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Lot # 1610 (of 1807)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

1911 Thomas Edison Signed Letter and Related Business Phonograph

Starting Bid - $500.00, Sold For - $7,110.00

One-page typed letter, dated May 18, 1911, signed by Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931), American inventor. In his letter, on "From the Laboratory of Thomas A. Edison. Orange, N.J." letterhead, Edison makes a direct sales pitch for his business phonograph to Mr. W. J. Filbert, Comptroller of the Carnegie Steel Company. In full:

Dear Sir: If I can effect a big saving in the handling of the correspondence of your company, will you permit my representative to make a demonstration of the Business Phonograph in one of your departments entirely at my expense? The Business Phonograph is being used to a very large extent in the offices of many large business houses in this country, manufacturing companies, railroads, etc., and they find the saving claimed. Yours very truly, Thomas A. Edison [signed].

Edison's signature has been boldly scripted in black fountain pen (grading "9/10") and displays an exceptionally large "umbrella" flourish above his name. When Edison first invented the phonograph in 1877, he envisioned its main use as "Letter writing and all kinds of dictation without the aid of a stenographer." Unfortunately, the initial device used a foil cylinder which was not very efficient in accurately recording the human voice. Even when the device was improved with a wax cylinder in the late 1880s sales were still slow. It wasn't until the early 1900s that the instrument began to rise in popularity. By 1911, the time of this letter, many large companies began using some form of dictation device in their offices, the most efficient of which were those used in conjunction with typewriters (eliminating the more expensive cost of stenographers). Offered here with the letter, and perfect for display alongside it, is an example of an original Ediphone dictating machine! The large device, which has normal wear commensurate with its age and former use, is ideal for display with the letter. (Note: While ideal for display, it is not in working order and is missing a few parts.) The letter (8.5 x 11 inches) has two vertical and three horizontal mailing folds, a staple hole, a handwritten pencil notation in the lower left corner, and a Carnegie Steel Company receiving stamp, dated May 22, 1911. In Very Good to Excellent condition overall. This is an outstanding Edison letter in all respects, both for its content and its impressive signature example, made all the more desirable by its being accompanied by the very machine mentioned in the letter. LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $500. Estimate $2,000+. SOLD FOR $7,110.00

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