Edison tin foil phonograph 1879

(#312,123) - Edison tin foil phonograph pictured above was obtained from Edison in 1879 by Gardiner G. Hubbard and given to Alexander Graham Bell for the purpose of improving the phonograph. The machine was used to make experimental recordings in wax but by the old indenting method that Edison had originally used in 1877. After two years of experiments, Bell and Charles Tainter sealed this machine, called a "graphophone" by Bell, inside a tin box for deposit at the Smithsonian Oct. 20, 1881. The box was opened Oct. 27, 1937 - see newspaper story 1937/10/28. Also sealed in the box was Tainter's lateral-cut electroplate record. The machine that would later be called the "graphophone" had not yet been built in 1881, but Tainter had developed the basic principles of an engraved wax record and enclosed pages from his Home Notes that described these principles in the Smithsonian box. The first true graphophone machine would be built in 1885 and would be patented in 1886.
photos from left: PDRM0708 with flash - PDRM0710 no flash - PDRM0711 no flash - PDRM0713 no flash - PDRM0714 with flash - PDRM0715 cu of grooves on top of cylinder no flash

1999 by Steven E. Schoenherr. All rights reserved.
The photos on these pages are used with permission of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. They may not be reproduced or distributed without written permission of the NMAH.

digital photos taken June 21, 1999 by Schoenherr | Return to Recording Technology History Notes | this page revised July 7, 1999