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1878 __ Phonograph’s use for sermons
Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931), Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1897)
Comment : Shortly after the invention of the phonograph one person had the idea to: erect statues of popular speakers in life size, Mr. Henry Ward Beecher for instance, charismatic abolitionist preacher and brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe (author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin), reproduce his speech in tin foil, put a phonograph inside of him (the statue, not the man), and stand him on a platform to repeat the new lecture on the Wastes and Burdens of Society. (Roland Gelatt, “The Fabulous Phonograph”, New York: Appleton-Century, 1965, p. 30 quoted by Douglas Kahn)3 -- [...] "You understand that not more than one in ten of these [patents] is of any real practical value", Edison explained. "The rest are obtained for purposes of protection. Not more than ten or fifteen of my patents are worth anything except to prevent somebody from stealing the rest. This phonograph, for instance -- I shall have to take out a dozen patents to defend it. I shall get a patent on every kind of phonograph I can thin of". He showed them the improved phonograph. Cylinder and hand crank had been eliminated and in their place was a circular plate revolved by clockwork. He startled his hearers by predicting the recording of full orchestras. The phonograph would be attached to a hole in one end of a barrel, while from the other end a funnel like that used in ventilating steamships, would project. "You may have an album of selected matter on your parlor table, take a sheet from it, place it on the phonograph, start the clockwork, and have a symphony". They hung on his words. "A man in Europe has invented a machine by which he takes an instantaneous photograph. Let us suppose that he photographs Henry Ward Beecher every second and that we take down his sermon on the tin-foil matrix. The pictures and gestures of the orator as well as his voice could be exactly reproduced and the eyes and ears of the audience charmed by the voice and manner of the speaker. Whole dramas and operas can be produced in private parlors." A vision of the "talkie" in 1878 ! He proposed another use. "I could fix a machine in a wall and by resonations any conversation in a room could be recorded. Political secrets and the machinations of Wall Street pools might be brought to light !" A hint for detectives !" -- 4 -- Menlo Park attracted leaders from all walks of life. One day Bishop John H. Vincent called with Lewis Miller of Akron, Ohio, inventor of the mowing machine and grain binder. The divine was determined to settle for himself that the machine was not a ventriloquist's trick. When it was placed at his disposal by Edison, he recited a string of long Biblical names into the mouthpiece. It repeated them without a single slip. "I'm satisfied," the bishop announced. "No other living man can say those names as fast as I can." Lewis Miller is said to have replied: "Here is one of the great inventors of the future watch him. (William Adams Simonds, "Edison - His Life, His Work, His Genius", Chap. 12, “Farewell to Privacy - April-August 1878”, pp. 125-126)
Source : Gelatt, Roland (1965), “The Fabulous Phonograph”, New York: Appleton-Century, 1965, p. 30.
Source : Simonds, William Adams (1934), "Edison - His Life, His Work, His Genius", First Edition, Brooklyn New York : Braunworth and Co. Inc.
Urls : http://www.archive.org/stream/edisonhislifehis002309mbp/edisonhislifehis002309mbp_djvu.txt (last visited )

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