Thomas Edison is rightly known as one of the most brilliant inventors in history. After his death, he left behind a strange metal ring which was later found in his laboratory. Its purpose remained unknown…until now.
Thomas Edison’s Talking Doll?
Thomas Edison is the third-most prolific, patented inventor in American history, behind Kia Silverbrook and Shunpei Yamazaki. He is credited with inventing the phonograph, the motion-picture camera, and the light bulb.
In 1890, after many years of experimentation, development, and business warfare, Thomas Edison released a new invention into the marketplace. It was called the Edison Talking Doll. The dolls stood about two feet high and weighed four pounds apiece. Inside their bodies, Edison installed tiny phonographs with pre-recorded cylinders. Children were supposed to turn a crank at a steady speed in order to hear a six-second nursery rhyme.
The voices of the little monsters were exceedingly unpleasant to hear – Thomas Edison
The dolls debuted at the Lenox Lyceum in New York City. One month later, production ceased due to poor demand and complaints about the easily-damaged phonograph system. Very few of these dolls exist today.
Thomas Edison’s Mysterious Ring?
That brings us back to the ring. It was discovered in 1967. Observers noticed that it contained grooves, similar to those used by a phonograph. Unfortunately, the ring was bent and damaged, making it impossible for anyone to play the recording.
That all changed recently when scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory used image analysis to digitize the grooves. It turns out that the ring holds an old recording of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” The recording, made in the fall of 1888, was originally developed for an Edison Talking Doll. However, wax records subsequently replaced metal ones and thus, the ring was never used for its intended purpose.
Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis
According to historian Patrick Feaster, the ring represents “the oldest American-made recording of a woman’s voice that we can listen to today.” The speaker is unknown. But until someone proves otherwise, she has earned her place in the history books as the world’s first professional recording artist.