[D8959ABD], Letter from George Edward Gouraud to Thomas Alva Edison, May 4th, 1889


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[D8959ABD], Letter from George Edward Gouraud to Thomas Alva Edison, May 4th, 1889

Editor's Notes

"Your letter of April 12th reaches me on my return from Paris. If it were not that what you write is based upon a total misconception of the facts, I should feel deeply arieved, and obliged in justice to myself and to you equally , to enter into a lengthy explanation and defence of the policy which I have pursued, and the motives underlying it, both of which have been questioned by you. Considering, however, the second paragraph of your letter -page 2- where you give particulars concerning the information which has reached you, and in consequences of which you felt it necessary to write me as you have, it is certainly not surprising you should feel it as a grace necessity to place your views before me. I may add right here, that again considering these statements as the basis and occasion of your letter - unpleasant as it is to me to receive it - I am free to say that I can take no exception to it. It is a perfectly plain, straightforward expression of perfectly natural feelings regulating such a statement of facts, and does credit to the writer of it. I only use the word ‘facts’, because the feelings and opinions to which you give expression are made upon the assumption that the information which has reached you has been accepted as ‘facts’: with this preface you will permit me to say that as the information in question is absolutely devoid of all semblance of fact either as regards my intentions or my actions, or my conception of your interests or my own, or my regard or disregard for your ‘personality’. I exceedingly regret that you could not have first written to me the substance of what had reached you, and waited until my side of the question was before you before coming to a conclusion which reflects upon my judgment, my common sense, my self interest, my self respect, my honor, and , what I value no less than all these combined, my sense of duty and loyalty, as well as my respect, which amounts to veneration , for the genius and character of the man who has trusted me with the placing before the world his greatest production - than which no other man has produced its equal - and over and above all this, his good name and reputation as well. It positively sickens me to think that you could suppose, or be led by anybody to suppose, that I held what you call your personality at the weight of a grain of sand less than you do yourself, or even than I do my own personality, and which is a valuable to me as yours is to you; and which is so closely identified with yours as it make it utterly impossible that I could do any thing to injure you without to a far greater degree injuring myself. You will pardon my expressing myself so strongly, but I do so with the greater freedom after saying what I said in the beginning and now repeat, that stronger language than you have used would have been justified, and in fact, I could not have presumed to question or answer your criticisms were there slightest ground for making them; and thus I pass from the subject only thanking you for your moderation considering the supposed grounds from your observations, and I will at once proceed to tell you as fully as I can the true facts of the case. ### I have from the first had the one thought actuating me, to keep this Phonograph up to the high plane which it deserves as at once a masterpiece of Scientific accomplishment and an instrument of unequalled practical utility. I have over and over again refused large sums of money for the exhibittin rights of the Phonograph for so-called ‘entertainment purposes’,. Not withstanding that it might have put large sums of money into my pocket far beyond the large expenses which I have cheerfully incurred and of which also I have made no complaint to you, they have always been refused by me. To be more specific upon this point. I was offered $5,000 for one Phonograph with my duplicate copy of Gladstone’s message to you, for the purpose of making an exhibition of it, and it only, throughout the country at sixpence admission. I refused it. Is this consistent with the policy and action which have been attributed to me by your kind informant? Then, less than a week ago, I refused in Paris 100,000 francs, or 20,000 dollars, for one Phonograph to be used exclusively in France for the purpose of amusement of his admirers in France, but which would have gone no to hear Boulanger’s voice so much as to hear and see the Phonograph. This offer I refused for reasons which concerned you personally, and in a manner on which no personal considerations on my part could possibly have entered, viz:- that had the first use of the Phonograph in France been used to circulate the speeches of a man who is trying to upset the Government of France, the Authorities would have been so prejudiced against you as that you must certainly have failed to get from your magnificent exhibit, honors, which otherwise will be conferred, and which I feel certain will be the highest that any one will receive. Was this disregarding your personality ? Was this ‘thinking only of myself and my pocket’? Is anything more needed, and could anything more be stated to show the absurdity of such a proposition? I am fortunately in possession of written evidence concerning this aspect of my policy in the shape of written proposals for the acquisition of the exhibition rights of the Phonograph. I can send you specimens of ([....]) when I look up my files for them. Theatrical Managers, and show-men generally, to the number of more than a score have piled me with proposals, offering me all sorts of sums $100 to $1,000.### Then you first telegraphed me that Edmunds sailed, and that he intended bringing the Graphophone before the Scientific Societies, as I advised you at the time before I went to bed that night a curteous letter embodying the offer of the Phonograph for that purpose to be presented either by a member of the ensuing season. I myself as you have been informed presented the subject in person where, and only where, I was especially desired to do so. Nearly 100 invitations subsequently reached me, asking me as a professional matter to lecture on the Phonograph before Scientific and Literary Societies, Lecturing, however, being neither my business nor my inclination, and feeling that these Societies should be gratified in the interests of the Phonograph and its author, I, after great care, finally settled upon a gentleman as Lecturer, an M.A. of the University of Oxford, Professor E. Douglas Archibald, who had for many years occupied a chair in the Government Educational Department of India at a salary of $1,500. He is a gentleman of manners and appearance, and I paid a large salary and expenses for several months and finally give him the use of the Phonograph with an expert of Hamilton’s education and selection to accompany him and be responsible for the condition and operation of the Phonograph. That arrangement has resulted in lectures having been delivered before nearly all the Public Schools, and very numerous Scientific and Literary Societies in all parts of the country. In all, I think over 100 lectures have already been delivered in this way. During the Christmas Holidays the Phonograph was lent to Hospital and Charitable Institutions for the benefit of their charities, only the lecturers fee and expenses of attendants being deducted from the receipts. In a word I was not aware of any instance in which the Phonograph has been set up, as your informant implies, as a “Punch and Judy Show. In all these exhibitions and lectures the press comments have been uniformly all that could be desired with the single exception of the ‘New York Herald’ which was truly unjustifiable, and for which the Editor apologised by saying that it had escaped his notice or it would not have been published. All this time the London Stereoscopic Company were advertising broadcast ‘Edison’s Phonogaph’ in the most sensational way in the city, the West End, and worst of all at the Westminister Aquarium- a veritable English Barnum show - where for a sixpence the Phonograph of 1877 was whistling and screeching in a chorous of monkeys, and in the company of swimmers, Boxers, and Circus performers generally. I have to-day paid an advertising bill of $134-4-7, a great portion of which was spent in cautioning the public against mistaking the Phonograph advertised, 29109, 1877, with the Phonograph of to-day, in which interest is so universal. I was hearing adverse comments on every hand, prejudicial to yourself and the Phonograph, resulting from the disappointment which people experienced in going to see this widely advertised ‘singing, whistling and talking machine’ at 3d admission. I could do nothing more than caution the public as I did, plus having the Phonograph, as it now is, shown as widely and as constantly as possible under the dignified circumstances of explanations by Scientific men with diagrams illustrative of its principals and practical applications to be used in the day-time, and lantern illustrations by lime-light at night. Although something is said at the beginning regarding the laws of Acoustics and the Scientific features of the apparatus, its practical utility and commercial uses are made the chief subject’s of the Speaker, and I am perfectly certain that no man or woman have heard any of these lectures without being impressed with that aspect of it above all others. Its musical side of course is of great interest Scientifically, and cannot help at the same time being amusing, but the cock-growing and whistling are made the least prominent features of the whole.. Besides the London Stereoscopic Company there is, and has bee, going over all the country a company of Bell-ringers, who advertise an exhibition of ‘ Edison’s Phonograph’, ringing in the change chiefly on singing and whistling. I cannot prevent them because anybody who is in possession of an old Phonograph is perfectly free to do with it what he likes. It is Edison’s Phonograph, and I cannot enjoin them against so calling it. I have written them cautioning them against deception, and have also written to the local papers of the districts where they were advertised to exhibit, pointing out that this was no Edison’s latest Phonograph. The latest advertisement by this same Bell-ringers was styled ‘Edison’s Improved Phonograph’, of course they were at once threatened with legal proceedings unles they withdraw it, and they have now done so. Now you will see from all this that zinc has not been a bed of roses, and I hope you will have the fairness to see, and the justice to acknowledge that you have been mistaken in your conclusions. ### I will now conclude by saying that when the time comes that I so change my nature as to be capable of conducting either myself or my business other than as a gentleman and only as a mountebank, or when I can forget what is due to you in every particular under the important and responsible relation between us, you will be justified in your observations and be entitled to seek remedies which will be always open to you; but should any such occasion again arise - as I sincerely trust may not be the case - before being influenced by others and forming conclusions upon one side only, you will do me the favor and the justice of asking from me any explanations you may desire, and you may rely upon my readiness to inform you, and to take equally the responsibility and consequences of my acts, which you would be the last man to doubt or question under any other circumstances."





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Thomas A. Edison Papers, School of Arts and Sciences, Rutgers University
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