Hi Allen:--

I can see how someone reading the New York Herald piece from 1895 in later 
years might have thought the story was supposed to have been set in the tinfoil 
era, but I don't believe it originally was.

The subject is identified as Edison's "firstborn," and referred to as "it," 
which would ordinarily point to Marion (born 1873) -- but of course that would 
have been too early for the phonograph.  The only other clue as to date is that 
the phonograph was supposedly "near enough perfection" at the time to make a 
record for the family archive.  Apparently Jones -- or someone, at least -- 
assumed that the story referred to Edison's firstborn *son* (born 1876) and to 
the tinfoil phonograph of 1877-78, and ran with this interpretation.

But older versions of the story, published in December 1888, contain a lot more 
detail: the subject was Edison's most recent baby, Madeleine, not his 
"firstborn"; the recording was on a wax cylinder; Theo Wangemann had given 
Edison the idea of making it; and duplicates of it had been sent across the 
Atlantic for exhibition.  Except for the "firstborn" part, there's nothing in 
the 1895 article that contradicts any of this.

For what it's worth, a record of an American baby crying did in fact go over to 
London with the first phonograph of the new model in 1888, and Gouraud did 
exhibit it there, as reported in the local press that July.  He doesn't seem to 
have identified it as a record of Edison's own daughter, though.

I haven't been able to trace the "pinching" story itself back before December 
1888, but some articles dating back to June of that year report that Edison was 
planning to record Madeleine's voice -- ideally at regular intervals as she 
grew up.

 - Patrick

PS. Here's the whole story as it appeared in the New Brunswick Times of 
December 7, 1888:

Edison has recorded on his phonograph the indignant wail of his baby.  At the 
laboratory one day the inventor complained that the baby disturbed him and that 
he could not work at home.

“Why don’t you put her at the phonograph?” inquired Mr. Wangemann, his 
assistant, mischievously.

Mr. Edison made no reply, but the next time his heir apparent did cry he was 
ready for her.  In fact, he grew very impatient because she behaved remarkably 
well, and didn’t cry within his hearing for a week.  At last the time came.  
The infant got her toes tangled up in her stocking and uttered a plaintive 
wail.  The father seized her, thrust her nose into the funnel and set the motor 
a-going.  Alas! the flying bright brass Governor amused her, and she stopped 
crying and began to laugh.  Mr. Edison was disgusted.  He shook her violently 
and screamed into her ears, but she only chuckled and cooed.  He was in 
despair.  Happy thought!  He would pinch her.  He did pinch her, and she 
expressed her displeasure with vociferous howls.  The racket waked up the nurse 
in the next room, and she flew in at the door in terror.

“What have you been doing now?” she indignantly demanded.

“That baby wouldn’t cry for my phonograph, and I just pinched her so she would.”

“I never was so abused in my life,” said Mr. Edison afterward.  “But I’ve got 
that baby’s howls right here on this wax cylinder.”  Copies were sent to London 
and they have since been traveling over Europe, but Mrs. Edison does not know 

From: Phono-L <phono-l-boun...@oldcrank.org> on behalf of AllenAmet--- via 
Phono-L <phono-l@oldcrank.org>
Sent: Wednesday, April 20, 2016 5:16 PM
To: phono-l@oldcrank.org
Cc: allena...@aol.com
Subject: Re: [Phono-L] edison's son made recording?/

Thank you, Patrick.

  I see that Francis Miller (1931) basically lifted the anecdote (regarding the 
baby crying on tinfoil, 'NY Herald') from Francis Jones' 1907 bio of Edison.

  Is it possible to push the story back further in time? The ("NY Herald") text 
that both authors used was actually from April of 1895.

  Of course, the incident also appears in the 1940 film with Spencer Tracy as 

In a message dated 4/20/2016 6:41:48 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time, 
phono-l@oldcrank.org writes:

“The Baby at the Phonograph,” New Brunswick Times, Dec. 7, 1888 (TAEM 146:268)

O. K. Davis, “Some Facts Relating to the Early Development of the Phonograph,” 
Phonogram 3 (Mar.-Apr. 1893), 385-6.

“Phonograph the Baby’s Cry,” New York Morning Sun, Dec. 2, 1888 (TAEM 146:324)

“The Baby Wouldn’t Cry,” from New York Herald, in Indiana Progress (Indiana, 
Pennsylvania), Apr. 24, 1895, p. 7.

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