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article number 296
article date 12-10-2013
copyright 2013 by Author else SaltOfAmerica
Edison Invents the Phonograph but Many of Our Inventors Work to Make It Usable
by William H. Headowcroft

From the 1924 book, A Popular History of American Invention.

PAGANTNI is still revered as the greatest of violinists. A hundred years ago he moved audiences to tears. The world rang with his praises. How does he compare with the great violinists of our day? Was he so astounding to those who heard him because he was indeed a greater artist than any who have since played a Guarnerius or a Stradivarius, or simply because he was the first to acquire a skill which we would consider adequate?

We can never know. His music is stilled. And what of the matchless voice of Malibran, of Chopin’s delicate rendering of his own nocturnes, of Garrick’s moving interpretations of Shakespeare?

We must rely upon the cold printed words of contemporary enthusiasts and critics. How was English spoken in Shakespeare’s day? Would we understand the actors who played in the Globe Theatre in Queen Elizabeth’s time?

Perhaps—perhaps not. We have no standards of comparison. We can only guess from rhymed poetry, from the accents of blank verse how Shakespeare pronounced the English tongue. What would we not give if we could revive the voice of Patrick Henry and thrill, as his hearers once did, to his “Give me liberty, or give me death !”

When we deal with sound we deal with a fleeting thing. It dies a moment after it is born. For what is sound? Nothing but a disturbance of the air. We speak, and from our mouths and lips come puffs, but puffs so wonderfully formed, so infinitely varied in frequency and strength that nothing short of a miracle happens.

We receive these puffs on our ear-drums; we translate them; we give them the meaning that they are intended to convey; in a word, we hear. Because he expressed himself in mere disturbances of the air, in pressure-waves or puffs, the great orator or singer or musician of the past lived only for his own time. When he died he became but a tradition.

Dozens of inventors had attempted to immortalize the artist of sound long before Edison succeeded literally in embalming human speech and musical notes and revivifying them at will.

There was Leon Scott, for example, who invented the “phonautograph” in 1857, sometimes erroneously referred to as the forerunner of the phonograph. But what was it? Nothing but an instrument by which the puffs of air that we call sound were made to vibrate a marker, which in turn played on a piece of smoked paper and thus traced wavy lines in soot.

Scott had invented merely a way of enabling sound to trace a symbol of itself—a method of sound-writing. His wavy lines scratched in soot were no better than printed words when it comes to informing us how the great singers of his day trilled their notes; for it was impossible to make the wavy lines talk or sing again.

LEON SCOTT’S “PHONAUTOGRAPH” OF 1857. This is usually regarded as a precursor of the phonograph. It had little in common with talking-machines, for it could only register sound. The sound projected against a diaphragm was recorded on a moving cylinder around which paper covered with lampblack was wrapped. A lever or stylus was attached to the diaphragm, and this stylus traced the record on the smoked paper. Courtesy United States National Museum, Washington, D. C.

It was not until Thomas A. Edison invented the phonograph, in 1877, that the world was enriched with an apparatus which did for speech exactly what the photographic camera did for light. How original was the invention is shown by the course in the United States Patent Office of the specification in which it was first described.

A patent is not granted in this country unless the invention that it discloses is new—new in the sense that it is markedly different from any related device that may have been known or used before. Edison filed his application for a United States Patent on December 24, 1877. A patent was issued to him on February 19, 1878.

Not a single “reference,” as it is called, was cited against him, which means that the examiners of the Patent Office had been unable to find a description of anything even remotely like his phonograph in all the technical literature that they were required to ransack in accordance with the regulations.


Curiously enough, the idea of the phonograph came to Edison at a time when he was more interested in telegraphy than in anything else. During the summer of 1877 he had been engaged in the invention of a telegraph-repeater—a labor-saving device which was intended to record in a central office telegraph messages received from many outlying country districts, and to transmit them mechanically to their destinations at more than human speed.

The need of such an instrument was apparent. A telegraph operator could send only thirty-five or forty words a minute. If scores of messages received by a central station could be repeated by some machine at a speed of a hundred words a minute, for example, there would be an enormous saving in time, money, and labor.

It was but natural that Edison, the man who had done so much to improve telegraphy, should be fascinated by the possibilities of a repeater.

THE TELEGRAPHIC FATHER OF THE PHONOGRAPH. This is the telegraph repeater with which Edison was experimenting at the time that the idea of the phonograph occurred to him.

The repeater with which Edison was experimenting during that eventful summer of 1877 bore a curious resemblance to the modern disk-phonograph. Upon a revolving metallic plate was a disk of paper; above it an electromagnet carrying an embossing point.

When the electromagnet was connected with a telegraph circuit the pivoted arm of the electromagnet moved up and down, and the embossing point indented upon the revolving paper disk, the dots and dashes as they came in over the telegraph line.

By reversing the operation, these dots and dashes could be automatically repeated over another telegraph line more rapidly or slowly. Edison tested this apparatus at varying rates of speed.

When the disk turned very fast he noticed that a musical note was given out.

Why was the musical note produced? The little embossing point had been made to vibrate like a tuning-fork as it passed rapidly over the indentations. The ordinary scientific mind would have been quite satisfied with this obvious explanation and would have passed on.

But Edison’s is one of the most imaginative minds of which we have any record. An ordinary occurrence is to him what the pressure on a trigger is to a loaded gun. Something like a mental trigger must have been pulled on that memorable day; for he wrote down the following observation in his note-book:

“Just tried experiment with diaphragm having an embossing point and held against paraffine paper moving rapidly. The speaking vibrations are indented nicely and there’s no doubt that I shall be able to store up and reproduce automatically at any future time the human voice perfectly.”

Evidently he must have shouted against the diaphragm with encouraging results.

A musical note emitted by the rapid passing of a point over indentations on a piece of paper. And from this flashes the idea of preserving “for any future time the human voice perfectly !”

The idea preyed upon him for days. It crowded everything from his mind. It took mental shape. He could see in his mind’s eye exactly how a machine would look that would first record and then reproduce the human voice. The machine must be built then and there.

Edison: Always thinking.


He knew that he must have a diaphragm of some kind. Even our ears have diaphragms, our ear-drums; for there must be something with a surface large enough upon which the puffs of air may beat that come from lips or musical instruments.

He coated some strips of paper with paraffine-wax, and these coated strips he passed by hand, up and down, behind a diaphragm to the centre of which a little steel point was fastened. “Hoo, hoo, hoo!” he shouted against the diaphragm, whereupon the little point would embed itself more or less in the coating of paraffine.

He reversed the motion of the coated paper slip and listened. Very faintly there came back his original “hoo, hoo.” He had made the diaphragm vibrate exactly as it had done when he had shouted against it. He had made it puff the air, made it set up pressure-waves, like his own.

Paraffine was too soft. The record was easily destroyed. Perhaps some hard wax would answer. To find such a wax meant many months of patient searching and testing, and he was all aflame with eagerness to obtain immediate results. Perhaps tinfoil would do—something soft and pliable, yet more permanent than paraffine.

On August 12, 1877, he made a rough drawing of a device, which was destined to be the first phonograph, and wrote upon it “Kreusi—Make this.”

EDISON’S ORIGINAL SKETCH OF THE PHONOGRAPH. Reproduction of page of Edison’s note-book in which he recorded his first conception of the phonograph.

The Kruesi to whom this brief command was given was the late John Kruesi, a faithful and able instrument-maker and coworker for many years.

It was Edison’s custom not only to give him the precise instructions that he needed, but also to place a limit upon the amount of money that was to be spent. In this instance Kruesi was informed that he could spend exactly eighteen dollars.

Kruesi had made many a model for Edison, but this was the queerest that he had ever been ordered to build.

“What’s it for ?“ he asked.

“I want it to record talking,” said Edison.

“It’s a crazy idea,” was Kruesi’s comment.

Rumors of Edison’s new machine spread in the laboratory. The men who worked for Edison had seen him accomplish wonders, but this notion of a machine that would talk like a human being proved too much for ready acceptance.

Carman, the foreman of the machine-shop, said: “I’ll bet you a box of cigars that it won’t work.” To which Edison replied: “We’ll see.

EDISON’S FIRST WORKING DRAWING OF THE PHONOGRAPH. Reproduction of Edison’s sketch of the first phonograph with instructions to Kruesi, his modeller, to “make this.”


In a few days Kruesi finished his model and laid it on the table of the “old man,” as Edison was even then called, although he was scarcely thirty years of age. Edison looked the model over to see if his instructions had been carried out. Kruesi stood beside him, curious and amused.

He watched the “old man” turn the handle—a test of the machine’s free-turning ability. He saw him take a sheet of tin-foil, wrap it around the cylinder and fasten it with a strip of lead laid in a groove cut for that purpose. By this time the entire laboratory staff had gathered around the table, watching the proceedings with ever-increasing interest and offering facetious advice.

Edison calmly proceeded to adjust the speaking mouthpiece. Then he turned the cylinder by means of the crank and shouted into the mouthpiece:

“Mary had a little lamb,
Its fleece was white as snow,
And everywhere that Mary went
The lamb was sure to go.”

The fateful moment had arrived! Edison saw that there were indentations on the tin-foil. He expected to reproduce only an encouraging fragment of a word here and there, or to obtain a few recognizable squeaks at best, something to show that at least he was on the right track.

Amid the joking and laughing of his men he turned back the cylinder, adjusted the reproducing diaphragm, and once more rotated the cylinder. Back from the tin-foil came a thin, small voice:

“Mary had a little lamb—”

Not a word was missing! The phonograph was born!

Amusement, laughter, incredulity gave place to an awe-stricken, intense silence. Then the wonder of it dawned on Kruesi and the rest. Edison himself was amazed. A new strip of tin-foil was put on the cylinder. Again, perfect reproduction.

Now the reaction set in, and the men joined hands and sang and danced around Edison. It was a memorable day—and night also—at Menlo Park Laboratory, for the entire staff stayed until dawn, taking turns at speaking, singing, laughing, and whistling into this first crude little phonograph, and listening to their own voices with childish delight and enthusiasm.


The next day Edison took the model under his arm and went over to the office of the ‘Scientific American’, in New York, and told the editor, Mr. Alfred E. Beach, he had something to show him. Placing the model on a table Edison put a sheet of tinfoil on the cylinder, turned the crank, and recited “Mary had a little lamb.” He then adjusted the reproducer and rotated the cylinder.

Again the voice and words were reproduced loud enough to be heard all over the room, to the intense amazement and awe of Mr. Beach and the bystanders who had come flocking around. Of course, there was an incessant demand for more demonstrations, and they were given until the crowd grew so great that Mr. Beach became anxious about the carrying capacity of the floor.

The following morning the newspapers were filled with the news of this astonishing invention, and the fame of it spread quickly throughout the world. Edison was deluged with letters, telegrams, and cables from every part of the globe. Every one wanted to see, hear, or possess this latest marvel.

So great and insistent was this demand that Edison was compelled to manufacture and sell tin-foil phonographs. He made some improvements over his first model and decided on two sizes of which he had a quantity made in the little shop of Sigmund Bergmann, a former workman who had been manufacturing some of Edison’s telegraphic apparatus in New York.

Reproduction of original tin-foil recording phonograph.

These first phonographs with tin-foil records were mostly used for exhibition throughout the country. So great was the interest aroused that vast numbers of people flocked to hear the mysterious and wonderful machine that recorded and reproduced the human voice, music, and other sounds. The royalties were large. In Boston alone $1,800 was collected in one notable week.

The wildest accounts of the phonograph were printed in both the American and European newspapers, but the palm for imaginative mendacity must be awarded to the ‘Figaro’ of Paris:

“It should be understood,” said the author of that extraordinary specimen of journalism, “that Mr. Edison does not belong to himself. He is owned by the telegraph company which lodges him in a superb New York house; maintains him in luxurious style, and pays him a huge salary so as to profit by his discoveries exclusively. The company employs men who never leave Edison for a moment—at table, on the street, in the laboratory. Hence this wretched man, guarded more closely than any criminal, cannot devote a moment’s thought to himself.”

Then followed a description of Edison’s “aerophone,” a description which would have done justice to Jules Verne. “You speak to a jet of vapor,” the readers were told, and “your voice is carried for a mile and a half.”

France recovered its poise when the phonograph was exhibited before the Academy of Sciences on March 11, 1878, by Count du Moncel. At the request of du Moncel, Edison’s French licensee, Puskas, seated himself in front of the phonograph and spoke into the mouthpiece: “The phonograph is highly honored at being presented to the Academy of Sciences.”

The chairman demanded silence. Puskas fitted a large pasteboard horn to the reproducer, and then, to the great astonishment of the audience, the phonograph expressed its pleasure at being introduced to the Academy in Puskas’s rather nasal American-French.

A member of the Academy refused to believe his eyes and ears. “There is some trickery about this,” he said. “A machine can’t reproduce an accent. This is simply a piece of ventriloquism.” Du Moncel then took his seat at the phonograph and said in his best Parisian: “We thank Mr. Edison for having sent us his phonograph.” Du Moncel’s words were repeated in all their Parisian purity, and the sceptic was convinced.

Edison with an improved phonograph.

Public interest in Europe and America was maintained only for about a year and a half. The phonograph with the tin-foil record was largely an exhibition machine. Its sale could be limited at best because it was not easily operated by hand. In the meantime, Edison had begun his experiments on the electric light, and did not take up the phonograph again for nine years.

Yet he realized its possibilities. In an article which he wrote for the ‘North American Review’ for June, 1878, he thus prophesied its future:

“Among the many uses to which the phonograph will be applied are the following:

“1. Letter-writing and all kinds of dictation without the aid of a stenographer.
“2. Phonographic books, which will speak to blind people without effort on their part.
“3. The teaching of elocution.
“4. Reproduction of music.
“5. The ‘Family Record’—a registry of sayings, reminiscences, etc., by members of a family in their own voices, and of the last words of dying persons.
“6. Music-boxes and toys.
“7. Clocks that should announce in articulate speech the time for going home, going to meals, etc.
“8. The preservation of languages by exact reproduction of the manner of pronouncing.
“9. Educational purposes: such as preserving the explanations made by a teacher, so that the pupil can refer to them at any moment, and spelling or other lessons placed upon the phonograph for convenience in committing to memory.
“10. Connection with the telephone, so as to make that instrument an auxiliary in the transmission of permanent and invaluable records, instead of being the recipient of momentary and fleeting communications.”


After nine years of intense application to the invention of the electric incandescent lamp and his complete system of electric light, heat, and power, Edison resumed work on the phonograph in 1887. He entirely changed the mechanism to use a cylindrical wax record, and thus created a more practical type of phonograph which could be used by every one.

About this time his laboratory at West Orange, New Jersey, was completed, his plans including the building of a factory in which the improved instrument was to be manufactured in large quantities.

Edison realized that exact uniformity of speed is essential to record and reproduce speech and music satisfactorily, and that a hand-operated phonograph could not, therefore, become a commercial success. He invented a mechanism which could be operated mechanically at a given, regular speed.

This second type of phonograph was at first equipped with a battery-driven electric motor, which rotated the cylinder, but the electric motor was afterward superseded by a clock-spring motor of the type now used in all phonographs and talking-machines.

As a material for the records, tin-foil was entirely abandoned, and in its place a cylinder of wax, or wax-like material, was decided upon.

EDISON PHONOGRAPH OF 1888. This was the type of machine which was first bought by the public. The hand-turned crank soon gave way first to an electric motor, and then to a spring-motor of the type now used.

In the early stages of development Edison experimented with paper cylinders covered with paraffin or other wax-like materials. Here, however, he found himself following in the footsteps of two other inventors, Chichester A. Bell and Charles Sumner Tainter, two Washington men who had been working on the phonograph during the time that Edison was so intensely busy with his electric light.

A patent had been issued to Bell and Tainter on a cylindrical record blank made of paper coated with certain combinations of wax, and they had also patented various other improvements.

About this time a corporation called The American Graphophone Company was formed by some Philadelphia capitalists to exploit the Bell and Tainter patents. This company equipped a factory and entered upon the manufacture of talking-machines and of wax-covered paper-cylinder records.

THE ORIGINAL TREADLE GRAPHOPHONE OF 1887. In this the principle of Bell and Tainter’s patent was applied. Courtesy Columbia Phonograph Company.

Edison’s exhaustive experiments with wax-covered paper cylinders had convinced him that the waxy material must be comparatively hard. But here he encountered a difficulty. If the paper cylinder was coated with hard wax it would not expand and contract, as the temperature of a room rose or fell, at the same rate as the paper cylinder itself.

Either the paper cylinder would warp or the wax coating would crack. Therefore, he abandoned this plan and came to the conclusion that a cylinder must be made entirely of wax.

THE GRAPHOPHONE OF THE NINETIES. Photograph by Columbia Graphophone Company.


To this end he instituted a long series of experiments in the development of a perfect all-wax cylinder. At one time he did not leave his laboratory for five days and nights. His laboratory note-books of this period disclose the vast amount of work that he did in making up and testing innumerable combinations of waxy materials obtained from all parts of the world.

Progress was slow but sure. Difficulties were eliminated one by one, and gradually a successful all-wax record blank was evolved.

There were other problems to be solved. The record on wax was gouged out by a small metal chisel fixed to the diaphragm, and the reproducer was equipped with a similar chisel. The chisel proved to be unsatisfactory.

After having been reproduced a few times, records were practically unintelligible, because parts of the sound-waves were cut away. Moreover, the chisel could not satisfactorily record or reproduce hissing sounds, such as words in which the letter “s” appeared. Edison determined to remedy the defect, and began the most patient and persistent series of experiments that he ever conducted.

For eight long months he experimented in thousands of ways, to record and reproduce such words as sugar, scissors, “specie,” etc., and, at last, succeeded. At the same time he obtained perfect articulation.

The new method of recording depended on the utilization of a minute and peculiarly shaped sapphire for engraving sound vibration in a groove of the wax cylinder. Another sapphire served for reproduction, but a sapphire which had a ball-shaped tip so that it could not cut the record.

EDISON RECORD ENGRAVING TOOL. After eight months’ experimenting Edison made perfect sound records with a sapphire cutter (upper view), and reproduced them with another sapphire which had a ball-shaped tip (lower view).


During this period a corporation called the North American Phonograph Company had been formed by Philadelphia capitalists who aimed to exploit the phonograph for general business dictation. After having vainly tried to introduce wax-coated paper cylinders, made in accordance with the Bell and Tainter patents, the company negotiated with Edison for the right to use his all-wax cylinders. Edison received a large sum for his rights.

The phonograph at that time did not possess the necessary refinement to take the place of a stenographer. The company’s predestined failure was hastened by the death of its chief promoter, and Edison, being the principal creditor, took back his phonograph patents.

He founded the National Phonograph Company, and decided to concentrate his energies on the recording and reproduction of music. He reorganized his factories, equipped them with new machinery and tools, and proceeded to exploit a field in which he has ever since occupied a prominent position.

It was impossible to think of selling original records to the public. One such record made by a first-class artist might cost several hundred dollars, even in that day.

Clearly, some method had to be invented of duplicating the original precious record—some method comparable with printing a newspaper from type.



This problem presented great difficulties, for the sound-waves cut in the surface of the wax were only about one-thousandth of an inch deep, or about the thickness of tissue-paper. The millions of infinitesimal waves in a record must be duplicated so as to be microscopically identical with their originals and be free from false vibrations and other defects.

Obviously, wax duplicates could not be made from a wax original or “master.” So it became necessary to discover other means. After a vast amount of experiment, Edison succeeded in electroplating a metallic “submaster,” or matrix, from the original. Into this matrix melted wax was poured. The resultant wax-casting was an exact duplicate of the original.

Even more remarkable was another method of duplicating the original or “master.” In a chamber from which the air was exhausted, Edison revolved the “master” between two leaves of gold, which was electrically vaporized.

The gold vapor was deposited on the wax master in the form of a film about one eight-hundred-thousandth of an inch thick. It would take 800 such films to form a pile as thick as a sheet of the finest tissue-paper. Upon such a gold film a heavy backing of baser metal was electroplated, and thus a substantial mould or matrix was made.

The second type of phonograph with wax-cylinder records carrying music was brought out about 1888, and found a music-hungry world awaiting it. Up to that time the phonograph could not be purchased by the general public. Comparatively few people had ever seen or heard it; for the old tin-foil instrument had been used only for exhibition.

The factories were humming day and night for years to fill the great demand for the improved machine.


Emile Berliner, a German who had emigrated to this country and who played a conspicuous part in the development of the telephone, devised a method of making records which was somewhat different from Edison’s and which depended on the use of disks.


Edison made his sound records by causing the engraving tool to rise and fall, for which reason his method is technically known as the “hill-and-dale.”

Berliner, on the other hand, thought it would be better to cause the tool to swing from side to side in the groove, for which reason a disk was more serviceable than a cylinder. Because the tool is moved from side to side, Berliner records are called “lateral-cut.”

Berliner’s way of making the master record was also different. Instead of using an all-wax plate he employed a disk of zinc, covered with wax. The music was recorded on this wax surface, characteristic indentations being made, and then acid was applied which etched the record on the zinc, thus making a metallic “master” from which impressions could be taken.

The results, so far as the reproduction was concerned, were good but not perfect. After experimenting for some time, Berliner felt that he needed the help of a more expert mechanic than himself. He took his machine and records to a little machine-shop in Camden, New Jersey, owned and operated by Eldridge R. Johnson, and left them there for certain repairs and changes to be made.

After he had left the shop Johnson made a study of the device and soon realized its great possibilities. The further he progressed with his study, the more enthusiastic he became. He joined forces with Berliner.

Together they proceeded to make the needed improvements and refinements in the machine and records until at last they had completed a model of the familiar disk type of talking-machine. This was the beginning of the Victor Talking Machine Company, of which Mr. Johnson is the president, and has been the directing spirit to this day.

FIRST PUBLICLY EXHIBITED GRAMOPHONE OF EMILE BERLINER. The original was first exhibited in the Franklin Institute, May 16, 1888, and is now in the National Museum, Washington, D. C.

These events occurred about 1896 or 1897. In the meanwhile, Edison had sold upward of one and a half million cylinder phonographs and more than a hundred million of the cylindrical records.

Although he had no difficulty in selling cylinders, the demand for disks was insistent, probably because of the records which many great artists had made on disks.

Accordingly, about 1907 or 1908 he began a series of experiments which were to end in the production of a “hill-and-dale” disk record; for to the hill-and-dale method of recording, Edison had been wedded from the beginning.

A HILL-AND-DALE RECORD MAGNIFIED. A microphotograph of a tenor voice recorded according to the Edison “hill-and-dale” method.

His earliest patents had been granted for disk records, and he was but reverting to original ideas. After an immense amount of experiment his disk phonograph was completed and put on the market.

MICROPHOTOGRAPH OF A “LATERAL-CUT” RECORD. From a photograph by Columbia Graphophone Co.


Although the principle of the phonograph is now well known, the art of making records is deliberately shrouded in mystery. The particular composition of the wax-like “master” employed by a manufacturer is kept a profound secret.

Few “outsiders” are permitted to see even the making of a record—certainly no one connected with a rival company. The proceeding is complex and calls for much skill, technical knowledge, and experience.


Imagine a great tenor, a popular operatic idol, about to immortalize his rendering of Verdi’s “Celeste Aida.” Before him is the mouth of a horn; behind him the orchestra. Even he does not see the actual recording equipment; for the small end of the horn is located either behind a curtain or a partition.

The musicians are poised between heaven and earth, for some of them sit on shelf-like benches, so that their heads are not far from the ceiling. So cramped are the quarters that often they assume positions at which a concert audience would gasp in amazement. For example, the trombonists sometimes turn their backs to the conductor; they follow him by keeping their eyes glued on mirrors by which his expressive beating of time is reflected.

The loud instruments—the ponderous brasses-are always placed in the rear so that their metallic blare may not drown out the finer tone of the strings, which are always to he found in front. The tenor soars up and down the scale directly into the yawning mouth of the horn.

He gives his full-throated best; for he knows not only that his rendition of “Celeste Aida” will be heard by thousands, perhaps by millions, but that the luscious top notes, upon which his reputation hangs, will be compared with the equally luscious top notes of other tenors who have sung “Celeste Aida” into the phonograph before him, and who will sing it into a recording-horn years after he is dead.

A mistake—and the record must be made over again. Therein the tenor has an advantage denied him when he appears in public. The purchasers of his record never know that he may have tried more than once to produce just the effect that he had in mind when he sang a particularly soul-stirring phrase.

The original record thus made, the “wax-master,” is turned over to the factory to be duplicated a thousand-fold, even a million-fold.

Thus “Celeste Aida” or the latest dance music reaches the backwoodsman or the Fifth Avenue mansion. Trills, roulades, scales, disembodied from a perishable personality, countless million puffs of air have been solidified, so that they can be transported to Alaska or Zanzibar.

It seems like a miracle even now, when the strains of music made in some American seaboard town are heard all over the world, when mere recorded sound is as much an article of commerce as a barrel of sugar.

THE PHONOGRAPH IN THE OFFICE. Although Edison very early predicted that the phonograph would supplant the stenographer in business, it was not until late in its development that the instrument was widely introduced in offices. Here a modern dictating graphophone is shown. The machine is ready at any time to record anything from a fleeting idea to a business letter. Courtesy Columbia Graphaphone Company.
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