Edison's Phonograph into Production, 3 articles describing early phonograph history, from the 1888-94 NY Times


The New York Times,
    May 12, 1888, p. 8:



    Edison's new laboratory and perfected phonography at Orange, N. J. were thrown open to representatives of the press yesterday. The plant is purely for experimental purposes, and is one of the largest in the world. An entire block of land is occupied, and there are five separate buildings of brick with hard-wood interiors. The main one is three stories high, 200 feet deep, and 75 feet wide. There is a combination office and library in it, besides a lecture room, stock room, machine room, department rooms, and power room.

    The structure is a model of its kind, and the equipment appears to be complete.

    The library and office is in the form of a hollow square, with three galleries rising to the third floor. The cases contain 16,000 volumes of choice scientific works, but the capacity is 35,000 books.

    Four one-story buildings, each 100 by 30 feet, are used for ore milling, blacksmithing, the manufacture of patterns, &c. There is a capacity of 320 horse power on the plant, and electricity is supplied for 650 lamps on the premises and in neighboring dwellings.
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Victrola ad from the Nov 23, 1906 LA Times

    Edison entertained his visitors, among whom were a number of electricians, with some astounding experiments on his improved phonograph. The "talking machine" of a dozen years ago has disappeared, but the principle remains and is now in the form of a practical commercial invention as well as a pleasing toy.
    There is a motor box about 11 inches square and the armature in it is only a horizontal ring or wheel of metal, with 10 pole pieces at regular intervals. The "cat-power" battery is in a separate case underneath.

    The phonograph is a separate arrangement, attached to the motor box by two screws. There is a small shaft four inches long, with 100 threads to the inch, which feeds what looks like a pair of spectacles with a receiver and transmitter in one ring.
    Then there is a recorder in the form of a steel knife fastened to the diaphragm. The receiver is a delicate point needle, which operates on a phonograph blank of white wax. This blank is hollow and tapers inside so as to bind by friction, in hot or cold weather, on a metal drum. A second shaft has a coarse reverse thread and is only used where repetition is desired.

    On the surface of the little wax blank, which looks like an ivory dice box, can be recorded from 1,000 to 1,200 words or several musical compositions. A wax blank can be automatically pared from 15 to 20 times for new records. When in motion the phonograph looks very much like a turning lathe.

    Edison's literary and musical experiments with the invention yesterday were wonderful. Not only were words and sentences reproduced, but the voices of the readers were readily recognized. The piano, cornet, violin, and clarinet were repeatedly tested singly and together with marvelous success. The phonograph has been so far perfected that next week the work of erecting a factory on the Edison plant will be begun. The inventor expects within a month to have the machine on the market for commercial uses. Its possibilities are beyond calculation.

The New York Times, July 19, 1888, p. 5:


    The reported sale of Edison's phonograph has been confirmed, but the statement that it had been sold to an English syndicate for $250,000 was in error.
    The Edison Phonography Company, which owns all of Mr. Edison's patents for recording, perpetuating, and reproducing articulate speech, in the United States and Canada, has been sold to Jesse E. Lippincott of this city and Pittsburgh, for about $1,000,000.

    The purchase includes all improvements to the phonograph that may be made by Mr. Edison during the next 15 years.
    Mr. Lippincott has also acquired a license, to run for 15 years, for the gramophone, the invention of Messrs. Tainter & Bell of Washington.

    The inventors retain all their foreign rights to these inventions.

The New York Times, March 24, 1889, p. 16:



    The North American Phonograph Company, which was organized with the tremendous capital of $6,600,000, is not turning out the phonographs with the rapidity that was promised. It was asserted at the outset that 10,000 phonographs would be ready by Feb. 1, and that in a short time city customers could be readily supplied with them.

    The reason for the delay, as explained by officers of the company yesterday, is owing to difficulties in the construction of the instruments. The machinery used is necessarily delicate, and the work upon the talking machine most careful. As a result of the delay, orders for phonographs amounting to more than 10,000 have not been filled.

    It is claimed that about 250 phonographs are being turned out of the factories each day. Officers of the company will visit the factories this week, and an attempt will be made to hasten their manufacture.

    In the meantime, subsidiary companies have been formed all over the country, and they now reach the number 32. The capital of these companies varies according to the district over which they have control. The company of this city called the Metropolitan has a capital of $1,000,000. Altogether the capital stock of the companies is in the neighborhood of $20,000,000.

    The phonograph has not found its way into general use by business men in this city as yet, but the company think that as its practical uses become better known, there will be a larger demand for the machine.

The New York Times, September 13, 1894, p. 2:


Edison Tells How He Made Phonographs Pay, While the Company Didn't.

    NEWARK, N. J., Sept. 12.-- The affadavit of Thomas A. Edison, which is attached to the bill praying for the appointment of a receivership of the North American Phonography Company has just been filed. Jesse H. Lippincott, who was the originator of the North American Company, became insane when he lost all his money.
    Among other things, Mr. Edison says in his affadavit:

    I am the inventor of the machine called the phonograph. Prior to the organization of the North American Phonograph Company I had caused to be organized the Edison Phonograph Company, and I granted that company the sole and exclusive right to use my invention of the phonograph in consideration of the issue of the total capital stock of the company to me. The total capital of the company was $1,200,000, and at the time of the organization of the North American Phonograph Company I held the whole of the stock, excepting 150 shares.

    On June 28, 1888, I made an agreement with Jesse H. Lippincott, who was then contemplating the organization of the North American Phonograph Company, and was its principle promoter, by which I agreed that I would sell and deliver to the said Lippincott the entire stock of the Edison Phonograph Company, excepting the said 150 shares, for the sum of $500,000...

    The contract between the North American Phonograph Company and the Edison Phonograph Works provided that the North American Company grant the Edison Works the sole right to manufacture the phonographs. The business which was done by the North American Phonograph Company during the early period of its existence was the sale and leasing to individuals and corporations of phonographs, and for some time it did a good business, and its prospects for further success were very good, but in a short time it was demonstrated that the instruments as manufactured had little or no practical or commercial value.

    They were generally used as curiosities to reproduce music, and were set up in public places for purposes of amusement. From the use of this instrument the company derived some revenue, but as soon as the novelty wore off the income of the company diminished, so that, in 1892, the company was in financial difficulties. It thereupon authorized the issue of bonds to the extent of $300,000, each bond being for $1,000. They were payable in ten years, and drew 6 per cent. interest. It was provided that if the interest on the bonds was defaulted, a majority of the bondholders could declare the principal immediately payable.

    I am the holder of 220 of these bonds, and on May 1, 1894, the interest was not paid... On Aug. 6, I joined with Charles B. Carman in a declaration that the principal of the bonds was payable.

    The North American Company, in the course of my business, became indebted to me $78,518.37, in addition to the bonds, and April 1 the company gave me its promissary note for that amount, payable in ten days. The said company had become possessed of the total capital stock of the Edison Phonograph Company, aggragating 12,000 shares, and it pledged the whole thereof to me as collateral security for the payment of the note.
    I have many times demanded the payment of the note, but it has never been paid, and Aug. 13, after due notice, the said stock was sold at auction by me at the Court House at Jersey City for $10,000. The remainder of the moneys secured by the said note and stock has never been paid.

    I am the President of the Edison Phonograph Works. The North American Company is indebted to that works for about $36,000. The Edison Works have made efforts to collect the moneys, but have never been paid. I am familiar with the property of the North American Company, and it consists entirely of phonographs outside of its rights in the inventions of phonographs, and they are old stock and not worth over $25,000.

    Mr. Edison closes his affadavit by stating that, in his opinion, the rights to make these phonongraphs are of no value at the present time, and cannot be made available as a valuable asset for the payment of the company's debt. For the last three years, he says, the company has had no phonographs built.
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