A fascinating article in the “St. Louis Globe-Democrat” of September 15, 1878 seems to include a man’s idea which is far ahead of his time. Only problem is he didn’t have access to the technological developments the next 125 years would provide.
The column heads announce: “The Newsograph” “A Most Remarkable Application of Edison’s Last Patent” “The Device of a Park Philosopher for Bringing the Word’s News To Every Man’s Home”. The article details an idea of bringing “verbal” news into every person’s home by using Edison’s phonograph patent, thereby eliminating the need for a physical newspaper (see below). A curious concept in light of today’s internet technology. Go to the link above for the full article.
The “New York Times” issue of March 25, 1878, has a fascinating editorial which is a reflection of how people were panicked by the lack of privacy over 100 years ago as they are today.
The piece about Edison’s latest invention: “The Aerophone” goes on to detail how Edison’s work is destroying society. It begins: “Something ought to be done to Mr. Edison, and there is a growing conviction that it had better be done with a hemp rope. Mr. Edison has invented too many things, and…they are things of the most deleterious character. He has been addicted to electricity..” and railing on including mention that his phonograph is responsible for destroying privacy & making it impossible for anyone to talk to anyone any more, etc. The column-long editorial ends with an over-the-top fear for the fall of society, including: “…The result will be the complete disorganization of society. Men & women will flee from civilization & seek the silence of the forest relief from the roar of countless aerophones. Business, marriage, and all social amusements will be thrown aside…It may be too late to suppress the aerophone now, but at least there is time to visit upon the head of its inventor the just indignation of his fellow countrymen.”
A fascinating report in light of current-day concerns for lack of privacy.
Today I traveled to New York City by the way of The New York Times of July 13, 1915. There I found that “(Thomas) Edison Will Head Navy Test Board”. “…’The United States is far behind in these matters,’ said Mr. Edison. ‘I believe it is highly important for a board of civilians, made up of engineers from leading industries, to be formed for the purpose of looking into the feasibility of ideas developed by young men…'”
Each day at Rare Newspapers brings new discoveries. Today we found an item which is quite historic. In 1903, the battle between Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla (and Westinghouse) as to which form of electrical current (DC or AC) was to become the standard, was largely decided – with Edison’s DC current being the loser. Not willing to give up without a fight, Edison attempted to win public and political support by stressing the greater danger of death by electrocution from contact with AC current. In a highly publicized dramatic event, Edison organized and helped supervise the filming and electrocution by AC current of Topsy, a Coney Island circus elephant which had recently killed three men. While the execution was successful, and was overseen by the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Edison was highly criticized for the event which did not accomplish his desired goal. The report was found on the front page of the ALLEGHENY COUNTY REPORTER, Wellsville, New York, January 6, 1903. I wonder if the S.P.C.A. would support such an action today?
Today’s journey, through The Christian Science Monitor dated August 26, 1910, took me on the train ride with Colonel Roosevelt as he was traveling across the states on his campaign tour. I found a segment a bit amusing… “At Erie the Colonel spoke to fully 5000 people. At Dunkirk a crowd nearly as large surrounded the train, and some one shouted, ‘Hello, Teddy!’ ‘I used to think it lowered my dignity to have them call me Teddy,’ the colonel said to his party in an undertone, ‘but do you know I am getting to like it now.'” A this point in time, one just somewhat “assumes” that he was always called Teddy.
While looking further into the issue, I found a one paragraph article with a headline “Mr. Edison Works On A New Device” and I just had to read it. “Moving pictures that talk, reproducing not only the action, but the spoken words of actors shown on the canvas, promise to revolutionize the moving picture business and the announcement that a machine that will combine the perfected phonograph with the present motion picture camera is being constructed in the laboratory of Thomas A. Edison in West Orange, has created a stir among inventors.”
This made me wonder just when were “talkies” invented and who invented it? Was this ground-breaking news? I did some researching through google. In the late 1890’s, there were some sound to movies but each person had to wear a listening device — early headsets?? Mr. Edison is mentioned as to be working on creating a special machine to make the “talkies” but the first talk was not to be until 1927 with the release of The Jazz Singer.
The piece shown is from “The Alaskan” newspaper of Sitka, dated March 20, 1886. It’s an interesting commentary on a problem with Thomas Edison perfecting his new photograph.
Although I think Tim’s choice was a good one (see his post), my choice for the most important event of the nineteenth century, post-Civil War is the invention of the first practical incandescent light bulb by Thomas Edison. His creation of this light bulb as well as his other inventions make him the most recognized inventor of the nineteenth century and perhaps of all time. In fact, reports about his most significant inventions were featured in several nineteenth century issues of Scientific American, more than any inventor of the era.
Newspapers, however, were slow but not reluctant to recognize Edison’s achievements. As a result, there is no single report that marked his most famous invention. The reports were usually topical ones written by staff writers who visited Menlo Park, witnessed demonstrations of his inventions, or interviewed Mr. Edison. Images and a description were featured in the Scientific American issue dated March 22, 1879. Nevertheless, the impact of Thomas Edison’s incandescent light bulb and his other inventions are immeasurable and far-reaching. They continue to play a role in our daily lives and make the world a better place for all mankind.
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Note: Images with a supporting article were featured in the March 22, 1879 issue of Scientific American.