[This note covers all of the "Phonograph" folders for 1915.]
This folder contains correspondence, interoffice communications, and other documents relating to the commercial and technical development of Edison's cylinder and disc phonograph. Included are letters pertaining to the selection of talent, music, and musical instruments for recording; customer relations; and activities among Edisonâ€™s agents and competitors. Many of the incoming letters bear Edisonâ€™s draft reply in the form of marginalia. Among the documents for 1915 are numerous items regarding the marketing of the Edison Diamond Disc phonograph. A communication from Walter L. Eckert, general auditor of Thomas A. Edison, Inc., lists monthly expenses for recital and demonstration work from September 1914 through January 1915. There are also references to recitals sponsored by local phonograph dealers. In addition, there are testimonial letters and reports by demonstrators in regard to a series of non-commercial recitals at churches, hospitals, schools, police and fire departments, fraternal lodges, and other organizations. A sample of these documents has been selected.
Other items relate to the Panama-California Exposition in San Diego and the Panama-Pacific Exhibition in San Francisco, the preservation of sound recordings, and product quality testing. Also included are recommendations of songs and recording artists, complaints about the technical and artistic quality and limited repertoire of Edison recordings, and suggestions for improvements in the phonograph, some of which Edison referred to members of the laboratory staff for consideration and comment. Several documents refer to an attachment that would allow the lateral-cut records produced by Victor and Columbia to be played on Edison Diamond Disc phonographs. At the end of the folder is a 72-page pamphlet, with annotations by Edison, entitled Edison Retail Salesman's Sales Manual, along with a promotional brochure for the Edison Dictating Machine entitled The Goose, the Typewriter, and the Wizard.The correspondents include George L. Babson and L. S. McCormick of the Phonograph Corporation of Manhattan, M. M. Blackman of the Phonograph Co. (Kansas City), Herbert E. Blake of Blake & Burkart, H. H. Blish and George C. Silzer of Harger & Blish, Charles E. Goodwin of the Phonograph Co. (Chicago), and numerous other phonograph dealers and marketing representatives. There are several letters by Thomas P. Westendorf, composer of "I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen," which reportedly was Edison's favorite song. A letter from investment banker, benzol supplier, and phonograph enthusiast Clarence Dillon recounts an amusing anecdote about his six-year-old son (and future U.S. Secretary of the Treasury) C. Douglas Dillon.
Approximately 25 percent of the documents have been selected. The material not selected includes unsolicited suggestions and inquiries from inventors and other unsolicited correspondence receiving no substantive reply from Edison. Also not selected are lists of phonograph dealers, letters of transmittal and acknowledgment, and daily and weekly reports concerning quality testing, sales, and other commercial matters. Courtesy of Thomas Edison National Historical Park.