Remember those old record players like the one Edison famously recorded Mary Had a Little Lamb onto? This is like that, except not as old. It’s a Voicewriter Ediphone from the Thomas A. Edison company. It was used in office dictation. The operator would press a button to turn it on, and then speak into the horn. Her voice would cause the needle to vibrate, which would carve a groove into the rotating wax cylinder. You could flip a switch to throw it into playback mode, and then play your message back by holding the horn up to your ear.
It’s actually pretty recent, as these things go. I believe it was probably manufactured in the early to mid 1940s.
Amazingly, this thing still works. There’s a belt that allows the motor to drive the cylinder, which has stretched over the years. I need to cut about half an inch out of it and glue it back together, and this puppy will work *beautifully*. Damn me and my laziness. The wax cylinders I have are pretty badly damaged though. One has bubbled pretty bad after being heated at some point, and the other is full of gouges and cracks. I’d like to get my hands on some more. I’ll be sad if I can’t make my own Mary Had a Little Lamb recording.