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Sound Recording Issue

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13-cent Sound Recording single

The 13-cent Sound Recording commemorative stamp (Scott 1075) was first available on March 23, 1977, in the District of Columbia. The centenary stamp, designed by Walter and Naiad Einsel, depicts the tin foil phonograph invented by Thomas Alva Edison.

The black and multicolored stamp was printed (lithographed and engraved) on the Bureau of Engraving and Printing Giori press as sheets of two hundred subjects, tagged, perforated 11, and distributed as panes of fifty. Mr. Zip, “MAIL EARLY IN THE DAY,” electric eye markings, and a plate number in each corner are printed in the selvage.

The tin foil phonograph was the first great invention developed by Edison in Menlo Park, New Jersey. While working to improve the efficiency of a telegraph transmitter, he noted that the tape of the machine gave off a noise resembling spoken words when played at a high speed. His experiments led him to try a stylus on a tinfoil cylinder, which, to his great surprise, played back the short message he recorded, "Mary had a little lamb."

The word 'phonograph' was the trade name for Edison's device, which played cylinders rather than discs. The machine had two needles: one for recording and one for playback. When an individual spoke into the mouthpiece, the voice's sound vibrations would be indented onto the cylinder by the recording needle. This cylinder phonograph was the first machine that could record and reproduce sound created a sensation and brought Edison international fame.

August 12, 1877, is the date popularly given for Edison's completion of the model for the first phonograph, although it is more likely that work on the model was not finished until November or December of that year since he did not file for the patent until December 24, 1877. He toured the country with the tin foil phonograph and was invited to the White House to demonstrate it to President Rutherford B. Hayes in April 1878.


Doug D'Avino

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