Thomas Alva Edison
Real name: Thomas Alva Edison
Effective period / Period of releases: 1919 - 1984Thomas Edison (11 February 1847, Milan, Ohio, USA - 18 October 1931, West Orange, New Jersey, USA) was an American inventor.
Edison had only a few months of formal schooling before becoming successively a newsboy, a food hawker on trains and a telegraph operator. In 1870, with money received from the sale of telegraphic inventions, he founded a research laboratory. There he constructed the carbon telephone transmitter (1876), the cylinder phonograph (1877) and the first practical electric light (1879). These devices brought him instant fame, and he spent much of the rest of his life in their improvement; he also aided the creation of the myth that surrounds his achievements.
The phonograph was a badly flawed novelty when it was first introduced, and Edison abandoned it until the late 1880s when, challenged by Charles Tainter’s graphophone, he organized his own recording company. Although he portrayed himself as financially naive, Edison displayed ruthlessness and skill in the subsequent battles between companies. He clung stubbornly to his original ideas, accepting such innovations as disc records and spring-driven machines only under the pressure of competition. He also held strong opinions about music, despite his congenital deafness, and these sometimes adversely affected his choice of artists. Although his vision of the phonograph as a viable recording device for music was largely realized by others, Edison continues to be regarded, in the public mind, as the creator of the recording industry.
The record company bearing his name was established in 1889. Its first catalogue, issued in 1889-90, included works for cornet and woodwind as well as music for band. Early wax cylinders gave way to 80-r.p.m. records from 1912 to 1929, with finer-grooved, longer-playing records from 1926. Except for a small number issued in 1929, Edison’s recordings used a vertical (‘hill-and-dale’) rather than a lateral cut and thus required special playback equipment. His insistence on personally approving artists and repertory recorded by the firm resulted in an unbalanced catalogue. After the closure of the business in October 1929, the equipment was used for research purposes until 1957 when it was sold to the McGraw Electric Co. Compact-discs reissues of several recordings, especially of Edison Diamond Discs and Edison Needle Records, have been produced.