Thomas Edison announces his invention of the phonograph

Thomas Edison announces his invention of the phonograph

Thomas Edison announces his invention of the phonograph, a way to record and play back sound.

Edison stumbled on one of his great inventions—the phonograph—while working on a way to record telephone communication at his laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey. His work led him to experiment with a stylus on a tinfoil cylinder, which, to his surprise, played back the short song he had recorded, “MARY HAD A LITTLE LAMB”. Public demonstrations of the phonograph made the Yankee inventor world famous, and he was dubbed the “Wizard of Menlo Park.”

Edison set aside this invention in 1878 to work on the incandescent light bulb, and other inventors moved forward to improve on the phonograph. In 1887, Edison resumed work on the device, using the wax-cylinder technique developed by Charles Tainter. Although initially used as a dictating machine, the phonograph proved to be a popular tool for entertainment, and in 1906 Edison unveiled a series of musical and theatrical selections to the public through his National Phonograph Company. Continuing to improve on models and cylinders over the years, the Edison Disc Phonograph debuted in 1912 with the aim of competing in the popular record market. Edison’s discs offered superior sound quality but were not compatible with other popular disc players.

During the 1920s, the early record business suffered with the growth of radio, and in 1929 recording production at Edison ceased forever. Edison, who acquired an astounding 1,093 patents in his 84 years, died in 1931.

READ MORE: 6 Key Inventions by Thomas Edison

The Origins of Sound Recording

Top: Edouard-Léon Scott de Martinville's phonoautograph of 1859. Directly above: Thomas Edison's phonograph of 1877.

The history of the earliest origins of recorded sound technology is being rewritten!

Recent scholarship makes it clear that sound recording was invented twice: First by inventor Edouard-Léon Scott de Martinville in 1857 France, then 20 years later by Thomas Alva Edison in the United States. While Edison's story is often told, history books mention Scott's name merely in passing.

Scott’s phonautograph graphed airborne sound waves for visual analysis. But because it lacked the ability to "playback" its recordings, there was no proof that it actually made interpretable sound recordings. In 2008 researchers located Scott’s surviving recordings. Using digital technologies, they proved Scott's recordings could be understood upon playback. This confirmed Scott as the initial inventor of sound recording and called upon historians to reexamine and reframe Edison’s 1877 invention of the phonograph, a device that could both record and playback sound. Since 2008, historians have learned a great deal about Scott and his work. As a result, we now have access to a much fuller, clear picture of this history, and a better understanding of how it relates to Edison and his phonograph.

The year 2017 marks the 200th anniversary of Scott’s birth. To commemorate, on April 29 Thomas Edison National Historical Park launched an exhibit at the Edison Laboratory and hosted a symposium titled "The Origins of Sound Recording."

In this set of web pages, we present a virtual online version of the exhibit and video recordings of the symposium :

    (an interpretive exhibit written by David Giovannoni, with links for research)
    (VIDEO) On April 29th 2017, Thomas Edison National Historical Park hosted a symposium commemorating the 200th anniversary of Edouard-Léon Scott de Martinville’s birth. Researchers shared their latest findings with scholars, teachers, students, writers, documentarians, and others who are rewriting the “origins of sound recording” story. American representatives from the National Park Service, French dignitaries from the scientific establishment, and representatives of the two inventors’ families honored the symposium with their encouragement to craft new, accurate narratives.


Thomas Edison National Historical Park and the National Park Service gratefully acknowledge the following individuals and organizations that contributed time, expertise, and information for "The Origins of Sound Recording" exhibit and symposium.

Académie des sciences-Institut de France
Jean-Paul Agnard
Catherine Bréchignac
Michael Devecka
Patrick Feaster
Bob Ferrel
First Sounds
Friends of Thomas Edison National Historical Park
David Giovannoni
Meagan Hennessey
Institut national de la propriété industrielle
Richard Martin
William Miller
Philippe Nicolet
Ray Phillips
Kip Rowan
Société d'encouragement pour l'industrie nationale
Laurent Scott de Martinville
Katherine Sheram
David Edward Edison Sloane
Anton Stoelwinder
Thomas A. Edison Papers, Rutgers University
Anthony Wellman

Family History Daily - News From the Past -YOUR Genealogy Search Begins!

1777 - November 15 - The Articles of Confederation Were Adopted
On November 15, 1777, the second Continental Congress adopted the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union. Then they needed approval from the states.

Still at war with Great Britain, the colonists were not eager to establish another powerful national government. Three-and-a-half years passed before the states ratified the Articles.

Eventually replaced by the United States. Read MORE.
November 15, 1777

1805 - November 15 - Lewis and Clark reach Pacific
Nov. 7, 1805 - Camped opposite Pillar Rock, between Brookfield and Dahlia, Washington, west of Jim Crow Point. "Great joy in camp we are in view of the Ocian this great Pacific Ocean which we been so long anxious to See. and the roreing or noise made by the waves braking on the rockey shores (as I Suppose) may be heard distinctly." Although they were really only seeing the Columbia Estuary, the. Read MORE. jeff/ historyculture/ lewis-and-clark-timeline-1805.htm
November 15, 1805

The Phonograph.
The Scientific American contains the first announcement of what may be the most wonderful invention of the day - Edison's Phonograph. The Sun says that nothing could be more incredible than the likelihood of once more hearing the. Read MORE.

Cambridge Jeffersonian - Cambridge, Ohio - November 15, 1877

NIAGARA FALLS (N.Y.), Nov 14 - By the explosion of about thirty pounds of dynamite in the office building of Ed. Smith & Co., contractors in charge of the extension of the wheel pit and tunnel of the Niagara Falls Power Company, to-day, two men were instantly killed and one fatally injured. Three others were severely injured and several were cut and bruised by flying rocks. Read MORE.

The New York Times - New York, New York - November 15, 1896

“Wanted – A capable American house girl.” Such is the tenor of many “want” ads running in the newspapers at this time of year throughout the country. And, indeed all through the year one is met often with the inquiry, “Do you know a good American girl I can get?” As long as there are homes, this domestic problem will be of no small interest.

Many families are obliged . Read MORE.

The Lewiston Daily Sun - Lewiston, Maine - November 15, 1902

1800s Cooking Tips and Recipes

Lemon Cream Pie - One teacup of pulverized sugar, one tablespoonful butter, one egg, one lemon (remove the seeds), one teacup of boiling water, one tablespoonful of corn starch dissolved in cold water stir the corn starch into the water.

The Willimantic Chronicle, Willimantic, Conn., March 3, 1880

Knoxville, Tenn., Nov. 14. - The Lawson McGhee Library, a three-story brick structure, at Gay Street and Vine Avenue, was destroyed by fire this afternoon. It was the city's second big fire in three days. On the ground floor of the building was a double store occupied by the VANCE Furniture Company. The second floor was devoted to the public library, containing about 15,000 volumes, and the. Read MORE.

The New York Times - New York, New York - November 15, 1904

The Delicious New Dessert
Cream of Cereal
Made from Popcorn
Needs No Cooking
Ready for Immediate Use

Cream Cereal Co.
Xenia, Ohio

The Ladies' Home Journal
July 1898

A fire early Thursday morning gutted the two-story building occupied by the ANTHONY Candy Company, at Sioux Falls, S.D., destroyed the entire stock of the company and seriously damaged the PHILLIPS block, adjoining. The PHILLIPS block belongs to ex-Senator PETTIGREW.
The fire started in the basement of the building of the ANTHONY Candy Company, and the fire department was required to fight hard. Read MORE.

The Carroll Sentinel - Iowa - November 15, 1904

1939 November 15 – In Washington, D.C., U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt lays the cornerstone of the Jefferson Memorial.

America - Did you know? December 2, 1899 - U.S. acquires American Samoa by treaty with Great Britain and Germany.

Quebec - Did you know? It is the old custom in French Canada (originating in Europe) to bury the dead in the church cemetery. After a period of time, if donations stop coming from the family, the stone is removed to make room for a new burial. This is why you will almost never see a headstone older than 100 years in Québec, unless it was from a non-catholic denomination.

Burpee Farm Annual for 1898
The Leading American Seed Catalogue
W. Atlee Burpee & Co., Philadelpha

Activity 2. Technology in 1900

Segue into the second lesson by explaining that the students are going to learn about what life and technology were like over one hundred years ago in America. You might begin by asking students to brainstorm, in small groups or as a whole group, what they think life and technology were like in the early 1900s. Write student responses on the board or on a flip chart. This activity would also be fun in small groups!

**If you teach in a laptop school, students can complete the next part of the lesson online using An Interview with Max Morath, from the website The American Experience—WayBack U.S. History for Kids – Technology in 1900, accessed through the EDSITEment-reviewed website The Internet Public Library-Youth Division.

If not, you can download, print, and hand out copies of the paraphrased interview, provided in .pdf format. If using the website, tell the students to omit questions 8, 9, 10, 11, and 13.

After the students have had time to read through the interview, you might want to discuss the interview with them. You could also compare the facts of the interview with the students' predictions about what technology was like in the 1900s. Finally, have students write a short essay comparing and contrasting life in early-1900s America with their lives in America today. You might have them choose three or four of the questions from the interview and answer those questions from their own point of view.

**Example: In 1900, most kids were dying to get their hands on a phonograph. The quality and the variety of the music the phonograph could play were not very good, though. Today, most kids want to play their music on a CD player, which has better sound. Today there are also more types of music to choose from—like country, pop, and classical. Most children today probably wouldn't choose to listen to opera, as some children did in the 1900s. Others might want an MP3 player to play music. An MP3 player doesn't use discs at all.

History of the Cylinder Phonograph

Phonograph Catalog/Advertisement:
"I want a phonograph in every home. ".

The phonograph was developed as a result of Thomas Edison's work on two other inventions, the telegraph and the telephone. In 1877, Edison was working on a machine that would transcribe telegraphic messages through indentations on paper tape, which could later be sent over the telegraph repeatedly. This development led Edison to speculate that a telephone message could also be recorded in a similar fashion. He experimented with a diaphragm which had an embossing point and was held against rapidly-moving paraffin paper. The speaking vibrations made indentations in the paper. Edison later changed the paper to a metal cylinder with tin foil wrapped around it. The machine had two diaphragm-and-needle units, one for recording, and one for playback. When one would speak into a mouthpiece, the sound vibrations would be indented onto the cylinder by the recording needle in a vertical (or hill and dale) groove pattern. Edison gave a sketch of the machine to his mechanic, John Kruesi, to build, which Kruesi supposedly did within 30 hours. Edison immediately tested the machine by speaking the nursery rhyme into the mouthpiece, "Mary had a little lamb." To his amazement, the machine played his words back to him.

Although it was later stated that the date for this event was on August 12, 1877, some historians believe that it probably happened several months later, since Edison did not file for a patent until December 24, 1877. Also, the diary of one of Edison's aides, Charles Batchelor, seems to confirm that the phonograph was not constructed until December 4, and finished two days later. The patent on the phonograph was issued on February 19, 1878. The invention was highly original. The only other recorded evidence of such an invention was in a paper by French scientist Charles Cros, written on April 18, 1877. There were some differences, however, between the two men's ideas, and Cros's work remained only a theory, since he did not produce a working model of it.

Original Edison Tin Foil Phonograph. Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Edison National Historic Site.

Edison took his new invention to the offices of Scientific American in New York City and showed it to staff there. As the December 22, 1877, issue reported, "Mr. Thomas A. Edison recently came into this office, placed a little machine on our desk, turned a crank, and the machine inquired as to our health, asked how we liked the phonograph, informed us that it was very well, and bid us a cordial good night." Interest was great, and the invention was reported in several New York newspapers, and later in other American newspapers and magazines.

The Edison Speaking Phonograph Company was established on January 24, 1878, to exploit the new machine by exhibiting it. Edison received $10,000 for the manufacturing and sales rights and 20% of the profits. As a novelty, the machine was an instant success, but was difficult to operate except by experts, and the tin foil would last for only a few playings.

Ever practical and visionary, Edison offered the following possible future uses for the phonograph in North American Review in June 1878:

  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 explanantions 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 communication.

Eventually, the novelty of the invention wore off for the public, and Edison did no further work on the phonograph for a while, concentrating instead on inventing the incadescent light bulb.

In the void left by Edison, others moved forward to improve the phonograph. In 1880, Alexander Graham Bell won the Volta Prize of $10,000 from the French government for his invention of the telephone. Bell used his winnings to set up a laboratory to further electrical and acoustical research, working with his cousin Chichester A. Bell, a chemical engineer, and Charles Sumner Tainter, a scientist and instrument maker. They made some improvements on Edison's invention, chiefly by using wax in the place of tin foil and a floating stylus instead of a rigid needle which would incise, rather than indent, the cylinder. A patent was awarded to C. Bell and Tainter on May 4, 1886. The machine was exhibited to the public as the graphophone. Bell and Tainter had representatives approach Edison to discuss a possible collaboration on the machine, but Edison refused and determined to improve the phonograph himself. At this point, he had succeeded in making the incandescent lamp and could now resume his work on the phonograph. His initial work, though, closely followed the improvements made by Bell and Tainter, especially in its use of wax cylinders, and was called the New Phonograph.

The Edison Phonograph Company was formed on October 8, 1887, to market Edison's machine. He introduced the Improved Phonograph by May of 1888, shortly followed by the Perfected Phonograph. The first wax cylinders Edison used were white and made of ceresin, beeswax, and stearic wax.

Edison Home Phonograph

Businessman Jesse H. Lippincott assumed control of the phonograph companies by becoming sole licensee of the American Graphophone Company and by purchasing the Edison Phonograph Company from Edison. In an arrangement which eventually included most other phonograph makers as well, he formed the North American Phonograph Company on July 14, 1888. Lippincott saw the potential use of the phonograph only in the business field and leased the phonographs as office dictating machines to various member companies which each had its own sales territory. Unfortunately, this business did not prove to be very profitable, receiving significant opposition from stenographers.

Meanwhile, the Edison Factory produced talking dolls in 1890 for the Edison Phonograph Toy Manufacturing Co. The dolls contained tiny wax cylinders. Edison's relationship with the company ended in March of 1891, and the dolls are very rare today. The Edison Phonograph Works also produced musical cylinders for coin-slot phonographs which some of the subsidiary companies had started to use. These proto-"jukeboxes" were a development which pointed to the future of phonographs as entertainment machines.

In the fall of 1890, Lippincott fell ill and lost control of the North American Phonograph Co. to Edison, who was its principal creditor. Edison changed the policy of rentals to outright sales of the machines, but changed little else.

Edison increased the entertainment offerings on his cylinders, which by 1892 were made of a wax known among collectors today as "brown wax." Although called by this name, the cylinders could range in color from off-white to light tan to dark brown. An announcement at the beginning of the cylinder would typically indicate the title, artist, and company.

Advertisement for the Edison New Standard Phongraph, in Harper's, September 1898.

In 1894, Edison declared bankruptcy for the North American Phonograph Company, a move that enabled him to buy back the rights to his invention. It took two years for the bankruptcy affairs to be settled before Edison could move ahead with marketing his invention. The Edison Spring Motor Phonograph appeared in 1895, even though technically Edison was not allowed to sell phonographs at this time because of the bankruptcy agreement. In January 1896, he started the National Phonograph Company which would manufacture phonographs for home entertainment use. Within three years, branches of the company were located in Europe. Under the aegis of the company, he announced the Spring Motor Phonograph in 1896, followed by the Edison Home Phonograph, and he began the commercial issue of cylinders under the new company's label. A year later, the Edison Standard Phonograph was manufactured, and then exhibited in the press in 1898. This was the first phonograph to carry the Edison trademark design. Prices for the phonographs had significantly diminished from its early days of $150 (in 1891) down to $20 for the Standard model and $7.50 for a model known as the Gem, introduced in 1899.

Standard-sized cylinders, which tended to be 4.25" long and 2.1875" in diameter, were 50 cents each and typically played at 120 r.p.m. A variety of selections were featured on the cylinders, including marches, sentimental ballads, minstrel dialect songs, hymns, comic monologues and descriptive specialities, which offered sound reenactments of events.

The early cylinders had two significant problems. The first was the short length of the cylinders, only 2 minutes. This necessarily narrowed the field of what could be recorded. The second problem was that no mass method of duplicating cylinders existed. Most often, performers had to repeat their performances when recording in order to amass a quantity of cylinders. This was not only time-consuming, but costly.

The Edison Concert Phonograph, which had a louder sound and a larger cylinder measuring 4.25" long and 5" in diameter, was introduced in 1899, retailing for $125 and the large cylinders for $4. The Concert Phonograph did not sell well, and prices for it and its cylinders were dramatically reduced. Their production ceased in 1912.

A process for mass-producing duplicate wax cylinders was put into effect in 1901. The cylinders were molded, rather than engraved by a stylus, and a harder wax was used. The process was referred to as Gold Moulded, because of a gold vapor given off by gold electrodes used in the process. Sub-masters were created from the gold master, and the cylinders were made from these molds. From a single mold, 120 to 150 cylinders could be produced every day. The new wax used was black in color, and the cylinders were initially called New High Speed Hard Wax Moulded Records until the name was changed to Gold Moulded. By mid-1904, the savings in mass duplication was reflected in the price for cylinders which had been lowered to 35 cents each. Beveled ends were made on the cylinders to accommodate titles.

A new business phonograph was introduced in 1905. Similar to a standard phonograph, it had alterations to the reproducer and mandrel. The early machines were difficult to use, and their fragility made them prone to failure. Even though improvements were made to the machine over the years, they still cost more than the popular, inexpensive Dictaphones put out by Columbia. Electrical motors and controls were later added to the Edison business machine, which improved their performance. (Some Edison phonographs made before 1895 also had electric motors, until they were replaced by spring motors.)

At this point, the Edison business phonograph became a dictating system. Three machines were used: the executive dictating machine, the secretarial machine for transcribing, and a shaving machine used to recycle used cylinders. This system can be seen in the Edison advertising film, The Stenographer's Friend, filmed in 1910. An improved machine, the Ediphone, was introduced in 1916 and steadily grew in sales after World War I and into the 1920's.

Catalog for Edison moulded cylinder records, March 1903.

In terms of playing time, the 2-minute wax cylinder could not compete well against competitors' discs, which could offer up to four minutes. In response, the Amberol Record was presented in November 1908, which had finer grooves than the two-minute cylinders, and thus, could last as long as 4 minutes. The two-minute cylinders were then referred to in the future as Edison Two-Minute Records, and then later as Edison Standard Records. In 1909, a series of Grand Opera Amberols (a continuation of the two-minute Grand Opera Cylinders introduced in 1906) was put on the market to attract the higher-class clientele, but these did not prove successful. The Amberola I phonograph was introduced in 1909, a floor-model luxury machine with high-quality performance, and was supposed to compete with the Victrola and Grafonola.

In 1910, the company was reorganized into Thomas A. Edison, Inc. Frank L. Dyer was initially president, then Edison served as president from December 1912 until August 1926, when his son, Charles, became president, and Edison became chairman of the board.

Columbia, one of Edison's chief competitors, abandoned the cylinder market in 1912. (Columbia had given up making its own cylinders in 1909, and until 1912 was only releasing cylinders which it had acquired from the Indestructible Phonographic Record Co.) The United States Phonograph Co. ceased production of its U.S. Everlasting cylinders in 1913, leaving the cylinder market to Edison. The disc had steadily grown in popularity with the consumer, thanks especially to the popular roster of Victor artists on disc. Edison refused to give up the cylinder, introducing instead the Blue Amberol Record, an unbreakable cylinder with what was arguably the best available sound on a recording at the time. The finer sound of the cylinder was partly due to the fact that a cylinder had constant surface speed from beginning to end in contrast to the inner groove distortion that occurred on discs when the surface speed slowed down. Partisans of Edison also argued that the vertical cut in the groove produced a superior sound to the lateral cut of Victor and other disc competitors. Cylinders, though, had truly peaked by this time, and even the superior sound of the Blue Amberols could not persuade the larger public to buy cylinders. Edison conceded to this reality in 1913 when he announced the manufacture of the Edison Disc Phonograph. The Edison Company did not desert its faithful cylinder customers, however, and continued to make Blue Amberol cylinders until the demise of the company in 1929, although most from 1915 on were dubbed from the Diamond Discs.

Information for this section was culled from the following sources:

November 21, 1877: Thomas Edison Introduces The Phonograph

On November 21, 1877, Thomas Edison introduced the an invention he called the phonograph! Yep, the early beginnings of the record player.

It was the first device in history that could both record and playback sound, and it revolutionized the world of music.

According to, while Edison was working on the the telephone and the telegraph, he decided the technology for both of those could be altered to record sound – something which had never really been considered as a possibility. But he made it happen, with a piece of tin foil wrapped around a cylinder in the first phonograph. The first thing he recorded and played back, was himself reciting some of the lines from "Mary Had a Little Lamb."

As they say, the rest is history. The tin foil didn't hold up very well, so they switched to wax cylinders, and eventually to what we know as vinyl records.

Decades TV Network has a pretty cool video featuring the phonograph, and the invention process was also portrayed in the movie "Edison The Man" that was released back in 1940. Both of those videos are below!

History of Phonograph - First Phonograph

As the middle of 19th century enabled the inventors to use new and exciting technologies, the field of sound waves science reached new heights with the discovery of inventor Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville' sphonautograph. Even though this simple sound recording machine never managed to reach financial and commercial success, it paved a way for future inventors to create technologies that would forever change the way we consume music and entire music making industry. The two most important inventors that are responsible for this incredible change were two telephone competitors from United States of America - Thomas Alva Edison and Alexander Graham Bell.

Invention of first phonograph came from the efforts of Thomas Edison to improve his work in telegraphy and telephony. His driving force for this invention came from the belief that there is a way for creating machine that would easily repeat transmission or telegraph message. For this purpose, Edison focused his work on capturing one passage of Morse code on a spool of paper, and soon he started devising a plan for repeating similar feat for telephone. To capture human voice successfully, he used the concept that was introduced by Scott de Martinville and improved it greatly. He knew that sound can be captured by artificial diaphragm on a physical medium, but he needed a way to reproduce sound from those recordings. For that purposes he used paraffin paper and later on spinning tin foil wrapped cylinder. This recording medium enabled the reading pin to transfer previously recorded vibrations back to the diaphragm where they will be reconstructed into sound.

With the help of mechanic John Kreusi, Thomas awarded with patent that specified method of recording sound by embossing sound vibrations of tin-Edison managed to produce his phonograph prototype in autumn of 1877. With ability to both record and reproduce sound, Edison was confident that his newest invention will be successful. First public demonstration of phonograph was performed on December 22 1877, and in following February Edison was foil-covered cylinders.

Sadly, by that time Edison became involved in other projects (most notably 5 year-long development of New York City's electric light and power system) that prevented him to continue refining his phonograph designs which received some critics by the users, especially tinfoil recording medium with was very fragile and hard to use. Solution for those problems came from the Volta Laboratory which was owned by Alexander Graham Bell, fierce competitor of Edison in the area of telephony. His solution was to use sharp recording stylus to engrave the vibrations of the sound to the wax cylinder. Use of wax greatly improved the durability and use of recording, leading to the adoption of wax based "graphophone" patent in February of 1886. In next year Bell's Volta Graphophone Company from Virginia and American Graphophone Company from Philadelphia merged into one company, which would later evolve into successful music company Columbia Records.

In the early years of graphophone it found popularity only as dictating machines, but at the end of 1889 Louis Glass of Pacific Phonograph Company would popularize them across entire US by introduction of nickel-in-the-slot 'entertainment' cylinders.

The introduction of grapophones into popular culture enabled substantial growth of music industry and voice recording, but the true mass market success came with the introduction of disc based gramophone records. They did not enabled any better sound than Bell's cylinders, but the ease of manufacture enabled them to become dominant force of music recording and reproducing for decades to come.

Thomas Edison&rsquos First Invention &ndash The Electrographic Vote Recorder

Edison was 22 years old and working as a telegrapher when he filed his first patent for the Electrographic Vote Recorder.

The device was made with the goal of helping legislators in the US Congress record their votes in a quicker fashion than the voice vote system.

To work, a voting device was connected to a clerk&rsquos desk where the names of the legislators were embedded. The legislators would move a switch to either yes or no, sending electric current to the device at the clerks desk. Yes and No wheels kept track of the votes and tabulated the final results.

Today in history, November 21: Invention of the phonograph

Thomas Edison announced the invention of the phonograph on this day in 1877, a machine that can record and play sound.

Thomas Alva Edison, who invented the phonograph on this day in 1877. Source:News Limited

Highlights in history on this date:

1620: Near Cape Cod in North America, the heads of all 41 households aboard the Mayflower sign the Mayflower Compact, which establishes a plan for pilgrims to govern in the new colony.

1759: Prussian army of Friedrich von Finck capitulates at Maxen, Germany.

1783: First successful flight made in a hot-air balloon when Frenchmen Francois Pilatre de Rosier and Francois Laurent, Marquis d𠆚rlandes, fly for 25 minutes above Paris.

1789: Convict James Ruse establishes experimental farm at Rose Hill (Parramatta), NSW.

1806: France’s Napoleon Bonaparte issues Berlin Decrees, declaring blockade of Britain.

1877: Thomas A Edison announces invention of the phonograph in the United States.

The Edison cylinder phonograph. Picture: Dean Martin Source:News Corp Australia

1916: Death of ruler of the Austro-Hungarian Empire since 1848, Emperor Franz Josef. His attack on Serbia helped precipitate World War I.

1920: The Irish Republican Army shoots dead 14 British agents in what becomes known as the country’s first Bloody Sunday.

1936: Opening of Hume Reservoir on Australia’s Murray River.

1938: Western border areas of Czechoslovakia are forcibly incorporated in German Reich.

1953: The British Museum publishes a scientific report proving thePiltdown Man discovery by Charles Dawson in 1912 was a hoax.

1956: UN General Assembly censures Soviet Union for invading Hungary.

1962: China agrees to ceasefire on India-China border.

1967: Violent student riots break out in Egypt.

1974: Twenty-one people are killed and 162 injured in Birmingham, England, when bombs explode in two pubs. The IRA claims responsibility.

People attend a vigil at Birmingham Cathedral to mark 40 years since the Birmingham pub bombings in 2014. Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images Source:Getty Images

1977: An estimated 3000 people are believed to have perished in a cyclone that strikes southeastern India, with entire villages submerged by tidal waves.

1985: Former US Navy intelligence analyst Jonathan Jay Pollard is arrested and accused of spying for Israel.

1991: UN Security Council chooses Boutros Boutros-Ghali of Egypt to be the new Secretary-General.

1995: Former Nazi SS Captain Erich Priebke is extradited from Argentina to Italy to face charges in the massacre of 335 Italian civilians in Nazi-occupied Rome.

1999: China successfully completes an unmanned spacecraft test, a breakthrough that could make it the third country after the US and the Soviet Union to put humans in space.

2006: Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe announces his retirement from competitive swimming.

Ian Thorpe announces at a Sydney press conference his retirement from competitive swimming. Picture: AFP Photo/Greg Wood Source:AFP

2008: Gordon Wood, former chauffeur to flamboyant stockbroker Rene Rivkin, is found guilty of murdering his live-in lover, model Caroline Byrne and later sentenced to at least 13 years in jail before his conviction was quashed in February 2012.

2012: The first group of asylum seekers, including children, are transferred from Australia to Papua New Guinea’s remote Manus Island.

2013: Former Bundaberg doctor Jayant Patel is handed a two-year suspended sentence for lying to gain employment.

2015: Two Australians are among seven dead in a helicopter crash at Fox Glacier, New Zealand.

2016: Two people die during Melbourne’s thunderstorm asthma event as hundreds of calls for help hit the city’s emergency services. Nine deaths are eventually blamed on the incident.

2017: Bali’s Mt Agung volcano starts erupting with an ash cloud rising 800 metres above the summit, but locals are told to remain calm.

2018: Convicted Bali Nine drug smuggler Renae Lawrence walks free from Bali’s Bangli prison after serving 13 years of a 20-year sentence for trying to smuggle 2.7 kilograms of heroin to Australia.

Happy Birthday, Goldie Hawn! Source:AFP

Voltaire, French poet-philosopher (1694-1778) Adolph (Harpo) Marx, second oldest of the US Marx Brothers comedy team (1888-1964) Victor Chang, Australian heart surgeon, (1936-1991) Harold Ramis, US actor-director (1944-2014) Goldie Hawn, US actor (1945) Lorna Luft, US actor-singer (1952) Glenn Ridge, Australian TV personality (1955) Bjork, Icelandic pop singer (1965) Carly Rae Jepsen, Canadian singer (1985) Isiah Firebrace, Australian singer (1999).

“Modesty is the only sure bait when you angle for praise.” – The fourth Earl of Chesterfield, English author (1694-1773).

From phonographs to earbuds, these five inventions trace the history of recorded sound

On any given day, try to avoid recorded sound and, well, good luck. Music, voice messages, the news, alerts at the Metro station — it all makes silence elusive. But less than 150 years ago, there was no way to capture sound and play it back. The National Museum of American History’s new permanent exhibit, “America’s Listening,” transports visitors back to the 1800s, when Thomas Edison unveiled the phonograph and kick-started the journey to music in our pockets. “We picked five moments, five people, five innovations that track the story of recorded sound up to the present,” says David Allison, a senior scholar at the museum. “It’s an area where the U.S. has been a leader, and I think people will be interested to see how it’s affected their lives every day.”

Thomas Edison’s phonograph, 1877

It must have been a real lightbulb moment. In 1877, Thomas Edison introduced his phonograph — a metal cylinder wrapped in tin foil that had two diaphragm-and-needle units used for recording and playback. Though recording instruments weren’t brand-new, none had previously been able to replay sound, making Edison’s an important first, Allison says. Within a couple of years, phonographs were installed on city streets and, for a small fee, passers-by could listen to recordings. In a nod to that type of use, the museum is dubbing Edison’s portion of the exhibit “listening in public.” Visitors can take a turn playing recordings from that era, and examine one of Edison’s original phonographs — an “extremely rare” artifact, Allison says.

Alexander Graham Bell’s graphophone, 1886

In 1880, the French government awarded Alexander Graham Bell a prize for achievement in electrical science, and he used his winnings to set up the Volta Laboratory in D.C. There, he began working to improve Edison’s phonograph, and in 1886 he patented the graphophone, a business dictation machine that used wax cylinders to record and play sound. “[Bell] wanted to develop a device that was primarily used for recording spoken voice,” Allison says, as opposed to, say, singing. “It was mostly for offices.” The exhibit features an original graphophone and recordings that the museum recovered and modernized with the help of outside scientists. “You can actually hear Alexander Bell’s voice, and his father’s voice, and other people’s voices that we thought were lost forever,” Allison says.

Emile Berliner’s gramophone, 1887

Emile Berliner helped reinvent the way music was recorded — and has had a lasting influence on one of the biggest music events of the year, the Grammys. The German-born pioneer came to the U.S. in 1870 and opened a laboratory in D.C. After analyzing the pros and cons of Edison’s and Bell’s devices, he was granted a patent for what he referred to as the gramophone in 1887. The device was unique in that it recorded on flat records rather than cylinders, and it made it possible to mass-produce sound recordings. The Grammy Awards are named for Berliner’s invention, and the coveted gold trophy features a miniature gramophone. “It was the first widely used device for listening to recorded sound at home,” Allison says. “Visitors will learn about the inventor, see the device and hear what recorded sound looked like in that moment.”

Ray Dolby’s noise reduction system, 1965

Most of us assume that whatever comes over the airwaves will be clear and crisp — and we tolerate nothing less. For decades, though, as devices evolved, there was an annoying, underlying hiss that tainted all audiotapes. In the mid-1960s, sound engineer Ray Dolby invented a noise reduction system that greatly elevated audio quality. It was initially sold as an add-on component, but in the early ’70s, manufacturers started making it part of their equipment. “We’re highlighting a Sony Walkman that had Dolby technology built in,” Allison says. And, if your ears are up to it, you can compare recordings with and without the hiss.

Watch the video: Thomas Edison