Today’s Illustration: Every Word Recorded

Image result for Thomas Edison Phonograph

On This Day:  February 19, 1878 — Invention & Patent For The “Phonograph.”

The first time that people could actually and verbally record and playback what was spoken by an individual began with the invention of the “Phonograph.”

“The workman who got the sketch was John Kruesi. I didn’t have much faith that it would work, expecting that I might possibly hear a word or so that would give hope of a future for the idea. Kruesi, when he had nearly finished it, asked what it was for. I told him I was going to record talking, and then have the machine talk back. He thought it absurd. However, it was finished, the foil was put on; I then shouted ‘Mary had a little lamb’, etc. I adjusted the reproducer, and the machine reproduced it perfectly. I was never so taken aback in my life. Everybody was astonished. I was always afraid of things that worked the first time. Long experience proved that there were great drawbacks found generally before they could be got commercial; but here was something there was no doubt of.” — phonograph

“The Social Impact of the Phonograph

Before the phonograph and the gramophone, music was very much a social event.  People gathered at a common location—a club, a concert hall, a bandstand—to enjoy music together.

But when phonographs and gramophones started appearing in private homes in the early 20th century, there was a radical shift.  The living room (or wherever the machine was) replaced the concert hall and the club.

Music also shifted away from being a group experience to a personal one.  Listening to popular music by popular performers was now available on demand.  And because performances were frozen onto records and heard exactly the same way each time, the music lent itself to more analysis.  People learned to copy songs by listening to a record over and over again.  This, too, was new.

While some decried this as a cultural disaster—the end of musical spontaneity that only comes with live performances—the fact is that by the 1930s, more people were listening to more music—as well as more different types of music—than they had at any point in human history.

It also had an impact on musicians.  Now they had to think differently about how they wrote songs.  Writing music for a live performance is one thing.  Writing for a recording is another.  Meanwhile, audiences who were introduced to new songs via records expected to hear the songs played in exactly the same way in a live setting.”



Facts & Information:


Father: Samuel Ogden Edison Jr.

Mother: Nancy Matthew Elliot

Last of seven children


Thomas Edison was born in 1847 —  in Milan, Ohio
His three previous siblings had died
Moved & Grew up in Port Huron, Michigan

His Life:

Severe hearing impairment at an early age.

In his teens, Edison sold candy,  newspapers, fruit, and even his own newspaper which was composed and printed aboard one of the “empty” train cars,  running from Port Huron to Detroit.

Learned to be a “telegraph operator” in Port Huron, Ohio.  He was offered the opportunity to be a telegraph operator learn after he “saved three-year-old Jimmie MacKenzie from being struck by a runaway train. Jimmie’s father, station agent J. U. MacKenzie of Mount Clemens, Michigan, was so grateful that he trained Edison as a telegraph operator.”   He became one of the BEST at it!

Over the following years, he traveled across the mid-west, south and eastern states picking up various jobs as a telegraph operator.

Mary Stilwell — a telegraph operator — (married in 1871–died in 1884) —
Three children

Thomas Jr. — nicknamed “Dash”
Marion — nickname “Dot”

Mina Miller (married in 1886–died in 1931) —
Three children

Madeleine Edison (born 1888–1979)
Charles Edison (born 1890–1969)
Theodore Miller Edison (born 1898–1992)


He worked for “Western Union” as a telegraph operator, before his first invention & patent.

His first patent was for the electric vote recorder, U.S. Patent 90,646 —  June 1, 1869.*  It was an instrument which was designed to be used by the city council of Washington DC.  It recorded the vote of individual members of the city council by pressing a yes or no button.

“Politicians wanted the chance to bargain with fellow representatives and perhaps change their votes during a session.” — Thomas Edison Inventor — pg 48

That failure formed Edison’s thinking about his inventions.  He would not invent something that was not wanted by people.

Some of his other earliest inventions revolved around the telegraph.  He made significant improvements to the standard telegraph by developing . . . .

an automatic stock ticker — after there was little interest in the electric vote recorder by Congress

a duplex telegraph — sent two message via telegraph at the same time

a quadruplex telegraph — sent four message via telegraph at the same time

One of his early successes was with Gold Stock Reporting Company, where he developed an improved stock reporter-ticker for that company. Edison was paid $40,000 for that invention, which became the seed money for setting up his own business  — American Telegraph Works — in Newark, New Jersey.

“1914 On the night of December 9th his great plant at West Orange, N. J. was the scene of a spectacular fire. As soon as he saw the scope of this conflagration he enthusiastically sent word to several friends and members of his family, advising them to “Get down here quick…. you may never have another chance to see anything like this again!” Within hours after the fire had been extinguished, he had given orders for the complete rehabilitation of the plant. Early the next morning he arrived with a gang of men and began to supervise the task of clearing the debris.  Hundreds more workers were added throughout the day, and the project continued around the clock for several months until an even larger and more efficient facility than the original had been completed.” — inventions

Many of the inventions were improvements upon improvements to make something better and better, more and more efficient.

Edison loved visitors and talking to visitors who stopped in his shop and office in Menlo Park and West Orange New Jersey.  He was always looking for another idea.

No Inventor has received more patents than Thomas Alva Edison.


Religiously: At best, Edison was a deist

Politically: He was also a passivist when it came to serving in the military — “Nonviolence was key to Edison’s moral views, and when asked to serve as a naval consultant for World War I, he specified he would work only on defensive weapons and later noted, “I am proud of the fact that I never invented weapons to kill.” 

“He would say, ‘I owe my success to the fact that I never had a clock in my workroom.’ (7) He would work for 16 hours at a stretch, gaining a reputation for not sleeping!” — inventive life

His Death:

“Troubled by diabetes and stomach ailments for many years, Edison’s health declined and he died at West Orange, N.J. on October 18, 1931. Crowds lined up for blocks to pass by his coffin in the lab’s library. President Herbert Hoover requested a minute of silence–and darkness–to honor the great inventor and at 10 p.m. on October 22, 1931, people around the United States turned off their electric lights.

Thomas Alva Edison, the “Wizard of Menlo Park,” never stopped inventing. At the end of his life, he had 1,093 patents to his name. To this day, no one has topped his record.”


1.“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”

2. “Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do doesn’t mean it’s useless.”

3.”There is no substitute for hard work.”

4. “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

5. “If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.”

6. “What you are will show in what you do.”

7. “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

8. “The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are: Hard work, Stick-to-itiveness, and Common sense.”

9. “Maturity is often more absurd than youth and very frequently is most unjust to youth.”

10. “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”

11. “I never did a day’s work in my life. It was all fun.”

12. “Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends, there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing.”

13. “I have friends in overalls whose friendship I would not swap for the favor of the kings of the world.”

14. “Everything comes to him who hustles while he waits.”

15. “I never did anything by accident, nor did any of my inventions come by accident; they came by work.”

16. “Nearly every man who develops an idea works it up to the point where it looks impossible, and then he gets discouraged. That’s not the place to become discouraged.”

17. “To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.”

18. “There are no rules here – we’re trying to accomplish something.”

19. “Waste is worse than loss. The time is coming when every person who lays claim to ability will keep the question of waste before him constantly. The scope of thrift is limitless.”

20. “Restlessness is discontent and discontent is the first necessity of progress. Show me a thoroughly satisfied man and I will show you a failure.”
21. “Be courageous. I have seen many depressions in business. Always America has emerged from these stronger and more prosperous. Be brave as your fathers before you. Have faith! Go forward!”

22. “The chief function of the body is to carry the brain around.”

23. “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

24. “There’s a way to do it better – find it.”

25. “Your worth consists in what you are and not in what you have.”

26. “There will one day spring from the brain of science a machine or force so fearful in its potentialities, so absolutely terrifying, that even man, the fighter, who will dare torture and death in order to inflict torture and death, will be appalled, and so abandon war forever.”

27. “The best thinking has been done in solitude. The worst has been done in turmoil.”

28. “To have a great idea, have a lot of them.”

29. “The value of an idea lies in the using of it.”

30. “Show me a thoroughly satisfied man and I will show you a failure.”

31. “Results! Why, man, I have gotten a lot of results. I know several thousand things that won’t work.”

32. “One might think that the money value of an invention constitutes its reward to the man who loves his work. But… I continue to find my greatest pleasure, and so my reward, in the work that precedes what the world calls success.”

33. “There is far more opportunity than there is ability.”

34. “Anything that won’t sell, I don’t want to invent. Its sale is proof of utility, and utility is success.”

35. “When I have fully decided that a result is worth getting I go ahead of it and make trial after trial until it comes.”
36. “I start where the last man left off.”


Key Illustrative Thoughts:

• “Discontent is the first necessity of progress.”
• “Restlessness is discontent and discontent is the first necessity of progress. Show me a thoroughly satisfied man and I will show you a failure.”
• giving an account of every word
• What did you say?
• the amazing ability and mind of man
• the results of a kind deed
• turn off all the lights
• how to look at a fire which takes out everything
• not wanted by politicians
• kept improving on it
• hard work
• success
• failure
• doing it better




Other Information & Links:

Edison’s First Patent:

“To all whom it may concern:

Be it known that I, THOMAS A. Enisomof Boston, in the county of Suffolk and State of Massachusetts, have invented a new and useful apparatus named Electrographic Vote Recorder and Register, of which the following is a full, clear, and exact description,-reference being had to the accompanying drawing. which represents a plan view’of the apparatus, and to the letters of reference thereon.

The object of my invention is to produce an apparatus which records and registers in an instant,- and with great accuracy the votes of legislative bodies, thus avoiding loss of valuable time consumed in counting and registering the votes and names, as done in the usual manner; and my invention consists in applying an electrographic apparatus in such a manner that each member, by moving a switch to either of two points, representing an affirmative and opposing vote, has his name imprinted, by means of electricity, under the desired head, on a previously-prepared paper, and at I the sametime-the number of votes is indicated on a-dial-plate by the operation. . . .”


1847 Born on February 11th at Milan, Ohio.

1854 Moved to Port Huron, Mich.

1857 Set up a chemical laboratory in the cellar of his home.

1859 Became a newsboy and “candy butcher” on the trains of the Grand Trunk Railway, running between Port Huron and Detroit.

1862 Printed and published “The Weekly Herald,” the first newspaper ever to be typeset and printed on a moving train. The London Times features a story on him and his paper, giving him his first exposure to international notoriety.

1862 Saved – from otherwise certain death in a train accident – the young son of J. U. Mackenzie, station agent at Mount Clemens, Mich. In gratitude, the child’s father taught him telegraphy.

1862 Strung a telegraph line from the Port Huron railway station to Port Huron village and worked in the local telegraph office.

1863 Obtained his first position as a regular telegraph operator on the Grand Trunk Railway at Stratford Junction, Canada. Later, is resigned by them to help develop a duplex system of telegraphy

1863-1868 Spent nearly five years as a telegraph “tramp operator” in various cities of the Central Western states, always experimenting with ways to improve the apparatus.

1868 Entered the office of Western Union in Boston as a telegraph operator. Becomes friendly with other early electricians – especially a later associate of Alexander Graham Bell named Benjamin Franklin Bredding – who was much more knowledgeable than both himself and Bell on the state-of-the-art of telegraphy and electricity. Entered the private telegraph line business on a very modest scale. Resigned from Western Union – was about to be fired anyway – in order to conduct further experimentation on multiplexing telegraph signals.

1868 Came up with his first patented invention, an Electrical Vote Recorder. Application for this patent was signed 0n October 11, 1968. Because the invention was way ahead of its time, it was heartily denigrated by politicians…  He now becomes much more oriented towards making certain there is a strong public demand and associated market for anything he tries to invent. 

1869 Landed in New York City by way of a Boston steamship, poor, penniless, and in debt. While seeking work, chanced being in the operating room of the Gold & Stock Telegraph Company when their ticker apparatus broke down. No one but he was able to fix it, As a result, he was given a job as superintendent at the remarkable wage of $300 per month.

1869 Went into partnership with Franklin L. Pope as an electrical engineer. Radically improved stock tickers and patented several associated inventions, among which were the Universal Stock Ticker and the Unison Device.

1870 Received the first cash payment for one of his inventions, a $40,000 check. Sent money back to his financially desperate parents. Opened a manufacturing shop in Newark, where he made stock tickers and worked on developing the quadruplex telegraph.

1871 Assisted Sholes, the inventor of the typewriter, in making the first successful working model of that device.

1872-1876 Worked on and patented several of his most important inventions, including the motograph and automatic telegraph systems such as the quadruplex, sextuplex and multiplex telegraph which saved Western Union many millions of dollars in wiring. Also invented paraffin paper (which was first used for wrapping candies), the electric pen, the forerunner of the present day mimeograph machine, the carbon rheostat, the microtasimeter, etc.

1876-1877 Invented the carbon telephone transmitter “button”, which finally made telephony a commercial success. Significantly, this invention not only led to the development of the microphone, which made early radio possible, but the solid-state “diode” or transistor which makes so many of today’s electronic devices possible. Invented the phonograph. (The patent on which was later issued by the United States Patent Office – within two months after its application – without a single reference.)

1878 Continued to improve the phonograph. Later in the year, went with an astronomical party to Rawlins, Wyoming for rest and to test his new microtasimeter during an eclipse of the sun. Associates key him into the world-wide need for a workable incandescent light bulb. Upon returning, he began to investigate the “electric light problem in earnest.”

1878 Became the first to apply the term “filament” to a fine wire that glows when carrying an electric current. In a prophetic article in the North American Review he foreshadowed ten prominent uses for the phonograph – all since accomplished – including its combination with the telephone, which became a reality in 1914 with the perfection of the Telescribe.

1879 Invented the first commercially practical incandescent electric lamp. The lamp itself was perfected on October 21st, 1879, on which day there was put into circuit the first bulb embodying the principles known as the “Edison modern incandescent lamp.” This bulb maintained its incandescence for over 40 hours.

1879 Made radical improvements on the construction of dynamos, including the mica laminated armature and mica insulated commutator. Also constructed the first practical generators for the systems of distribution of current for lighting. Invented and improved upon numerous systems of generation, distribution, regulation and, measurement of electric current and voltage. Invented sockets, switches, insulating tape, etc. (Meanwhile, he also invented gummed paper tape now commonly used in place of twine or string for securing packages.)

1879 Constructed the first electric motor ever made for a 110 to 120 volt line at Menlo Park, N. J. This device is still in existence and operative, and is located in the Edison Historical Collection in New Jersey. On December 31, gave the first public demonstration of an electric lighting system in streets and buildings at Menlo Park, N. J., utilizing underground mains.

1880 Invented further improvements in systems and details for electric lighting and laid the first groundwork for introducing them on a commercial basis. Established the first incandescent lamp factory at Menlo Park, N. J.

1880 Invented a magnetic ore separator. Invented and installed the first life-sized electric railway for handling freight and passengers at Menlo Park, N. J.

1881 Opened business offices at No. 65 Fifth Avenue, New York City. Established his second and improved commercial incandescent lamp factory at Harrison, N. J. Also organized and established shops at 104 Goerck St., 108 Wooster St., and 65 Washington St. in New York City, for the manufacture of dynamos, underground conductors, sockets, switches, fixtures, meters, etc.

1882 On September 4th, he commenced operation of the first profit oriented central station in the United States in New York City, for the distribution of current for electric lighting.

1882-1883 Designed and contracted for the first three-wire central station for distributing electric light, power, and heat – in standardized form – in Brockton, Massachusetts. By October, had completed construction of that station. Discovered a previously unknown phenomenon that later came to be known as the “Edison effect,” but he called “Etheric Force.” Specifically, determined that an independent wire, grid, or plate placed between the legs of the filament of an incandescent lamp acted as a “damper” or valve to control the flow of current. The associated Patent No. 307,031 was issued to him later that year. Twelve years later these previously unknown phenomena were recognized as electric waves in free space and became the foundation of wireless telegraphyMost significantly, this discovery – along with his carbon button – involved the foundation principles upon which the diode was later invented,  and upon which radio, television, and computer transistors are based. Moved from Newark to a new laboratory at Menlo Park…

1883 Constructed the first, relatively crude, three-wire central system for electric lighting in a simple wooden structure in Sunbury, Pa.

1880-1887 Underwent his most strenuous years of invention as he extended and improved greatly upon his electric light, heat, and power systems. Took out over three hundred patents, many of which were of extraordinary and fundamental importance. The most were those relating to “dividing” electric power and standardizing the three-wire system and improving its associated generation and feeder system.

1881 – 1887 Invented a system of wireless telegraphy, (by induction) to and from trains in motion, or between moving trains and railway stations. The system was installed on the Lehigh Valleys R. R. in 1887, and was used there for several years. Invented a wireless system of communication between ships at sea, ships and shore and ships and distant points on land. Patent No. 465,971 was issued on this invention, the application having been filed May 23, 1885 – two years prior to the publication of the work of Hertz. Most significantly, this patent was eventually purchased from Edison by the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company.

1887 Moved his center of experimentation to the laboratory at West Orange, New Jersey.

1887-1890 Made major improvements on the brown wax and black wax cylinder phonograph. Obtained over eighty related patents, while establishing a very extensive commercial business in the manufacture and sale of phonographs and records, including associated dictating machines, “shaveable” records, and shaving machines.

1891 Made a number of inventions associated with improving electric railways.

1891 Invented and patented the motion picture camera. This mechanism, with its continuous tape-like film, made it possible to take, reproduce, and project motion pictures as we see and hear them today.

1891-1900 Developed his great iron ore enterprise, in which he did some of his most brilliant engineering work. One of his most important inventions of this period was a giant roller machine for breaking large masses of rock and finely crushing them. Invented the Fluoroscope…realizing the necessity and value of a practical fluorescent screen for making examinations with X-rays, he made thousands of crystallizations of single and double chemical salts and finally discovered that crystals of Calcium Tungstate made in a particular way were highly fluorescent to the X-ray. Also made many several improvements on the X-ray tube.

1900 – 1910 Invented and perfected the steel alkaline storage battery and made it a commercial success.

1900 -1909 Established his once famous Portland Cement Co. and made many important inventions relating to the processes involved in the production of pre-cast buildings. In 1907, he introduced the first concrete mold  for making one-piece houses called “single piece cast concrete homes.” The unique type of kiln he developed for making these houses proved to be of great importance in the cement industry.

1902-1903 Worked on improving the Edison Primary Battery. Continued to invent improvements to his phonograph – his favorite invention – and associated cylinders.

1905 Introduced a revolutionary new type of dictating machine, which enabled the dictator to hear repetitions and make paper scale corrections.

1907 Introduced the Universal Electric Motor which made it possible to operate dictating machines etc. on all lighting circuits.

1910-1914 Worked on – and much improved – the disc phonograph, resulting in the production of records and playing instruments which reproduce vocal and instrumental music with overtones that had  relatively “extraordinary fidelity and sweetness.” Introduced the diamond point reproducer and the “indestructible” record, thereby commencing a new era in phonographs.

1912 Having spent many previous years in its general development and perfection, finally introduced the Kinetophone or talking motion picture.

1913 Introduced an important automatic correction device for the dictating machine.

1914 Being the largest individual user in the United States of carbolic acid (for making phonograph records), he found himself at the onset of World War One in danger of being compelled to close his factory by reason of a related embargo placed on exporting said substance by England and Germany. The basic issue was that carbolic acid was in great demand for the purpose of making explosives. He now devised an alternative method for making carbolic acid synthetically, and finally put crews of men to work twenty four hours a day to build a related plant. By the eighteenth day, was producing carbolic acid, and within four weeks was turning out a ton of it per day.

1914 On the night of December 9th his great plant at West Orange, N. J. was the scene of a spectacular fire. As soon as he saw the scope of this conflagration he enthusiastically sent word to several friends and members of his family, advising them to “Get down here quick…. you may never have another chance to see anything like this again!” Within hours after the fire had been extinguished, he had given orders for the complete rehabilitation of the plant. Early the next morning he arrived with a gang of men and began to supervise the task of clearing the debris. Hundreds more workers were added throughout the day, and the project continued around the clock for several months until an even larger and more efficient facility than the original had been completed.

1914 Invented the Telescribe, combining the telephone and the dictating phonograph, thus permitting – for the first time – the recording of both sides of a telephone conversation.

1915 Because military conflicts in Europe had created an enormous demand for phenols, and supplies were uncertain, he invented the first synthetic form of carbolic acid (C6H6O). Next, after evaluating all of the literature available on the erection and operation of benzol (C6H6) absorbing plants, he drew up plans for
benzine-making facility  that could be readily installed. Although it had previously taken nine months to a year to install such a facility, his first such structure was put into operation in just forty five days. A larger plant designed for the Woodward Iron Company at Woodward, Ala., was completed in only 60 days. At about this time, he also built two other large benzol plants in Canada, each of were was put into operation in less than sixty days. All these plants became highly successful commercial operations, producing benzol, toluol, solvent naphtha, xylol, and naphthalene.

1915 In the early months of this year, he conceived the idea of helping out the struggling textile and rubber industries of America by making myrbane, aniline oil, and aniline salt, which, are still important commercial substances, and which had been previously imported from Germany. Following his usual procedure, he first exhausted the literature on the subject, and then laid out the plant. By bringing great pressure to bear on his workers – and by working day and night himself – he constructed the plant in just forty five working days, commenced deliveries in June, and was soon turning out over 4,000 pounds of these products per day.

1915 During World War One, the dyeing industry was suffering from a great scarcity of paraphenylenediamine, formerly imported from Germany. Since he was using the chemical in the manufacture of records for his Diamond Disc Phonograph and was no longer able to procure it, he experimented until he found a way to synthesize it. Much pressure was now brought to bear upon him to supply some of it to fur dyers and others. He equipped a separate plant for this purpose and ultimately manufactured over a ton a day.

1915 The great scarcity of carbolic acid in America now brought innumerable requests to him to sell some of this product. His first such plant worked well, producing about 7,000 pounds a day. This, however, soon proved to be insufficient to supply the demand. He now projected and installed another plant with a capacity of about 7,000 pounds additional per day. As he devised improved processes for use in the latter plant there were a vast number of difficult problems to overcome. However, with his usual energy and dogged perseverance – involving many weeks of strenuous work – he finally prevailed.

1916 Worked several months making important improvements in the manufacture of disc phonograph records and new methods and devices for recording. Worked on improved methods and processes producing his chemical products. Worked out processes for making a paramidaphenol base, hydrochloride benzidine base, and sulphate and constructed new plants for their manufacture. As President of the Naval Consulting Board, he did a great deal of work connected with national defense.

1917-1918 Worked on special experiments relating to defense for the United States Government. See below.

1 Locating positions of guns by sound ranging.

2 Detecting submarines by sound from moving vessels.

3 Detecting, on moving vessels, the discharge of torpedoes by submarines.

4 The faster turning of ships.

5 Strategic plans for saving cargo boats from harm by enemy submarines.

6 Development of collision mats for submarines and ships.

7 Methods for guiding merchant ships out of mined harbors.

8 Oleum cloud shells.

9 Camouflaging ships.

10 Blocking torpedoes with nets.

11 Increased power for torpedoes.

12 Coastal patrol by submarine buoys.

13 Destroying periscopes with machine guns.

14 Cartridges for taking soundings.

15 Sailing lights for convoys.

16 Smudging skyline.

1 17 Underwater searchlights.

18 High speed signaling with searchlights.

19 Water penetrating projectiles.

20 Airplane detection.

21 Observing periscopes in silhouette.

Edison was awarded 1,368 separate and distinct patents during his lifetime. He passed away at age 84 on October 18th, 1931 – on the anniversary date of his invention of the incandescent bulb.

“Thomas Alva Edison — Inventor”  — Historical American Biographies —


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