The Phonograph and Its Future

Probability: Educational Purposes


Educational Purposes.-- As an elocutionary teacher, or as a primary teacher for children, it will certainly be invaluable. By it difficult passages may be correctly rendered for the pupil but once, after which he has only to apply to his phonograph for in instructions. The child may thus learn to spell, commit to memory, a lesson set for it, etc., etc.

Note: Edison's "probability" discussed under "Phonographic Books" which identifies that for the "preservation of languages they would be invaluable" could also be applicable to this "Educational Purposes" probability.


As a "primary teacher" for learning a language this conversational course of the Meisterschaft System, FRENCH, GERMAN, SPANISH, or ITALIAN, was offered in 1891 on twenty-four cylinder records for each language: "A Revolution in the Study of Foreign Languages"


The Phonogram, October 1891


A version of the Columbia Phonograph Type "Q" was sold as the Languagephone with this logo on its lid (ca.1903). These machines were used to play Dr. Richard Rosenthal cylinder records and follow his Meistershaft System for learning French, Spanish, German or Italian.


The Berliner "Gramo-phone" in 1897 was promoted as a 'French Teacher, German Teacher, Spanish Teacher,' and 'Orator, Public Reader' (which could probably also have served as an 'elocutionary teacher').

The Cosmopolitan, 1897


"The Bettini device knows all languages" Also, "bottled in the studio for future uncorking is the music..."

The Phonoscope, December 1899



Learn a Modern Language by Mail

The Saturday Evening Post, November 1901


"Learn French", Harper's 1903


July 1904, The Edison Phonograph Monthly


The Talking Dictionary, The Talking Machine World, May 1905


"Listen! to the voice of the greatest and most perfect language teacher in the world."

The Talking Machine World, February 15, 1907


The Lewis Phono-Metric Institute and School for Stammers offered a phonograph and cylinder records as a "Home Cure for Stammering." "Lessons could be practiced, or even mailed to the school for review." " The "Lewis Institute distributed to its mail-order students the Type "Q" Graphophone, known primarily as a home entertainment device..." (ADV, p.85).

Lewis Phono-Metro-Phone, circa 1907, courtesy of TechnoGallerie


Ads circa 1905, courtesy of TechnoGallerie


The Daily Examiner wrote in 1889 in an article titled "TALKING BACK" that the phonograph has produced a revelation: everyone "is unacquainted with the sound of their own voice."



Why does that make the phonograph a future educator? "As a teacher of humility it will take rank with the parson, the flirt, the mirror and the banana-peel..."

Talking Back," The Daily Examiner, San Francisco, February 18, 1889


Indestructible Records are an Aid to Education, McClure's 1908


The Pathégraphe, circa 1913

The Pathégraphe Language Machine was a unique teaching phonograph which synchronized its record containing the spoken words with the respective text on a paper roll that scrolled across the front of the machine. The Pathegraphe was first designed and manufactured around 1912 by Charles and Emile Pathé of the French company Pathé Frères. (FP1517).



The Talking Machine World, November 1917

A Phonograph for your School, Postcard ca. 1920



"Noted educators are now pointing out the importance of the phonograph in "musically developing" children."

The Ladies' Home Journal, September 1921



A new kind of schoolhouse...where great artists become teachers too."

The Saturday Evening Post, 1946

In 1888 Edison wrote a new article for the North American Review titled "The Perfected Phonograph" and expanded his previous predications about its use for Education Purposes and Phonographic Books by saying that "in teaching the correct pronunciation of English, and especially of foreign languages, the phonograph as it stands seems to be beyond comparison, for no system of phonetic spelling can convey to the pupil the pronunciation of a good English, French, German or Spanish speaker so well as a machine that reproduced his utterances even more exactly than a human imiator could."

The War Department in 1943 issued various "Language Guides" for military personnel which included records that went along with the Guides. In the Danish Language Guide it was noted that "Danish, like English, is spoken differently in different regions. The pronunciation given on the phonograph records, which is that used in Copenhagen, will be understood wherever Danish is spoken, but it is always best to try to speak like the people among whomyou happen to be." The records that go with this Guide give you a number of the most important words and phrases in Danish....Remember tha you can't get the sound of a language from the printed word alone--you have to use your ears even more than your eyes." (Danish Introductory Series Language Guide, TM-30-311, p.5-6)


Simon Says A First Learning Record of Beginner Reading ABC's, M-28, Cosmo Recording Co., 33 1/3, ca. 1964



The Thomas Edison National Historic Park has a page titled Educational Lessons which has examples for language, music and dication education.