On this Day Factola
November 24, 1888
Introduction of the Phonograph to Lincoln, NE as a Business Machine
The Nebraska State Journal on November 24, 1888, reported the introduction into Lincoln of a new business machine, the phonograph. The Journal reported that Edison's marvelous invention, patented in 1877, "was exhibited here as a curiosity years ago, but as practical use of it could not be made, the instrument was almost forgotten. Of late, interest has been revived to a wonderful degree by the improvements that have been made, and it is now certain that within a year the phonograph will be in general use all over the world.
"The instrument was brought to the notice of the people of this state a short time ago by the incorporation of a company to control the introduction of the phonograph in Iowa, Nebraska, Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming. Mr. H. S. Wicks, representing the organizers of this corporation, is now at the Windsor hotel, and will remain in the city several days discussing the invention with capitalists and others interested."
A Journal reporter called upon Wicks at the Windsor and was given a demonstration of the machine. Wicks recorded a message on a wax-covered cylinder, which was then played in the presence of the reporter, whose enthusiasm was evident in the remainder of the article. It emphasized the business (rather than the entertainment) value of the invention.
"Its possibilities are boundless. Its commercial uses are alone varied enough to occupy a column of space in their description. The most obvious aid to the business man is in dispensing with stenographers; but this is only a small part of the saving effected by their use.
"The Iowa and Nebraska company, through Mr. Wicks, offers the business men of Lincoln an opportunity to have the machines for the southern part of the state distributed from here if they take enough stock to warrant placing one of the principal offices in this city. . . . The plan of dealing with patrons is to lease the phonographs at a rental of $40 per year, the company keeping the instruments in order and making all repairs. The wax cylinders cost about 3 cents, each one containing 1,000 words. It is estimated that the cost of the cylinders is about the same as paper."
Courtesy of Nebraska Historical Society