Skip to main content

No Slur Intended

July 2024
1min read

Peter Baida replies: I don’t quite understand why Mr. Glover thinks that my comment was a “slur.” If I read his letter correctly, Mr. Glover would consider it a slur if I suggested that Edison lacked a commercial motive. But I did not make that suggestion; all I said was that Edison did not perfectly foresee how large a success the phonograph would turn out to be.

Edison invented the phonograph in 1877. His first recordings took the form of indentations in a sheet of tinfoil wrapped around a cylinder that rotated as the sounds were recorded. The quality of the sound was poor, and Edison neglected the invention for several years. In the early 188Os, according to Robert Conot’s Edison biography, A Streak of Luck , Edison said to his assistant Samuel Insull, “Sammy, they never will try to steal the phonograph. It is not of any commercial value.”

Enjoy our work? Help us keep going.

Now in its 75th year, American Heritage relies on contributions from readers like you to survive. You can support this magazine of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it by donating today.