Did Thomas Edison Have Any Failed Inventions?

In 1890, Thomas Edison released a talking doll that many people found frightening; it was a commercial flop.
In 1890, Thomas Edison released a talking doll that many people found frightening; it was a commercial flop.

Even an inventor as successful as Thomas Edison had a few failures along the way. Despite inventing seemingly everything from the light bulb to the movie camera, the "Wizard of Menlo Park" came up with at least one item that didn't fly off the shelves. In 1890, Edison tried to market a talking two-foot-tall doll that utilized a miniature version of his phonograph player to utter popular children's verses, such as "Hickory Dickory Dock."

Though modern technology has allowed us to hear that the dolls' voices were nothing short of terrifying – female factory workers were tasked with imitating the sounds of children – the problem wasn't so much the shrieking as the prohibitively steep price: roughly $200 USD in today's money. Even Edison, who stopped making the dolls after only a month, disliked them, calling them his "little monsters."

Of course, if you could find one of the 500 dolls that sold back in Edison's day, you'd have your hands on a collector's dream, one of which sold for $25,100 in 2012.

Discussing dolls:

  • Back in 1952, the first toy advertised on TV was a doll: Mr. Potato Head.

  • The most expensive doll in the world is L'Oiseleur (The Bird Trainer), a Swiss doll valued at $6.25 million.

  • According to estimates, a Barbie doll is sold somewhere in the world every three seconds.

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    • In 1890, Thomas Edison released a talking doll that many people found frightening; it was a commercial flop.
      In 1890, Thomas Edison released a talking doll that many people found frightening; it was a commercial flop.