Edison's doll

Edison's doll

Screamy Jack Murder It was a doll made in a wax cylinder that was installed next to a phonograph in miniature that was in the body of this one. The doll was a large specimen, 22 inches tall, and weighing 4 pounds. It had a metal body and articulated arms, while the legs were made of wood. The breastplate was made of metal and had a series of holes through which the words of the doll could be heard. On the back there was a crank that was used to make her speak.

Besides being a slow and complicated process, it was expensive. The basic model, which came dressed in a simple shirt, cost $ 10, the equivalent of $ 200 today, which supposed the salary of two weeks at that time (1890). The model that came with a Victorian dress was priced at $ 20-25.

Edison had thought about making a talking doll ever since he invented the phonograph in 1877. William W. Jacques, along with his partner Lowell Brigs, developed the prototype of a doll that used Edison's phonograph. In October 1887, Jacques and Briggs hired Edison to be able to use his name and patents to make talking dolls, in exchange for shares and copyrights.

Thus, the Edison Phonograph Toy Manufacturing Company, but before they could start production, Edison ousted Jacques and took over the company.

Between September and November 1888, Edison completed a doll prototype made in a solid tin cylinder. Since he had not yet decided on how to copy the recordings, he hired women to sing lullabies in children's voices.

The first talking dolls They were released on April 7, 1890, but the tin cylinders were replaced by wax models. It is not known why Edison made this decision, but it was not a good choice, especially considering that the needles of the phonograph were made of steel.

When the dolls were shipped to the suppliers, the cylinders most of the time arrived scratched due to movement in transport, causing them to quickly stop working.

Less than 500 dolls were sold and most of them were returned to the company for being too bad a product for its exorbitant price. At the end of May, Edison's company stopped producing toys and to make some money again, Edison sold the dolls along with his phonographs.

Five years ago Jerry Fabris, curator of Thomas Edison National Historical Park in West Orange, tried to find out what exactly was the cylinder made of of the dolls. He examined it under a microscope and found that there was a recording slot.

In May of last year, Fabris brought the cylinder to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. The researchers were able scan the drum groove using 3D optical scanning technology. In this way, they created a digital model of the surface and through a software analysis it was converted into an audio file, recovering the entire recording except for the first syllable.

The History Blog
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

After studying History at the University and after many previous tests, Red Historia was born, a project that emerged as a means of dissemination where you can find the most important news of archeology, history and humanities, as well as articles of interest, curiosities and much more. In short, a meeting point for everyone where they can share information and continue learning.

Video: CBS Sunday Morning - Lost art of Automatons alive again