Edison’s Phonograph

By | Dec 6, 2010

The United States Patent Office on February 19, 1878 issued to Thomas Edison patent #200,521 for the phonograph. Edison’s was working on two other inventions when he discovered that sound could make an indentation onto paper. He changed the paper to a tin foil wrap cylinder and found that the machine he designed would replay the words he spoke. The words spoken were the nursery rhyme Mary Had a Little lamb.

Edison at one time said that this event happen in August of 1877, but many believe it was later in the year since it wasn’t until December 24, 1877 that he filed for the patent. Edison’s aide Charles Batchelor wrote in his diary events that seem to indicate that the first successful recording was made on December 6th.

The phonograph was an initial success, but the novelty of the system soon wore off and Edison turned his interest into inventing the light bulb. It wasn’t until near then end of the 19th century that he turned his attention back to this invention with an intent to make phonograph cylinders for home entertainment uses.

For the first dozen years of the 20th century Edison’s Wax Cylinders were in competition with gramophone disc. By the 1920’s the disc was the dominate sound medium until they were supplanted by the Compact Disc in the late 1980’s.

Over the years many different materials have been used. Along with wax and hard rubber, a mixture of shellac, cotton compound. powered slate and wax has been used, These shellac records, used until the 1950’s were brittle and easy to break.

After World War II ended in 1945, vinyl started to be used in the production of records. By the end of the 1940’s this material were used in a long playing 12 inch record played at a speed of 33 1/3 revolutions per minute, invented by Columbia Records and on a 7 inch version played at 45 rpm, invented by RCA Victor.


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