Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The world's first talking doll

It was a total flop. Prolific American inventor Thomas Edison (1847-1931) had the idea to put a small version of his phonograph inside the body of a doll (1st and 2nd images), giving it a voice and making it a most unique toy. He took out a patent in 1891, produced 2,500 of the 4lb, 22" dolls in the Edison Phonograph Toy Manufacturing Co. (4th image), and advertised them (3rd image) for $10-25 each (depending on their dress). But they were withdrawn from the market after less than 500 were shipped. As an article in GE Reports explains, "Unfortunately, production delays, poor recording technology, high production costs, and damages during distribution all combined to create toys that were a complete disaster, terrifying children and costing their parents nearly a month’s pay." The dolls each recited one of 12 nursery rhymes, including "Mary had a little lamb," "Jack and Jill," and "Little Bo-peep," (listen to the recording of "Little Jack Horner" here), but the miniature phonographs were removed and the remaining dolls - which Edison ended up referring to as his "little monsters" - were sold off mute.

1 comment:

  1. After listening to the recording of Jack Horner, I can understand why these dolls would have terrified kids. Sounds like a strange woman yelling into the microphone. Even the much later talking dolls of the 60s and 70s were creepy.


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