George E. Tewksbury, 1858-1900

Nickel-in-the-Slot Phonograph Pioneer

George Elliot Tewksbury was born on the 15th March, 1858, in Manchester, Hillsborough County in New Hampshire. His father was Elliot Green Tewksbury (1823-1877) and his mother was Submit Roberts Scott Tewksbury (1832-1899). George Elliot was the oldest of five children. Siblings: Mary Olivia (1859*-1932), Lewis Green (1864-1910), Lippie Scott (1873-1875), and Emily Elisabeth (1876-1897). On the 26th September, 1882, George E. Tewksbury was married in Manchester to his first wife Sarah Fannie Briggs (23rd October, 1855 26th October, 1891), and they had one daughter Roxanne (1st October, 1891 6th January, 1892) named after Sarahˈs mother. In the early 1870s George E. and Sarah F. lived in Topeka, Kansas, and George E. was a land agent at the Land Department of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad Co., involved in the platting of lots in small towns along the railroad. In 1883 George E. Tewksbury was responsible for the publication of an illustrated booklet to encourage settlement entitled "The Kansas Picture Book" printed in Topeka, and this was followed by a publication, a sketch, entitled "The New King of Kansas" in 1884. At the time George E. Tewksbury was already involved in real estate investments with another official of the railroad company, Simon Sylvanus Ott, and even today part of South West Topeka around Western Avenue is named The Ott Tewksbury Subdivision, originally known as the Ott & Tewksbury Addition.


On the 10th November, 1888, George E. Tewksbury and Simon S. Ott, partners in the real estate and investment company Ott & Tewksbury, and other investors established The Kansas Phonograph Co. on 111 West Ninth Street in Topeka, to purchase, sell and lease phonographs and graphophones covered by patents controlled by the North American Phonograph Co., in the state of Kansas and the territory of New Mexico. On the 8th September, 1891, the company advertized the lease of Edison nickel-in-the-slot phonographs. On the 30th November, 1892, George E. Tewksbury filed his own patent [US 523,566] for a ˈcoin-operated mechanism for phonographsˈ, and the company opened a phonograph branch office in Newark on the 14th January, 1894, later known as the United States Phonograph Co.. In 1897 George E. Tewksbury published an illustrated booklet entitled "A Complete Manual of the Edison Phonograph" with introduction by Thomas Alva Edison.


On the 17th September, 1898, George E. Tewksbury was married in Newark to his second wife Charlotte Nellie Ball (2nd December, 1874 − 1961), and they had a daughter Emily Elisabeth (Ann*) (29th May, 1899 11th January, 1992) named after George Elliotˈs sister. She became a known soprano soloist in the 1920s after attending the Centenniary Collegiate Institute at Packardstown (Paterson).


George Elliot Tewksbury died of illness, paresis, on the 8th September, 1900, only 42 years of age, in Paterson, Passaic County in New Jersey, and in the following years there were court cases between the banker Simon S. Ott (1845-1923), the only surviving business partner and executor of the Topeka based real estate company, and the widow Charlotte N. Tewksbury*, and Lewis Green T. (1864-1918) and Mary Olivia T. Clarke (1859*-1932) of the Tewksbury family in Kansas, concerning the will and considerable assets of the deceased George Elliot Tewksbury.


The grave of George Elliot Tewksbury can be found at the Pine Grove Cemetery (Family Monument), Brown Avenue, Manchester, Hillsborough County in New Hampshire, and the grave of his business partner Simon Sylvanus Ott can be found at the Historic Topeka Cemetery (Section 71, Lot 56-12), South East 10th Avenue, Topeka, Shawnee County in Kansas. Unfortunately, the editor has not yet found a photographic portrait of the coin-op phonograph pioneer George E. Tewksbury, but portraits of the business partner Simon S. Ott and his wife Julia A. Dannenfelser Ott have been found in the book "Offerle History 1876-1976" by Julie Riisoe Ackerman.

Gert J. Almind

* Ann (Emily Elisabeth) Tewksbury was married on the 7th March, 1932, to Roderick George Heard in New York City, but a divorce suit was filed in Reno (NV) on the 26th August, 1934. She lived with her mother in New York City in 1940.


* Charlotte N. Tewksbury was married on the 13th March, 1920, to Robert M. Nelson in New York City.


* Year 1858 on grave marker, but the year 1859 can be found in family ancestry records published 1902 by George Kuhn Clarke.