Edison billboard outside Menlo Park, New Jersey, circa 1908
The Phonograph's Birthday Timeline
Edison's phonograph timeline includes other important dates besides December 6, some of which have been cited in various calendars and books as the birthday of the Phonograph.
The following historic markers are dates related to the Phonograph's scientific history, conception, telephonic repeater experiments, tin foil phonograph construction, testing, demonstrations, patents and 100th anniversary first day postal covers.
March 25, 1857 - Édouard-Léon Scott patented his Phonautograph. The phonautograph is the earliest known device for recording sound. At the time it was not the intention of Scott to reproduce sound but rather to study what sound waves looked like.
April 9, 1860 - The first line of Au clair de la lune was recorded by Édouard-Léon Scott on his Phonautograph. These recorded words are "the earliest clearly recognizable record of the human voice yet recovered (though these words were not actually heard until 2008 with the help of computer technology).
April 30, 1877 - Charles Cros submits a sealed envelope containing a letter to the Academy of Sciences in Paris explaining his proposed method for recording and reproducing sound. Although this envelope was not opened until December 3, 1877, Cros should be credited "with anticipating, though barely, what Edison was to accomplish" (12) and describing an invention which he named the Paleophone (voix du passé).
July 17, 1877 - The Speaking Telegraph - Edison Lab Notes (3) reads: "Glorious = Telephone perfected this morning 5 am = articulation perfect -- got 1/4 column newspaper every word. -- had ricketty transmitter at that -- we are making it solid." (Note: The Philadelphia Inquirer for Tuesday, 17 July ,1877, ran an article describing the rehearsal at the Permanent Exhibition).
Phonograph historian Patrick Feaster notes that on this date "Edison and his associates sketched out the principle of phonographic sound" (4).
July 18, 1877 - Edison "announces" his intention to invent the phonograph (5)
The Thomas A. Edison Papers Project describes the July conception of the future Phonograph as follows (6):
End of July 1877 - Edison "constructed a paraffin paper device called a telephonic repeater" which in the "course of many experiments thought he could hear the sound of human voices or music when the strip of paper moved quickly beneath the spring-driven point. Inspired, he quickly yelled "Halloo" into the crude mouthpiece, and was completely taken aback when the machine faintly imitated him moments later. (7)
August 12, 1877 - The Library of Congress' website America's Story assigns this as the "date popularly given for Thomas Edison's completion of the model for the first phonograph. (8). See reference 7 (above).
November 29, 1877 - Basic sketch of the Phonograph completed that apparently was the "sketch that his workman, John Kruesi, used to construct the first tin-foil model." (9)
First sketch of the Phonograph - November 29, 1877 (courtesy A. Koenigsberg, Edison Cylinder Records, 1889 - 1912)
December 4, 1877 - "Kruesi made phonograph today." (10)
December 6, 1877 - "Kruesi finished the phonograph." (1)
December 7, 1877 - Phonograph taken to offices of Scientific American for first public demonstration
The Thomas A. Edison Papers Project (11) describes the events of December 6 and 7 as follows:
December 15, 1877 - Edison's application for Phonograph patent executed
December 22, 1877 - Scientific American publishes story about Edison's Phonograph
December 24, 1877 - Edison patent for Phonograph filed
February 19, 1878 - Patent no. 200,521 granted for Edison's Phonograph
April 18, 1878 - Edison in Washington D.C. to demonstrate his Phonograph to the National Academy of Sciences.
March 23, 1977 - First Day of Issue for Centennial of Sound Recording - US Postal Service (see below for one of the first day covers that includes identification of December 6, 1877 as the date Edison's first words were recorded on his Phonograph).
July 20, 1977 - First Day of Issue for 100 Years of Phonograph - India Postal Service (see below for postal service technical data sheet related to this stamp)