That’s phonographic, not pornographic. I know I kind of brought it on myself with posts about James Joyce’s sexual fantasies and squid sex, and due to the fact that I swear a bit too much, but the number of people who land on this blog after searching for terms like “sex doll” is ridiculous. This post is not about sex dolls.
The images and quotes here are from another of my slightly disturbing collection of Victorian and Edwardian books, in this instance the laboriously titled Magic: Stage Illusions and Scientific Diversions, Including Trick Photography (1898).
“The doll’s body is made of tin, and the interior thereof is filled with a mechanism very much like that of a commercial phonograph, but, of course, much more simple and inexpensive.”
“The cylinder of the phonograph of the talking doll is mounted on a sleeve which slides upon the shaft, the sleeve being screw-threaded so as to cause the cylinder to move lengthwise of the shaft. A key is provided by which the cylinder may be thrown out of engagement with the segmental nut, and a spiral spring is provided returning the cylinder to the point of starting. The cylinder carries a ring of wax-like material upon which is recorded the speech or song to be repeated by the doll. Upon the same shaft with the record cylinder there is a large pulley which carries a belt for driving the flywheel shaft at the lower part of the phonographic apparatus. They key is fitted to the main shaft, by which the cylinder is rotated, and the flywheel tends to maintain a uniform speed.
Above the record cylinder is arranged a diaphragm such as is used in the regular phonograph, carrying a reproducing stylus, which is mounted on a lever in the same manner as the regular phonograph. The funnel at the top of the phonographic apparatus opens underneath the breast of the doll, which is perforated to permit the sound to escape. By the simple operation of turning the crank any child can make the doll say “Mary had a little lamb,” “Jack and Jill,” or whatever it was, so to speak, taught to say in the phonograph factory.”
“Our last engraving shows the manner of preparing the wax-like records for the phonographic dolls. They are placed upon an instrument very like an ordinary phonograph, and into the mouth of which a girl speaks the words to be repeated by the doll. A large number of these girls are continually doing this work. Each one has a stall to herself, and the jangle produced by a number of girls simultaneously repeating “Mary had a little lamb,” “Jack and Jill,” “Little Bo-peep,” and other interesting stories, is beyond description. These sounds united with the sounds of the phonographs themselves when reproducing the stories make a veritable pandemonium.
In passing through the works it is noticeable that order and system reign in every department. Everything is done upon the American, or “piece” system. The tools and machinery here used are the finest procurable. Every piece, without regard to its size or importance, is carefully inspected by aid of standard gauges, so that when the parts are brought together, no additional work is required to cause them to act properly.
From this department the finished dolls pass on to the packing-room, where they are carefully stored away in boxes having on their labels the name of the story the doll is able to repeat.”