Thaddeus Cahill

Thaddeus Cahill
Born Thaddeus Cahill
18 June 1867
Iowa, USA
Died April 12, 1934(1934-04-12) (aged 66)
New York City, USA
Occupation Inventor

Thaddeus Cahill (18 June 1867 – 12 April 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): 656. 1906 Retrieved 26 September 2011. Missing or empty |title= (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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