Listen to Edison’s ‘Little Monsters’

Each doll housed a phonograph that was activated by a crank on the doll's back.Image: John Reed/National Park Service

Each doll housed a phonograph that was activated by a crank on the doll’s back.
Image: John Reed/National Park Service

Beth Schademann, ECS Publications Specialist, recently came across an NPR article regarding one of ECS’s most famous members and his slightly terrifying, obscure invention.

We talk quite a bit about Thomas Edison here at ECS. Edison happens to be one of our earliest and most recognizable members, not to mention a prolific inventor and entrepreneur.

While Edison is most known for his inventions related to the light bulb and phonograph, he also created the world’s first talking doll back in 1890.

The dolls still exist, but it wasn’t possible to hear the recordings on their tiny phonographs until now. Although, we may have been better off if we never heard these creepy renditions of classic children’s songs.

Edison wasn’t trying to take over the doll market with these toys, he was instead attempting to market his new wax cylinder phonograph for people to use in their homes.


If you also find these recording a bit unsettling, you’re not alone—Edison himself even found them unpleasant. After the dolls flopped in the market due to their high price ($200 in today’s currency) and creepy nature, Edison stopped manufacturing them after only two months.

A curator from the Thomas Edison National Historical Park states that after the dolls went under, Edison refereed to them as his “little monsters.”


edison-tesla-robYou can (kind of) meet Edison himself at the 227th ECS Meeting starting May 24th. Register for the meeting today and swing by the Edison Theatre once you’re there to take advantage of the Edison and Tesla photo op, as well as gain insightful information on the ECS Publications program.

PS: We’re sure you’ve heard about our Official ECS Major League Trading Card Series, but in case you haven’t, you can check out some more info here. Edison will be one of the 50 scientists to be featured in the first series, so make sure to find us in Chicago to get your pack!

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