Thaddeus Cahill

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Thaddeus Cahill
Thaddeus Cahill.jpeg
Thaddeus Cahill

June 18, 1867
DiedApril 12, 1934(1934-04-12) (aged 66)

Thaddeus Cahill (June 18, 1867 – April 12, 1934) was a prominent inventor of the early 20th century. He is widely credited with the invention of the first electromechanical musical instrument, which he dubbed the telharmonium.

He studied the physics of music at Oberlin Conservatory in Oberlin, Ohio. After working as a clerk for Congress in Washington D.C. to pay for his college studies, he graduated from the Columbian (now George Washington University) Law School in 1889. He became convinced that music could be made with electricity (and also worked on an electric typewriter). He showed his first teleharmonium to Lord Kelvin in 1902. That year he established a laboratory at Holyoke, where he was joined by his brother, Arthur T. Cahill.[1]

Telharmonium console, 1897.

Cahill had tremendous ambitions for his invention; he wanted telharmonium music to be broadcast into hotels, restaurants, theaters, and even houses via the telephone line.[2] At a starting weight of 7 tons (and up to 200 tons) and a price tag of $200,000 (approx. $5,514,000 today), only three telharmoniums were ever built, and Cahill's great vision was never fully implemented. His idea proved to be fruitful, nearly a century later, with the advent of streaming media.


  1. ^ "Electrical World (McGraw-Hill)". 47 (13). 1906: 656. Retrieved 26 September 2011. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  2. ^ Holmes, Thomas B.; Thom Holmes (2002). Electronic and experimental music: pioneers in technology and composition. Psychology Press. pp. 42–49. ISBN 0-415-93644-6.


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