated as the birthday of the phonograph by
Friends of the Phonograph.
It's a day that honors
the completion of the phonograph and the successful recording and
playing back, word for word, of what Edison says were his first words
spoken to the Phonograph, "a little piece of practical poetry":
had a little lamb,
fleece was white as snow,
everywhere that Mary went,
lamb was sure to go.
Photograph of Edison with
his second tin-foil phonograph, commonly known as the "Brady
Phonograph" since it was taken in the Washington D.C. photography
studio of Mathew Brady in April 1878.
When Edison's words
repeated back from a sheet of tin-foil wrapped around a cylinder were
first heard it reportedly amazed everyone in the room. Even Edison
said he was astonished. "I was never so taken aback in my life," Edison
On December 7, the day
after the Phonograph was completed, the tin-foil playing machine was
taken to the offices of Scientific American for a triumphant
demonstration where the Phonograph "introduced itself."
An account of this meeting and a description of the talking machine
was published in the December
22, 1877 issue of Scientific
Reporters and newspapers
wrote about this new invention
and came up with many of their own predictions. Edison, who became
known as "The
Wizard of Menlo Park," would write in The North American
Review (May-June 1878) that "the possibilities are so illimitable
and the probabilities so numerous that he...is himself in a somewhat
chaotic condition of mind as to where to draw the dividing line."
But for Friends of
the Phonograph there is no mystery about its future or its legacy.
December 6th is an anniversary
to be celebrated - the birthday of an invention that Edison called
his "favorite invention" and his "baby."
to the Phonograph!
Revolution still turning!
Weekly's description of the invention
of the Phonograph, March 30, 1878. (PM-1824)
Invention Laboratory at Menlo Park
Discover how Thomas Edisonís invention
laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey, and the team he hired to work
with him, all fit into his vision of how he would become a great inventor
in this video adapted from AMERICAN EXPERIENCE.
View of Menlo Park lab as it looked
in 1880, at the height of its productivity. Image courtesy of the
Thomas Alva Edison Memorial Museum