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THE HISTORY OF THE CYLINDER PHONOGRAPH

- By The Library of Congress
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The Library of Congress (LC) is the research library that officially serves the United States Congress and is the de facto national library of the United States. It is the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. The library is housed in three buildings on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.; it also maintains a conservation center in Culpeper, Virginia.[1] The library's functions are overseen by the librarian of Congress, and its buildings are maintained by the architect of the Capitol. The Library of Congress is one of the largest libraries in the world.[3][4] Its "collections are universal, not limited by subject, format, or national boundary, and include research materials from all parts of the world and in more than 450 languages."[1] Congress moved to Washington, D.C., in 1800 after sitting for 11 years in the temporary national capitals in New York City and Philadelphia. In both cities, members of the U.S. Congress had access to the sizable collections of the New York Society Library and the Library Company of Philadelphia.[5] The small Congressional Library was housed in the United States Capitol for most of the 19th century until the early 1890s. Most of the original collection had been destroyed by the British in 1814 during the War of 1812, and the library sought to restore its collection in 1815. They bought Thomas Jefferson's entire personal collection of 6,487 books. After a period of slow growth, another fire struck the library in its Capitol chambers in 1851, again destroying a large amount of the collection, including many of Jefferson's books. After the American Civil War, the Library of Congress grew rapidly in both size and importance, which sparked a campaign to purchase replacement copies for volumes that had been burned. The library received the right of transference of all copyrighted works to deposit two copies of books, maps, illustrations, and diagrams printed in the United States. It also began to build its collections, and its development culminated between 1888 and 1894 with the construction of a separate, extensive library building across the street from the Capitol. Two adjacent buildings were added in the 1930s and 1970s.

THE HISTORY OF THE CYLINDER PHONOGRAPH

"Edison and phonograph" by Levin C. Handy is in the public domain.

The phonograph was developed as a result of Thomas Edison's work on two other inventions, the telegraph and the telephone. In 1877, Edison was working on a machine that would transcribe telegraphic messages through indentations on paper tape, which could later be sent over the telegraph repeatedly. This development led Edison to speculate that a telephone message could also be recorded in a similar fashion. He experimented with a diaphragm which had an embossing point and was held against rapidly-moving paraffin paper. The speaking vibrations made indentations in the paper. Edison later changed the paper to a metal cylinder with tin foil wrapped around it. The machine had two diaphragm-and-needle units, one for recording, and one for playback. When one would speak into a mouthpiece, the sound vibrations would be indented onto the cylinder by the recording needle in a vertical (or hill and dale) groove patter. Edison gave a sketch of the machine to his mechanic, John Kruesi, to build, which Kruesi supposedly did within 30 hours. Edison immediately tested the machine by speaking the nursery rhyme into the mouthpiece, "Mary had a little lamb." To his amazement, the machine played his words back to him.

Although it was later stated that the date for this event was on August 12, 1877, some historians believe that it probably happened several months later, since Edison did not file for a patent until December 24, 1877. Also, the diary of one of Edison's aides, Charles Batchelor, seems to confirm that the phonograph was not constructed until December 4, and finished two days later. The patent on the phonograph was issued on February 19, 1878. The invention was highly original. The only other recorded evidence of such an invention was in a paper by French scientist Charles Cros, written on April 18, 1877. There were some differences, however, between the tow men's ideas, and Cros's work remained only theory, since he did not produce a working model of it.

Edison took his new invention to the offices of Scientific American in New York City and showed it to staff there. As the December 22, 1877, issue reported, "Mr. Thomas A. Edison recently came into this office, placed a little machine on our desk, turned a crank, and the machine inquired as to our health, asked how we liked the phonograph, informed us that it was very well, and bid us a cordial good night." Interest was great, and the invention was reported in several New York newspapers, and later in other American newspapers and magazines.

The Edison Speaking Phonograph Company was established on January 24, 1878, to exploit the new machine by exhibiting it. Edison received $10,000 for the manufacturing and sales rights and 20% of the profits. As a novelty, the machine was an instant success, but was difficult to operate except by experts, and the tin foil would last for only a few playings

Ever practical and visionary, Edison offered the following possible future uses for the phonograph in North American Review in June 1878:

1. Letter writing and all kinds of dictation without the aid of a stenographer.

2. Phonographic books, which will speak to blind people without effort on their part.

3. The teaching of elocution.

4. Reproduction of music.

5. The "Family Record" - a registry of sayings, reminiscences, etc., by members of a family in their own voices, and of the last words of dying persons.

6. Music-boxes and toys.

7. Clocks that should announce in articulate speech the time for going home, going to meals, etc.

8. The preservation of languages by exact reproduction of the manner of pronouncing.

9. Educational purposes; such as preserving the explanations made by a teacher, so that the pupil can refer to them at any moment, and spelling or other lessons placed upon the phonograph for convenience in committing to memory.

10. Connection with the telephone, so as to make that instrument an auxiliary in the transmission of permanent and invaluable records, instead of being the recipient of momentary and fleeting communication.

Eventually, the novelty of the invention wore off for the public, and Edison did no further work on the phonograph for a while, concentrating instead on inventing the incandescent light bulb.

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Additional Information:

Rating: C

Words: 1190

Unique Words : 329

Sentences : 46

Reading Time : 3:02

Noun : 256

Conjunction : 75

Adverb : 32

Interjection : 0

Adjective : 35

Pronoun : 21

Verb : 104

Preposition : 93

Letter Count : 3,343

Sentiment : Positive

Tone : Formal

Difficult Words : 194

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