<< >>
Usage conditions apply
This is a business dictation machine that uses wax cylinders to record and play back sound. The basic design for the machine emerged from research at the Volta Laboratory, Washington, D.C., the sound research facility established by Alexander Graham Bell with his associates Chichester Bell and Charles Sumner Tainter.
Tainter refined the design, patented several versions of it, and oversaw the manufacturing of the first six experimental graphophones at Bergmann & Co in New York in 1885. He also supervised the making of commercial models in a sewing machine factory in Bridgeport, Conn., beginning in 1887. In these early commercial machines, the dictation apparatus sits atop a sewing machine table and employs a treadle to rotate the mandrel holding the cylinder recording.
On this machine from 1888, the treadle is marked "American Graphophone Company"; the governor is marked "Patented July 20th 1886." The recorder-reproducer is marked: "The Phonograph-Graphophone m'f'd by the American Graphophone Company for Jesse H. Lippincott, Sole Licensee/ Type C No. 03042" and numerous patent dates.
Wile, Raymond R. "The Development of Sound Recording at the Volta Laboratory," Association for Recorded Sound Collections Journal 21, No. 2, 1990, pp. 208-225.
Currently not on view
Object Name
wheel: 12 in; 30.48 cm
governor: 6 in x 3 in x 5 in; 15.24 cm x 7.62 cm x 12.7 cm
recording and repriducing device: 10 in x 6 1/2 in x 8 in; 25.4 cm x 16.51 cm x 20.32 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of Alexander Graham Bell
See more items in
Work and Industry: Mechanisms
Hear My Voice
Computers & Business Machines
Data Source
National Museum of American History
Nominate this object for photography.   

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.


Add a comment about this object