Friends of the Phonograph

Happy Birthday Phonograph



The Phonograph's Birthday, December 6, 1877

At his laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey, on November 29, 1877, Thomas Alva Edison gave a sketch for his tin-foil phonograph to John Kruesi and instructed him to build it. On December 4, 1877, Charles Batchelor, Edison's associate and right-hand man, wrote in his diary "Kruesi made phonograph today." On December 6 Batchelor's diary reads: "Kruesi finished the phonograph."

December 6, 1877 is celebrated as the birthday of the phonograph by Friends of the Phonograph.

Suggested birthday celebration activities are to enjoy birthday cake and sing Happy Birthday to the Phonograph.

It's a day that honors completion of the phonograph and the successful recording and play back, word for word, of what Edison says were his first words spoken to the Phonograph, "a little piece of practical poetry:

Mary had a little lamb,

Its fleece was white as snow,

And everywhere that Mary went,

The lamb was sure to go.


To hear Edison's words repeated back from a sheet of tin-foil wrapped around a cylinder amazed everyone in the room. Even Edison was astonished when he heard his phonograph speak for the first time. "I was never so taken aback in my life," Edison later recalled.

This tin-foil playing machine was taken the next day to the offices of Scientific American for a triumphant demonstration, an account of which was published in the December 22, 1877 issue of Scientific American.

Click on the Harper's Weekly newspaper (below) for how the invention was reported in March 1878.

Image courtesy of




Home of the Phonograph's Birthday

The Phonograph first spoke in Menlo Park, New Jersey on December 6, 1877. Below is Edison's Menlo Park laboratory reconstructed at Henry Ford's Greenfield Village. The second floor of that building is where the Phonograph first repeated back Edison's words "Mary Had a Little Lamb." A closeup on Edison's tinfoil machine and horns is shown in the last picture.

Photos courtesy of Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village.

Don't forget to visit Greenfield Village on your next visit to the Detroit area - a MUST for Friends of the Phonograph.







Phonograph Birthday Parties

Since 1980, Friends of the Phonograph have celebrated the Phonograph's birthday in a variety of ways. During many of those years it has been a party noted for the artistic creations inspired by the phonograph. Food shaped like phonograph records, phonograph inspired pottery and glass records, tapestry and needlepoint, and other kinds of unique presentations have highlighted birthday parties. Though calling it the social event of the year may seem overly enthusisatic, the birthday parties have served well in gathering friends together and promoting a little phonograph education.

Suggested phonograph birthday celebration pairing are apple pie and a glass of milk or cup of tea.(3)

Some years have been simple gatherings.

But each party always includes an annual event: The singing of "Happy Birthday to the Phonograph."

This Friends of the Phonograph wooden sign (below) was created by two charter members of the Friends of the Phonograph society. Thanks Debbie and Joellen for your artistic work! The sign continues to be annually hung at Friends of the Phonograph birthday parties.


Axel and Betty Boilesen presenting a framed record at the 1987 Phonograph birthday party.


Doug and James, circa 1980


This Friends of the Phonograph wooden sign was created by two charter members of the Friends of the Phonograph society. Thanks Debbie and Joellen for your artistic work!


The theme of the birthday celebrations is simple.

With the same enthusiasm as was done on the Black Rock Desert in 1990, with morning-glory horn in hand, Friends of the Phonograph spread the message:

"Remember the Phonograph!






The original Friends of the Phonograph sign is still hung on the porch each December 6th, along with decorating the Phonograph Tree.



Phonograph Jingles (1907)

When the day is cold and dreary,

When the day is warm and cheery,

When you want a hearty laugh,

Remember the Edison Phonograph.

The "Wizard" has invented many things;

But my favorite invention is the one that sings.

It can also talk and whistle and laugh --

This wonderful Edison Phonograph.

Washington Evening Star jingle competition, Edison Phonograph Monthly, December 1907


Phonograph Birthday Party Photos 2008