Edison Phonograph Toy Stock Certificate

Edison Phonograph Toy Stock Certificate

<< >>
Usage conditions apply
This is a stock certificate for 50 shares of the Edison Phonograph Toy Manufacturing Company, for Mary A. Harris and dated June 14, 1887. Printed by the American Banknote Company, New York, the certificate features a center vignette with a lively scene--Santa Claus in a sleigh pulled by reindeer.
With Thomas Edison’s agreement, William W. Jacques and Lowell Briggs established the Edison Phonograph Toy Manufacturing Company to sell the Edison Talking Doll. The firm, incorporated in Maine with an office in Boston, was in business between 1887 and 1895.
This certificate relates to the complicated business history surrounding the phonograph, and especially the peculiar Talking Doll. (For an example of the doll see Cat. 311215, Acc. 143749). The dolls, made in 1890, are a rare reminder of an unsuccessful early experiment to incorporate recorded sound in toys.
Thomas Edison invented the phonograph in 1877. It was the first machine ever to record and play back sound. The inventor foresaw multiple uses for the machine and proceeded to license different functions to different investors, including the right to make toys with phonographs. When nothing came of the initial toy license, the rights reverted to Edison in 1886. The following year, he renewed his interest in the phonograph and established the Edison Phonograph Company to make and sell it. At the same time he began working on a toy with William W. Jacques, a Boston electrical expert for AT&T.
Jacques designed and patented a talking doll, and Edison’s New Jersey factory—the Edison Phonograph Works—manufactured talking machines for inside the dolls. After numerous unsuccessful attempts to build working prototypes, production began in January of 1890, and at least 3335 machines for dolls were made. Young girls were recruited to record nursery rhymes, probably the first recordings ever made by women. Thousands of complete dolls were sold, but, by autumn of 1890 the distributors withdrew them from the market because so many were returned for malfunctions. Relations between Edison and Jacques deteriorated into legal battles, especially over foreign rights. By 1895 they agreed to dissolve their connection and to destroy the remaining stock of phonographs for inside the dolls.
Currently not on view
Object Name
stock certificate
date made
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
overall: 7 in x 10 3/4 in; 17.78 cm x 27.305 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
See more items in
Work and Industry: Mechanisms
Industry & Manufacturing
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