The Edison Talking Doll, patented in 1877 and produced in 1890, creeps the hell out of me, and yet thrills me so.
Edison was later quoted as admitting that “the voices of the little monsters were exceedingly unpleasant to hear.” Judge for yourself from this recording at archive.org:
February of 1891: “One of Edison’s talking dolls has reached Winnipeg (Canada.) It is at Miss Maycock’s store and is inspected daily by a large number of people. It is a very good evidence of the uses to which the phonograph can be applied, but as a conversationalist or an elocutionist, the doll cannot be pronounced a success. The piece which the manufacturer has arranged for the lifeless talker to say is that familiar old nursery rhyme, ‘Jack and Jill.’ When the crank is applied to the mechanism and turned, the sound is emitted from a perforated plate on the breast of the doll. At first it is hard to distinguish any words, but by listening attentively and following the rhyme from the start, every word can be heard although not distinctly. As a novelty it is interesting.”
Thanks to davidbuckley.net for the info and picture.