Ghostly Voices From Thomas Edison’s Dolls Can Now Be Heard

In 1890, the Edison Phonograph Company manufactured dolls with wax cylinder records tucked inside each one. When cranked, each doll recited snippets from nursery rhymes. This was fabulous technology in 1890, a time when most people had not yet heard of phonograph records or any other method of reproducing sound. Sadly, Edison’s dolls were a flop; production lasted only six weeks. Children found them difficult to operate and more scary than cuddly. The purchase price of ten dollars also was much higher than what most families of 1890 could afford.

Sound historians say the cylinders were the first entertainment records ever made, and the young girls hired to recite the rhymes were the world’s first recording artists. Now, for the first time in more than 100 years, the recordings have been reproduced without the use of a metal stylus wearing out the delicate grooves in the wax cylinders that held the recording.

You can read more in an article by Ron Cowen in the New York Times at http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/05/science/thomas-edison-talking-dolls-recordings.html.

2 Comments

The first Chatty Cathy dolls flopped, huh? I remember thinking those of the early ’60’s were a little creepy, myself, looking at a non-moving face with sounds coming out. My little sister got one and I got used to it, of course. Silly memories.

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That is flat out scary sounding! And at $10.00; what is that in today’s money?

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