Phonograph's Birthday Timeline
Edison's phonograph timeline
includes other important dates besides December 6, some of which have
been cited in various calendars and books as the birthday of the Phonograph.
The following historic
markers are dates related to the Phonograph's scientific history,
conception, telephonic repeater experiments, tin foil phonograph construction,
testing, demonstrations, patents and 100th anniversary first day postal
March 25, 1857 -
Édouard-Léon Scott patented his Phonautograph.
The phonautograph is the earliest known device for recording sound.
At the time it was not the intention of Scott to reproduce sound but
rather to study what sound waves looked like.
April 9, 1860 -
The first line of Au clair de la lune was recorded
by Édouard-Léon Scott on his Phonautograph. These recorded words are
"the earliest clearly recognizable record of the human voice yet recovered
(though these words were not actually heard until 2008 with the help
of computer technology).
April 30, 1877 -
Charles Cros submits a sealed envelope containing a letter to the
Academy of Sciences in Paris explaining his proposed method for recording
and reproducing sound. Although this envelope was not opened until
December 3, 1877, Cros should be credited "with anticipating,
though barely, what Edison was to accomplish" (12)
and describing an invention which he named the Paleophone (voix
July 17, 1877 -
The Speaking Telegraph - Edison Lab Notes (3)
reads: "Glorious = Telephone perfected this morning 5 am = articulation
perfect -- got 1/4 column newspaper every word. -- had ricketty transmitter
at that -- we are making it solid." (Note: The Philadelphia
Inquirer for Tuesday, 17 July ,1877, ran an article describing
the rehearsal at the Permanent Exhibition).
Phonograph historian Patrick
Feaster notes that on this date "Edison and his associates sketched
out the principle of phonographic sound" (4).
July 18, 1877 -
Edison "announces" his intention to invent the phonograph
The Thomas A. Edison Papers
Project describes the July conception of the future Phonograph as
In July 1877, while developing
his telephone transmitter, Edison conceived the idea of recording
and playing back telephone messages. After experimenting with a
telephone "diaphragm having an embossing point & held against paraffin
paper moving rapidly," he found that the sound "vibrations are indented
nicely" and concluded "there's no doubt that I shall be able to
store up & reproduce automatically at any future time the human
voice perfectly." Edison periodically returned to this idea, and
by the end of November, he had developed a basic design.
End of July 1877
- Edison "constructed a paraffin paper device called a telephonic
repeater" which in the "course of many experiments thought
he could hear the sound of human voices or music when the strip of
paper moved quickly beneath the spring-driven point. Inspired, he
quickly yelled "Halloo" into the crude mouthpiece, and was
completely taken aback when the machine faintly imitated him moments
August 12, 1877
- The Library of Congress' website America's
Story assigns this as the "date popularly given for Thomas
Edison's completion of the model for the first phonograph. (8).
See reference 7 (above).
November 29, 1877
- Basic sketch of the Phonograph completed that apparently was the
"sketch that his workman, John Kruesi, used to construct the
first tin-foil model." (9)
December 4, 1877
- "Kruesi made phonograph today." (10)
December 6, 1877 - "Kruesi
finished the phonograph." (1)
December 7, 1877
- Phonograph taken to offices of Scientific American for first
The Thomas A. Edison Papers
Project (11) describes the events of December
6 and 7 as follows:
"When Kruesi finished
making the phonograph Edison put on the tin foil and then recorded
the nursery rhyme "Mary Had a Little Lamb"; Edison's daughter Marion
was at the time nearly five years old and his eldest son was almost
two. Edison then "adjusted the reproducer and the machine reproduced
it perfectly. I never was so taken back in my life. Everybody was
astonished. I was always afraid of things that worked the first
time." Similar astonishment occurred the following day when Edison
exhibited the new invention at the offices on Scientific American."
December 15, 1877
- Edison's application for Phonograph patent executed
December 22, 1877
- Scientific American publishes story about Edison's Phonograph
December 24, 1877
- Edison patent for Phonograph filed
February 19, 1878
- Patent no. 200,521 granted for Edison's Phonograph
March 23, 1977 -
First Day of Issue for Centennial of Sound Recording - US Postal Service
(see below for one of the first day covers that includes identification
of December 6, 1877 as the date Edison's first words were recorded
on his Phonograph).
July 20, 1977 -
First Day of Issue for 100 Years of Phonograph - India Postal Service
(see below for postal service technical data sheet related to this