Even Geniuses Create Monsters…

I know this is old, but in a sense, it’s really old, so it doesn’t matter.

A long time ago, I came across an article about talking dolls invented by Thomas Edison. These things, although technological marvels for the time, could give you nightmares. Observe.

Ok ok, you can take your hands off your ears now. Seriously. If you think those little kids reading prayers in horror movies are spooky, they have nothing on these big ol’ creepy dolls. Apparently, they looked just as creepy as they sounded.

In early April 1890, each doll that emerged from Edison’s vast West Orange, New Jersey, site stood 22’ inches tall, weighed a heavy four pounds, and sported a porcelain head and jointed wooden limbs. Embedded in each doll’s tin torso was a miniaturized model of his phonograph, its conical horn trained toward a series of perforations in the doll’s chest, its wax recording surface etched with a 20-second rendition of one of a dozen rhymes, among them “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” “Jack and Jill” and “Hickory Dickory Dock.” With the steady rotation of a hand crank located on the doll’s back, a child could summon from the doll a single nursery rhyme.

Even back then when they were an amazing technological feat, they didn’t sell too well. Gee, I wonder why! For $20, which was the equivalent of $574 in 1890’s money, you could have a heavy, fragile, buggy doll which you hand-cranked to get often incomprehensible speech. Notice how that video says “restored” on it. Eek!

When I was a kid I always wanted talking dolls. Maybe my mom should have showed me an Edison doll. I never would have wanted one again!

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1 comment
  1. I was a little surprised when I read the bit about people having issues with the audio quality. My brain was like wow, there were already audio snobs in 1890? But you listen to that and then factor in that the sound degrades from there and it starts to make sense. The things were an amazing feat of engineering, but yeah, they were kinda pieces of shit and I’d be pissed if I paid that much for one.

    Oh, and no matter how many times I hear them they still scare the bejesus out of me.

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