[Important Thomas Alva Edison Manuscript Laboratory Note].
The inventor of the phonograph writes of moulds for his Edison records
1920 Laboratory note by Thomas Edison, inventor of the phonograph, concerning moulds for his company’s proprietary “Edison Disc Phonograph” records. Here in his own hand, Edison gives detailed instructions on maintaining the quality of and the vault storage routines for the moulds used to “press” or make records.
The note from his West Orange, New Jersey laboratory is accompanied by an undated photograph of Edison at the laboratory bench. The typed portion of the note reads, in part: “One man and assistant are to keep track of all moulds on the press and know just how many records are required… All these moulds are to be rejected except four of the moulds which have made the least number of prints, and not exceeding 250.” It adds that the moulds are to be kept in the “Vault or stock room” and that daily pressing reports are to be made and “...sent to Altengarten and…Hauck.”
In his own hand, Edison appended and signed further instructions, stressing the need for perfection in doing this work. He writes, in full:
2 Men [these two words circled] Hauck’s men—but he should not give them more work than they can do perfectly & see they attend exclusively to this—so to ensure high efficiency. Edison
“Of all his inventions, Thomas A. Edison was most fond of the phonograph. As a result of his work on two other inventions, the telegraph and the telephone, Edison happened upon a way to record sound on tinfoil-coated cylinders in 1877. ... In 1887, Edison resumed work on his phonograph, using wax cylinders. Although initially used as a dictating machine for offices, the phonograph proved to be a popular form of entertainment, and Edison eventually offered a variety of recording selections to the public through his National Phonograph Company. Edison introduced improved phonograph models and cylinders over the years, ending with the Blue Amberol Record, an unbreakable cylinder with superior sound. In 1910, the company was reorganized into Thomas A. Edison, Inc. The Edison Disc Phonograph was developed in 1912 with the aim of competing in the popular disc market.”¹
An extraordinary working laboratory note on phonograph recordings by iconic American inventor Thomas Edison, revealing his meticulous attention to procedure and business managerial efficiency.
Description: [Important Thomas Alva Edison Manuscript Laboratory Note].
[West Orange, New Jersey] Laboratory. November 4, 1920]. p. Typed Note with Autograph Signed Annotations in pencil. Approx. 6 x 7 inches, matted, framed, and glazed, with a photograph (approx. 6 x 5 inches) of Thomas Edison in his laboratory. Provenance: label on verso of frame of New York City autograph dealers “Walter R. Benjamin, Autographs”. Note with folds and staining in left margin, not affecting legibility and not touching autograph annotations or signature; near fine.
Note. 1. History of Edison Sound Recordings; Articles and Essays; Inventing Entertainment: The Early Motion Pictures and Sound Recordings of the Edison Companies; Digital Collections; Library of Congress accessed online.