Wednesday, November 11, 2009

THEME THURSDAY: TELEPHONE


(Faber's Euphonia)


(Faber's Euphonia 2)


(Alexander Graham Bell)





Telephone and Euphonia

We're all very familiar with Alexander Graham Bell and his contribution to developing a workable telephone, but how many of us have ever heard of Joseph Faber?
Faber, a German astronomer living in America, traveled across the Atlantic with P.T. Barnum to unveil his cutting-edge “Euphonia” at London’s Egyptian Hall in 1846. The astronomer had spent the previous 17 years perfecting this bizarre offering, and had even smashed and destroyed an earlier version of the machine after American audiences ignored his invention. The complex device was controlled by 17 levers, a bellows, and a telegraphic line. It was fashioned with the movable replica of a human face, which was able to faithfully replicate human speech. At the exhibition, Faber made his peculiar invention sing a haunting rendition of “God Save the Queen”.

In spite of the support and promotion by Barnum, Faber and his Euphonia became the subjects of ridicule. One of the Euphonia’s few devotees was a Scottish speech professor named Melville Bell. His son was none other than Alexander Graham Bell. The younger Bell made various attempts to reproduce speech, the most successful of which finally resulted in the workable telephone. Consequently, it was Faber's device that modern inventors credit with being a catalyst to Bell's prototypes. Unfortunately, Faber never realized how he was indirectly responsible for Bell's working device. Sadly, he destroyed his Euphonia and took his own life in the 1860s .

This is a description of the machine:

About this device:

" It is a speech synthesizer variously known as the Euphonia and the Amazing Talking Machine. By pumping air with the bellows ... and manipulating a series of plates, chambers, and other apparatus (including an artificial tongue ... ), the operator could make it speak any European language. A German immigrant named Joseph Faber spent seventeen years perfecting the Euphonia, only to find when he was finished that few people cared."

21 comments:

Brian Miller said...

i am kinda glad this never caught on andd melded with the telephone...the talking face would be a bit creepy!

welcome to theme thursday!

...mmm... said...

Hee. The talking face WOULD be creepy but how sad this poor man died not realising how he inspired Bell...and then to have most of us not even know he existed. I've never even heard of this before. Very interesting indeed. Thanks for the post and how wonderful to have you join in TT.

Rebecca said...

Hi Brian,

Thanks and welcome to the Tea Society!

Yes, creepy is right! That face talking back to you would have been really strange.

Rebecca said...

M,

I had never heard of him or his invention either. Finding this was really enlightening.

This Theme Thursday business may get addictive:-)

willow said...

That Euphonia was cool and creepy and the same time! Sad, he ended it all before realizing his importance.

Betsy said...

I'm with the rest of you guys! I can't imagine that talking head! So weird!

Stephanie said...

Interesting.

Jill said...

It WAS a bit creepy which may be why it did not "take off" upon its introduction! Poor man...ended up taking his own life...

I learn something new every day!
Thank you!
Great take on TT Rebecca!

e said...

This was indeed an interesting piece, how sad that he never realised the ultimate importance of his creation...Thanks for posting and enjoy Theme Thursday.

Tom said...

weird how it took so long for someone to see a practical application for the creepy device...ring ring...hey someone answer the Euphonia please!

Wings said...

Huh, interesting! Never knew this and also kind of glad it didn't catch on and Bell had to go a different way!

Poetikat said...

Coincidentally, I wrote a haiku today for my blog, "Kigo of the Kat" that features P.T. Barnum.

JeffScape said...

That thing is nuts... and for some reason it reminds me of the communicators in The Chronicles of Riddick. If you haven't seen that film already, don't. I was just making a comparison. Hah.

ChaChaneen said...

Whoa I didn't know about this, cool. He was ahead if his time and not appreciated. Great post.

Charm and Grace said...

Fascinating! I love learning new things... such fun. The obvious headline which might have appeared, had it been successful: Euphoria over Euphonia! lol... I do love learning my history while taking tea.

Thanks for the pleasant lesson,
Christi

...mmm... said...

Smiling at all your comments. :)

Baino said...

Well who knew . . .I guess these sorts of things provided inspiration for the Bells of the world to venture forth and invent! You know it shows how we take these everyday things so forgranted when a plethora of inventors and crackpots laid plans that eventuated in a technology we can no longer live without. Lovely post

Rebecca said...

Wonderful comments, everyone! Thanks for stopping by and reading...

Rebecca said...

M,

Thank you..:D

The Silver Fox said...

Freaky. I suppose that if the telephone had been a more direct descendant, instead of a ring-tone, that eerie face would call out, "Hey, You!"

Dot-Com said...

Eeek, a talking head is kinda scary! Great take on the theme - happy Theme Thursday!