Phonozoic Text Archive, Document 067
"The Wonders of the Phonograph," letter to the editor, Chicago Tribune, May 16, 1878.
[In response to a skeptical letter to the editor published the day before.]
To the Editor of The Tribune.
CHICAGO, May 13. -- In your paper of the 12th inst., "C," of Geneva Lake, Wis., queries whether Mr. Edison has not been practicing upon the credulity of the people by means of ventriloquism when exhibiting his phonograph.
Edison hates a scientific fraud.
Your correspondent cannot have examined the evidence carefully or he would not have ventured upon such an insinuation.
Fortunately, the results accomplished with the phonograph do not now rest upon the testimony of Edison alone, nor upon his manipulation of the machine.
Upon the completion of the first phonograph it was immediately taken to the office of the Scientific American, which has repeatedly indorsed all that has thus far been claimed for the machine.
Representatives of all the New York papers, and many from other localities, have examined the phonograph, and have been fully satisfied as to its merits. Elaborate descriptions and indorsements have been printed in the leading periodicals. Many scientists have personally tested the phonograph to their entire satisfaction.
The phonograph has been exhibited to the leading scientific societies in the United States, England, and France, and they have passed resolutions of thanks to the inventor. There are not less than thirty phonographs in existence in the hands of different parties in this country, and it is daily exhibited in New York.
At least 10,000 people have seen and listened to its performances.
Mr. Edison has nothing to do with these exhibitions, his time being fully occupied in his laboratory at Menlo Park. Many visitors go expecting to be sold, and even when in the room insist upon deception; but all have a chance to examine for themselves until perfectly convinced.
The writer has used the phonograph on several occasions. His words, spoken in a tone lower than ordinary conversation, have been perfectly recorded and reproduced.
He has heard the phonograph talk, laugh, cough, whistle, and sing.
It reproduces the cornet perfectly.
The words, voices, and music, when duets are sung into it, are accurately rendered.
When a sentence has been spoken to the phonograph, a subsequent record may be made over the first, and the two utterances will be reproduced at the same time, although there is some confusion and a slight indistinctness.
A few simple experiments will satisfy any one as to the power of the voice:
1. Take a silk hat, and, placing one hand on the crown, talk with the opening towards the mouth. The vibration of the crown of the hat correspond [sic] to the movement of the phonograph's disk.
2. Place the hand on a glass or thin board partition, and talk in a strong voice. The vibration in the partition will be plainly felt.
3. Listen in a room separated by a brick partition from another in which a loud conversation is being carried on. Much that is said will be understood, and this can only be by the vibrations of the air in one room being imparted to the wall itself, which again imparts them to the air in the second room.
Words, spoken with a powerful voice, will frequently drive the phonograph needle through the tin-foil.
So delicate is the instrument that indentations not visible to the naked eye vibrate the disk and give out the original sound.
It is not strange that there should be much incredulity relative to the performance of such a marvelously simple instrument which performs the functions of two complicated mechanism [sic] in the human body.
There has probably never been so important an invention made available for practical use in such short time as will be the case with the phonograph.
It is necessary, however, that a standard machine as near perfection as possible in all its details should be made before general introduction. Parties owning phonographs will desire to use them to communicate with each other, which could not be done if the patterns were different. At present, the record made on a phonograph cannot be used after removal, but the problem is simply one as to the best method.
To perfect the phonograph will require some weeks. In the meantime, the Phonograph Company propose to exhibit the machine as it now is in the various parts of the country.
If the public will possess itself with patience for a short time, every one will be able to see with their own eyes and hear with their own ears what the phonograph can do.
GEORGE H. BLISS.