Today in History: Edison Invents the Phonograph
From smart machines to wizards, we move to inventors. Some consider Thomas Alva Edison (February 11, 1847- October 18, 1931) to be one of the greatest inventors of all time, for he smartly and prolifically developed technology that greatly influenced our lives. Innovation and invention, research, development, and commercialization became the foundation of the industrial research laboratory, as represented through his work at the science laboratories in Menlo Park and West Orange. Edison patented close to a staggering 1,100 devices — – among them, the phonograph, movie camera, and electronic light bulb. His love for play and experimentation fed learning and success.
Playing with a stylus on a tinfoil cylinder in his Menlo Park, New Jersey science lab, Thomas Edison discovered that a short recorded song could be played back. So Edison invented the phonograph on November 21, 1877! It was his first great invention and one that would prove highly popular for listening to music. The great inventor perfected his invention and established his own company, the National Phonograph Company, complete with record labels.
If you are interested in reading more, be sure to check out the Library of Congress website Inventing Entertainment: The Early Motion Pictures and Sound Recordings of the Edison Companies.
The following articles are selected from Proquest Historical Newspapers, which informs and inspires classroom teaching and learning.
- Edison Still Contriving: More Phonographic Wonders Promised by the Wizard. (1895, Apr 06). Austin Daily Statesman (1891-1902)
- Edison, at 10, Began Career As Inventor. (1931, Oct 19). New York Times (1923-Current File)
- Kenmuir, J. (1931, Oct 25). The American Symbol of the Machine Age: An Appraisal of Thomas Edison and His Work. The Sun (1837-1991)
- Wilson, D. (1931, Oct 26). Phonograph is Born: The Life of Thomas A Edison. Daily Boston Globe (1928-1960)
- Kaempffert, W. (1947, Feb 09). Scientist-Magician Who Reshaped a World. New York Times (1923-Current File)
- Edison Discovers the Phonograph. (1954, Feb 05). The Christian Science Monitor (1908-Current File)
- Phonograph Great Idea of Edison. (1956, Mar 25). The Austin American (1914-1973)
- Micklin, B. (1971, Nov 27). The Record Makers: Look What You’ve Done, Thomas Edison. Newsday (1940-1988)
- Sutton, H. (1975, Nov 09). Turning on to Thomas Edison. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File)
- Fantel, H. (1986, Dec 21). The Phonograph and Its Impact on the Art of Music: Sound. New York Times (1923-Current File)
- Stross, R. (2007, Mar 11). Edison the Inventor, Edison the Showman. New York Times (1923-Current File)
- The Thomas A. Edison Papers are held at Rutgers Library.
- Check out Google Scholar for information on Edison’s patents!
- See Historical Capsule 530. Apparently Thomas Edison Invented Hello as the Telephone Greeting in The Louis Forsdale Collection in Pocketknowledge, the social digital archive of Teachers College, and related Education Program entries on Edison.
Need to keep current, look to the past, teach a topic? The Everett Cafe features daily postings of news from around the world, and also promotes awareness of historical events from an educational context.
Read about November special news and stay tuned!