Many of us have encountered and played with speaking tubes on a playground. What if you could do the same thing but while comfortably seated in a large, library-esque chair? Such was the invention of John Harrison Curtis.
Image via The Philosophy of Sound and Musical Composition by William Mullinger Higgins
Mr. Curtis's Acoustic Chair, which appeared around 1830, was originally intended to benefit those suffering from incurable deafness. It took on a second, more fun use when Curtis realized that with some tweaks, individuals in separate rooms could communicate with the person sitting in the chair. And while the chair was only designed for hearing, Curtis acknowledged that two-way communication from the chair would be possible with additional equipment.
In the excerpts below from John Limbird's The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction, Curtis describes the setup and potential applications of his invention.
“My Acoustic Chair is so constructed, that, by means of additional tubes, &c., the person seated in it may hear distinctly, while sitting perfectly at ease, whatever transpires in any apartment from which the pipes are carried to the chair; being an improved application of the principles of the speaking pipes now in general use. This invention is further valuable, and superior to all other similar contrivances, as it requires no trouble or skill in the use of it; and is so perfectly simple in its application that a child may employ it with as much facility, and as effectually as an adult. It is, moreover, a very comfortable and elegant piece of furniture."
“By means of sufficient tubes, this chair might be made to convey intelligence from St. James's to the Houses of Lords and Commons, and even from London to the King at Windsor."
"In the Engraving, on the near side of the chair, is seen the barrel for sound, with the conductor attached; and beneath the chair is the tunnel for the conveyance of the sound. Within the chair is seen the tube to be applied to the ear. This chair is only adapted for hearing; to complete the design, and convey sound from it to a distance, requires another conductor and a mouthpiece."
Head over to Two Nerdy History Girls for more information.
Feature image via The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction.