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Antique Phonograph News
Canadian Antique Phonograph Society


Jan-Feb 2013

Jan-Feb Mar-Apr May-Jun Jul-Aug Sep-Oct Nov-Dec
Emile Berliner, Maker of the Microphone
by Mark Caruana

I was recently able to purchase a very special copy of the book Emile Berliner, Maker of the Microphone, which luckily went unnoticed by other collectors. This 353 page hardcover book by Frederic Wile (1873-1941) published by The Bobbs-Merrill Company of Indianapolis in 1926, chronicles the life of Emile Berliner, who we are all familiar with as the inventor of the flat disc record.

As many also know, Berliner got his start with the invention of a microphone which he was able to patent at a very critical time when Alexander Graham Bell was desperately looking for such a device to complete his newly invented telephone. Up to this point Bell was unable to circumvent Thomas Edisonís patent for a microphone, making it difficult for Bell to manufacture a viable telephone. Emile sold his patent to Bell for $50 000, which he then used to develop the gramophone.




I already have a cherished copy of the same book which is inscribed by Emile Berliner and dated October 19, 1926. Having actively searched for similar items for many years, I have found that it is rare that an item signed by Berliner comes up for sale and, as such, examples of his handwriting are rarely seen. When I came across the listing for this book, I noticed it had been inscribed "To Hannah from her loving father, Washington DC, October 18, 1926".

At first I didnít give it much thought but then much later it dawned on me that this could be a Berliner family copy of the book and that I should compare the writing with the inscription in my signed copy. To my surprise the handwriting was virtually the same, especially the "DC" and the date, and so I immediately searched for the Berliner family tree to see if Emile had a daughter named Hannah. To my delight I found a family tree which confirmed that Emile did in fact have a daughter named Hannah.



I was fortunate enough to win the book and when it arrived I was even more delighted to find an original photo of Emile Berliner inside with typed text attached. I believe that the photo was inserted in the book by Hannah while Emile was alive, as the text uses phrases such as "whose latest invention" and "is the inventor". Inside was also the front portion of the dust cover, which rarely survived. I consider myself very lucky to obtain such a unique copy of Maker of the Microphone, as it is certainly one of the highlights of my collection.