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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Postcard Thursday: Thomas Edison's Phonograph

Postcard of Thomas Edison with an early phonograph, ca. 1888.
Where would we be without Thomas Edison? As James noted over on his personal blog the other day (which you can read at, Edison is responsible for so many inventions that define modern life: the light bulb, movie projector, and phonograph among them.

Today marks the anniversary of Edison's introduction of the wax cylinder phonograph in London in 1888. At a press conference there, Edison played a recording of Sir Arthur Sullivan's "The Lost Chord," presumably on a machine very much like the one Edison is seen with in the postcard above (if not, in fact, that very machine).

A few months later, Sullivan -- infatuated with the possibilities of the new device -- made an "audio postcard" to send back to Edison in the United States. Luckily, both the original recording of Sullivan's piece (perhaps the oldest extant musical audio recording) and his message to Edison survive:


And if you want to hear a version of "The Lost Chord" in higher fidelity, here it is:


Lastly, notice that in the postcard version of Edison and the phonograph, the background has disappeared. This is the original image:

* * * *

Explore more NYC history in

If you haven't had a chance to pick up a copy of Footprints yet,
you can order it from your favorite online retailers (AmazonBarnes and Nobleetc.) or
from independent bookstores across the country.

And, of course, Inside the Apple is available at fine bookstores everywhere.

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