Christmas Gift In the 1890s: Edison’s Talking “Monster” Doll

Photo: Robin & Jean Rolfs

Photo: Robin & Jean Rolfs

Via GE Reports:

While we may never know what the ‘must have’ Christmas gift was in 1890, we do know that it most assuredly wasn’t Thomas Edison’s talking doll.

Using miniature phonographs embedded inside, these “talking” baby dolls were toy manufacturers’ first attempt at using sound technology in toys. They marked a collaboration between Edison and William Jacques and Lowell Briggs, who worked to miniaturize the phonograph starting in 1878.

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.

Edison would later refer to the dolls as his “little monsters.” The recording below is of “Little Jack Horner” and comes from one of the actual dolls, courtesy of the Thomas Edison National Historical Park.

[Continues with sound clip of recording at GE Reports]

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