[D8959ADP], Letter from Alfred Ord Tate to Samuel Insull, September 6th, 1889


View document with UniversalViewer   → View document on Archive.org  → Re-use this digital object via a IIIF manifest


[D8959ADP], Letter from Alfred Ord Tate to Samuel Insull, September 6th, 1889

Editor's Notes

Your telegram in regard to you and having captured Edison and my having assisted the former did not surprise me for there is no doubt whatever in my mind as to the source from whence this story sprang.##When Moriarity first came over here to negotiate with Gouraud he had a first class case and, had he been a capable man, could have presented a strong front without resorting to questionable methods. His first act was to unload himself of a pack of lies which were to palpably false that Gouraud at once because suspicious - Moriarity kept right on piling up his absurd statements, and later on was ably seconded by young Seligman. I could fill a book with these fairy-tales- Here are a few of them:- They said that their syndicate owned a new graphone entirely different from the one in use in the U.S. and far superior to the latter, which the American graphone people did not use as they had no right to it; that they could market it for $20; that it was so far superior to the phonograph they would not use the phonograph in Europe even if they bought the rights to it; that Lippincott told them there were five graphones in use in the U.S. to one phonograph; that Mr. Edison told Jesse Seligman he (Edison) had no confidence in the Commercial success of the phonograph &c&x ad infinitum - a lot of damned rot which was absolutely unnecessary and impressed Gouraud with the idea that their real position must have been very weak to require so much bolstering. I have never seen such a display of bad judgment. They did everything they possibly could to place Mr. Edison and myself in a position where we could render them no assistance - in fact they tried to jew both Edison and Gouraud at the same time.##When I was here alone I did my best to keep from being placed in a position where it would be necessary for me to contradict anything they said - and as you know I took the stand that as they had already established relations with Mr. Edison in New York it was unnecessary for me to interfere. In this way I assisted them. I even went further and gave Moriarity and young Seligman an opportunity of knowing that I was personally aware of the absolute falsity of some of their statements and that they were weakening their case - but it was us use - they seemed to have the idea that if they could only manufacture a sufficient number of lies, no matter how absurd, they would succeed. They actually had the gall, in a private interview with me, to try and shove these down my throat. Young Seligman forgetting I was present at the time, swore and swore again that you offered to sell the combined interests of Edison and Gouraud for $600,000.## I asked him if his father has the same understanding and he said yes. I asked him if he could not be mistaken as to the understanding of his father - and he said he was in perfect accord with him in every way. Well they bulled right ahead cutting offtheir noses and finally sat down to await Mr. Edison’s arrival.##When an interview occurred between these bright negotiators, Gouraud and Edison did think they would have sense enough to drop lying and discuss real business - not that they stood the ghost of a show of buying outright the phonograph patents - they killed that goose long before Edison got here - but because it ought to have been plain to them first: that Edison would appear before Gouraud as either a knave or a foul unless he contradicted them and second: in placing themselves in the position of having their statements questioned and disproved by Edison, they weakened themselves in Gouraud’s estimation still further.##But apparently this never occurred to them, they ploughed right along in the same old rut. If Edison had assisted them in the spirit they manifested he would have simply said ‘Here Gouraud, I’ve been lying to you right along about this phonograph business- Its no good - an absolute dead failure in the United States; we haven’t man3factured 200 phonographs; we’d better sell out for anything we can get.’##Mr. Edison ignored their lies as far as he possibly could and did everything in his power to steer them into real business. The proposition for and amalgamation on a basis of division - phonograph 60 and graphone 40- was made to them finally, and they pronounced it so absurd that it was not worth while cabling over to their principal - and there the interview ended as I cabled you at the time.##They did cable to their people however, as in a few days they informed us they could negotiate only for an outright purchase. This is where the matter stands now. Gouraud returned to London a week ago and to my knowledge nothing new has transpired since. They have failed in their undertaking and are evidently trying to make their principals believe that Mr. Edison and myself are responsible for the failure - where as it would have been a miracle had they succeeded. You can res absolutely assured that there was not one stumbling block set in their way by Mr. Edison or by me - in fact they set up so many for themselves that it would have been next to impossible for anyone else to wedge one in between.##Before Mr. Edison had any discussion with Gouraud about the phonograph business, explained fully to the former all I had done and discovered, also what my views were - and are - as to the course we should pursue.##Both yourself and Mr. Edison believe that Gouraud should go ahead and establish an Agency business. I have fear that Gouraud, for want of money to conduct such a business would injure the commercial success of the machine.##On your letter to me under date Aug. 7th you say with regard to Gouraud’s contract that it is ‘only an option contract, subject to his taking a certain number of instruments in a given time’. While this is quite true, it is very little protection to use. The provision you refer to reads this:-##Sixth ‘Should within the first year after the expiration of one year from the time when the said Edison has shipped and is able to supply for sale commercially the articles covered by this agreement xxx the royalties received by the said Edison xx amount to less than the total sum of ten thousand dollars’.##You will remember that by a cablegram, and by letter, we fixed this date, I think in May last. Gouraud has only to pay $10,000 within two years from that time. There is a point here I want to mention. Mr. Edison says that the copy of the Gouraud contract which I have, and which I got from Eaton, is not the one he signed. That the real contract provides for the sale of a certain numbers of instruments.##I have taken an order from Mr. Edison on Gouraud for the latters copy of this agreement bearing Mr. Edison’s signature. Go to London on Tuesday and will advise you if Mr. Edison is right. I fear that in any event we will find our guarantee in this respect to be of very little use for a long time.##After I had thoroughly explained everything to Mr. Edison he had a number of discussions with Gouraud and the latter is convinced that he must do something in the way of initiating an Agency business. He went to London for the purpose of commencing his preliminary work. I am going to London Tuesday to see what he is doing and will write you fully from there. He is squirming terribly about that order for a thousand machines and you won’t hear from it till I get to London. The great hold which we have on Gouraud is the obligation which he is under to have an active agent in every country within one year from the date fixed by us engaged exclusively in the sale of phonographs.##I was unable to start this letter in time for this mail. I’ll write you again as soon as I hear and see something of Gouraud’s present work. ##The Gilliland crowd passed through here a dew days ago and have been in London. I think they are still there.





Folder/Volume ID


Microfilm ID


Document ID



Thomas A. Edison Papers, School of Arts and Sciences, Rutgers University
Download CSV | JSON