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Digitization Dispatch: Patents!

Over 150 volumes of US government patent records have recently been digitized and are currently accessible from Internet Archive here. Originally from the main library at NMAH and on their way to SILRA, these volumes represent patents from Agriculture, Arts and Manufacture, and Mechanics during the 1800's and well into the 20th century. In general, the patent materials have indexes organized annually by topic alphabetically with corresponding patent numbers. Amid the chronological organization, evidence of Thomas Edison's impact is highlighted through unique binder's choices. For example, a volume bound entirely of patents belonging to Thomas A Edison is available here. While he accrued thousands of patents in his lifetime, among his most cited is the "Incandescing Electric Lamp", pictured. (Actually, he has many patents for improvements of the light bulb, but this one is the cutest, in this blogger's humble opinion)

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The other notiable exception to the chronological organization includes dozens of discreetly bound "graphophone" patents, aka, the phonograph. Interestingly, the earliest record players were a result of the work Edison did on two other inventions–the telegraph and the telephone. 
The Library of Congress:

 In 1877, Edison was working on a machine that would transcribe telegraphic messages through indentations on paper tape, which could later be sent over the telegraph repeatedly. This development led Edison to speculate that a telephone message could also be recorded in a similar fashion. He experimented with a diaphragm which had an embossing point and was held against rapidly-moving paraffin paper. The speaking vibrations made indentations in the paper. Edison later changed the paper to a metal cylinder with tin foil wrapped around it. The machine had two diaphragm-and-needle units, one for recording, and one for playback. When one would speak into a mouthpiece, the sound vibrations would be indented onto the cylinder by the recording needle in a vertical (or hill and dale) groove pattern. Edison gave a sketch of the machine to his mechanic, John Kruesi, to build, which Kruesi supposedly did within 30 hours. Edison immediately tested the machine by speaking the nursery rhyme into the mouthpiece, "Mary had a little lamb." To his amazement, the machine played his words back to him.



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