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1896 __ The Human Telephone
Chester (?-?)
Comment : DEAF MUTE TALKS AND HEARS.Wonderful Invention of a Man Styling Himself tho Human Telephone.A man calling himself "the human telephone" created no little interest among the business men of Oak Park, near Chicago, the other day. He was a deaf mute and carried credentials which showed him to be J. C. Chester, of Glendive, Mont., an ex-inmate of the Columbus (0.) deaf mute asylum and the inventor of a curious instrument which enables him to speak and hear. He was soliciting money to pay his way to Washington and there defray the expense of a patent for his strange contrivance, which he says can be used by any mute or deaf person. He speaks with the aid of a small nickeled affair, which is concealed in the mouth and which serves him as a palate. His voice is an exact counterpart of that of the dime-museum Punch and Judy figure. His telephone apparatus consists of a dry current battery carried in his hip pocket and insulated wires running from this to a transmitter and to his left ear. The coils and other parts of his telephone system contain 500 yards of fine wire. He says he worked two years on the invention and hopes to make a success of it for the sake of those who are afflicted like himself. (In The climax. Richmond, Madison County, Ky. 1887-1897, December 02, 1896)Perhaps the most striking example [...] was J.C. Chester, “the human telephone”, a man who wired himself up with a complete telephone assembly (including battery) and marched to Washington, D.C., to patent himself : “He has found by many experiments that the dulled nerves of the ear are quickened by these powerful electric appliances and the he does hear”. In addition to an earpiece and mouthpiece for an interlocutor, Chester had outfitted his own end with a mouthpiece and an earpiece with a special wire connected directly to his teeth so that the signal could approach his auditory nerve from two directions at once. “ A gentleman meeting this walking telephone upon the road is offered the transmitter and receiver that hang upon the hook. The gentleman places one to the ear and talks through the other, sound being much assisted by the receiver in his ear. When he replies, he speaks through a tin horn connecting with the wires and trusts to the carrying effect of the telephone. In this way he can converse over a space of several feet as easily as any other man, the painful ear-splitting being avoided” (Grant Eldridge, “The Human Telephone”, In Buffalo (N.Y.) Times, 24 January 1897, National Museum of American History, Medical Sciences Division, folder “Hearing”). The actual effectiveness of this apparatus is questionable. It is true that hearing aids followed the adevent of tympanic machines (one history dates the electrically amplified hearing aid back to 1880). While such apparatuses might be of some assistance to the hard-of-hearing by focusing sound and channeling it toward a single point (through the use of the receiver in the telephone or an ear tube for the phonograph), they were, however, of no use as cures for deafness. (Jonathan Sterne, pp. 81-83)
Source : Sterne, Jonathan (2003), “The Audible Past - Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction”, Durham & London : Duke University Press, pp. 81-83.
Urls : http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86069161/1896-12-02/ed-1/seq-1/;words=C+Human+J+Telephone+telephone+J.C+Chester+human (last visited )

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