The Euphonia - A Marvelous Talking-Machine
This “marvelous talking-machine” was called the Euphonia. It consisted of a bizarre-looking head that spoke in a “weird, ghostly monotone” voice and was manipulated with foot pedals and a keyboard. 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. It was even able to sing the anthem God Save the Queen. The Euphonia was invented in 1845 by Joseph Faber, a German immigrant. A little known fact is that this machine greatly influenced the invention of the telephone.
The Euphonia was first exhibited at the Musical Fund Hall in Philadelphia. Its imitation of human speech was remarkably advanced given the state of technology at the time. Many who viewed the machine in action made the accusation that a small person must have been hidden inside. Apparently anyone who inspected the Euphonia’s mechanical workings was convinced that no trickery was involved, such as Faber employing a ventriloquist.
Frustrated at the lack of interest with his invention, Farber accompanied P. T. Barnum, of Barnum and Bailey’s Circus, to London. The Euphonia was again put on display at London’s Egyptian Hall and for the next several decades, it remained a part of Barnum’s exhibits. The financial returns for Faber, however, were extremely low and he ended up committed suicide without achieving the fame or fortune he had worked so hard for.
In a curious twist of fate, one person who happened to see the Euphonia in London and came away deeply impressed was Melville Bell, the father of the inventor of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell.
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