[LB029076], Letter from Thomas Alva Edison to George Edward Gouraud, April 12th, 1889


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[LB029076], Letter from Thomas Alva Edison to George Edward Gouraud, April 12th, 1889

Editor's Notes

"The proposition which you make in your letter of 26th ult., in regard to the exhibition of the phonograph in Paris has marked a period beyond which I cannot go without expressing to you very fully the impression which you have made upon my mind, and upon the mind of the public at large, by the course you have pursued and are continuing in your business relations with myself. Had I yielded to my inclinations I would long ago have made this matter the subject of a communication to you, but the hope that you would eventually realize the impropriety of your methods and correct them without interference on my part has caused me to refrain hitherto from discussing the question personally. This letter is the evidence of my disappointment. I feel that in justice to myself and my interests I can no longer maintain a passive resistance- for while I have not before commented very freely upon your actions I have said enough to convey to you something more than a suggestion of my real opinion. ### That my opinion is well founded and my judgment sound is proven very clearly by the results which your policy has brought forth. From every quarter, directly and indirectly, by letter and personally from travelers returned from Europe, are borne to me expressions of popular opinion as to the way the phonograph is handled in Europe, and all alike condemn a system which takes the instrument out of the realm of commerce to make it an adjunct to an advertising scheme which has but one equal in contemporary history – a reference which my cablegram of 8th instant will make quite clear. ### From a purely business standpoint, and apart entirely from any personal feeling which I may have, your policy is acceptable of the gravest criticism. I am perfectly familiar with and appreciative of the beneficial results to be derived from advertising but there is a limit to this as to everything else – a time when it is well to drop the sensational and deal with the practical side of business, and this period you reached and passed long ago, and the public which, for a while, listened respectfully to all that was to be said about the phonograph, is assuming now a very different attitude – an attitude expressive more of amusement as to personal motives than of interest in a practical and scientific novelty. ### Under cover of existing public interest in the phonograph you have adopted a plan which retards the progress of real business and keeps the instrument before people as a curiosity with which they may make themselves familiar for a slight consideration, and so long as this preliminary system continues to pay, it appears to be your intention to sustain it. Nothing of the kind was contemplated by me when I consented to your handling the business. I believed that you would pursue genuine business methods and never dreamed that you would side-track the whole enterprise for the purpose of gaining time to indulge in a series of picayune sideshows which do far more harm to your real interests than can ever be compensated for by the temporary gain which they ensure. ### I do not now refer to any one particular effort which you have made – some of your plans have been excellent, others just the opposite – and it is the latter which result in rendering [unclear] all of your better and higher endeavors and produce a general effect that savors too much of the style of enterprise peculiar to a certain class of phrenologists and ventriloquists. You have simply let your desire to make quick money run away with your better judgment. ### Your proposition in regard to the Paris Exposition is a step too far. It cannot be that you are so blind to all sense of propriety as to be unable to see the position in which I would be placed were you to have carried out your intention in this connection, but you were evidently quite prepared to sacrifice me so long as an opportunity was afforded you of making a little money. Your suggestion is capable of no other explanation, and it is of just much inconsiderable action in your relations with me that I complain. ###I simply wish to say in conclusion that when I gave you permission to use my name in Europe, in connection with the introduction of the phonograph, the permission was bounded by limits of reason and propriety and conveyed no license to take undue or uncalled for liberties with it. My associates acting in my name must understand that my personality is a factor demanding respect and consideration and that there are no bonds of any nature whatever at strong enough to bind me to a business relationship from which these elements have been eliminated." Yours truly, [signed] TAE




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