The First Talking Doll – Invented By Thomas Edison in 1877
Invented in 1877 and introduced to the public in 1890 by the Edison Phonograph Toy Manufacturing Company as a toy that they could purchase. Technically, the doll was an historic step in phonograph history — the first phonograph marketed for home entertainment. The doll contained a six-second prerecorded cylinder that contained a six-second recording of a nursery rhyme. The doll stands 22″ high and weighs four pounds, with a metal body, articulated wooden limbs, and an imported Simon and Halbig #719 bisque head. The internal phonograph measures only 7″ tall, with a wax cylinder measuring 3″ in diameter and 5/8″ wide. The original price was $10 with a simple chemise, and $20-$25 with full dress. This was a huge sum for the time, equal to about two weeks salary for the average person. Cylinders were not interchangeable. There was no spring motor so the child was expected to turn the crank by hand at a steady speed in order for the doll to recite the nursery rhyme. (Edison was later quoted as admitting that “the voices of the little monsters were exceedingly unpleasant to hear.”) Unfortunately the delicate mechanism was too fragile for rough usage, and the steel stylus caused the wax record to wear out extremely rapidly.
February of 1891: “One of Edison’s talking dolls has reached Winnipeg (Canada.) It is at Miss Maycock’s store and is inspected daily by a large number of people. It is a very good evidence of the uses to which the phonograph can be applied, but as a conversationalist or an elocutionist, the doll cannot be pronounced a success. The piece which the manufacturer has arranged for the lifeless talker to say is that familiar old nursery rhyme, ‘Jack and Jill.’ When the crank is applied to the mechanism and turned, the sound is emitted from a perforated plate on the breast of the doll. At first it is hard to distinguish any words, but by listening attentively and following the rhyme from the start, every word can be heard although not distinctly. As a novelty it is interesting.”
Oddities- The Talking Doll
1917-1918 Worked on special experiments relating to defense for the United States Government.
I 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.