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edwin c barnes and thomas edison's dictaphone

Edwin C Barnes with Thomas Edison

Edwin C Barnes was made famous by Napoleon Hill in his book Think and Grow Rich. Hill relates the story of how Barnes became a partner of Thomas Edison with the Ediphone invention.

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about edwin c barnes

On a fateful day in 1905, and driven by a desire which transcended poverty and a lack of know-how, Barnes rolled into West Orange on a freight train. He then, poorly dressed and looking more like an outcast than a man of achievement, walked into the famous Edison Laboratory and told the great inventor that he had come to form a partnership with him. Nearby members of Edison's staff were amused by the boldness of the poor-looking man, and they laughed at him hysterically. But, Edison did not laugh. For, what he saw was a determined young man who was prepared to do whatever it would take to help bring new growth to his company.

Thomas Edison's Ediphone
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After working for Edison for nearly two years, Barnes “saw” a golden opportunity, and he seized it with full force. Following many years of preparation, the inventor was ready to commercialize the Edison Dictating Machine, a recorder specifically designed to capture the human voice. Edison's machine, later renamed the Ediphone, recorded “voice letters” on a wax cylinder, and its inventor thought very highly of it. However, when members of Edison's sales force looked over his new machine, most of them doubted that the invention would prove successful commercially, and they expressed little interest in trying to sell it.

Barnes also saved much of his initial earnings as an employee of Edison's West Orange laboratory complex to buy new and quality clothes. And, eventually he built a rather impressive wardrobe. Referring to a time just before Barnes made it big within the Edison organization, Napoleon Hill wrote in the Law of Success:

“In those days he had the largest and most expensive collection of clothes I had ever seen or heard of one man owning. His wardrobe consisted of thirty-one suits; one for each day of the month. He never wore the same suit two days in succession.”

When Napoleon Hill asked the upcoming salesman why it was that he paid special attention to his attire, Barnes replied, “I do not wear thirty-one suits of clothes entirely for the impression they make on other people; I do it mostly for the impression they have on me.”

about the ediphone

Shortly after Thomas Edison invented the phonograph, the first device for recording sound, in 1877, he thought that the main use for the new device would be for recording speech in business settings. (Given the low audio fidelity of earliest versions of the phonograph, recording music may not have seemed to be a major application.) Some early phonographs were indeed used this way, but this did not become common until the mass production of reusable waxcylinders in the late 1880s. The differentiation of office dictation devices from other early phonographs, which commonly had attachments for making one's own recordings, was gradual. The machine marketed by the Edison Records company was trademarked as the "Ediphone".