At the time this article appeared, the development of practical television apparatus was still decades away, but that didn't stop a few people from experimenting with the idea. Most of this article covered the slow process being made by legitimate experimenters, who were investigating ideas such as using selenium and spiral scanning to transmit visual signals over telephone lines. This extract is the portion of the original article which covered two other workers, who claimed they had made miraculous progress, and had in fact already developed working systems, although there is no evidence that either of their systems ever actually worked.
One thing mentioned in this extract that really did exist was the "theatrephone", which was a subscription audio service in Paris, similar to the Telefon Hirmondó of Budapest and the Electrophone of London, and which transmitted operas from local theaters over phone lines. However, it most certainly could not also transmit images.
Electrician and Mechanic, August, 1906, pages 54-56 (extract):
Seeing By Electricity
Dr. Sylvestre, an American in Paris, claimed to have discovered how to see by telephone, and thus described his invention:
"There is no reason why, as soon as telephonic cables are established between Paris and New York, we should not see our friends there as easily as I see you. I have already seen the Marseilles telephone exchange from this room by means of my apparatus, and I chatted by telephone with the French postmaster general, watched his astonishment and described his appearance, his clothes, his office, as we talked.
Dr. Sylvestre showed a small circular mirror with a hole in the centre into which is screwed a tiny electric light of 1.10 candle-power. This is fixed to a telephone's microphonic plate by an india-rubber band, a pencil-like instrument connecting the current with the apparatus. Two acids are allowed to mix, drop by drop, in a torpedo-like machine about three inches long. This process throws what Dr. Sylvestre terms a phosphorescent flame on the looking-glass connected with the poles and pencil, and a sheet of any white semi-transparent tissue placed before the glass shows the room in which the other person is telephoning, no matter how many miles away that person may be.
"I cannot work my apparatus for you yet, because I am in treaty with the French Post Office people, and the method is so simple that if I showed it to you, you could go away and make an apparatus just like it. I may as well confess I do not altogether understand my own invention. I discovered it quite by accident, although it acts quite perfectly and shows colors of all kinds with absolute faithfulness and very vividly. I am not scientist enough to explain how or why it acts exactly as it does. Six weeks ago I was in my laboratory, enamelling some teeth, and was sitting over a big stove. There was no light in the room excepting what the stove gave. The walls of my laboratory are white. My job was a long and wearisome one, and as we have a 'theatrephone' at my flat I had myself connected with the opera and was listening to Griseldi's while I waited for the enamel to melt. Suddenly I noticed colors and figures on the wall in front of me. I put down the theatrephone. They disappeared. I took it up again; and again I saw the figures, and this time much more distinctly. Then I both heard and watched the whole act of the opera sitting in my chair before that stove. The spectograph was invented. I had found out how to see by telephone. For a fortnight I worked over my invention day and night. Then, on the twenty-first of last month, my apparatus being perfected, I wrote the postmaster-general, and asked him to receive me. I have seen him several times. I am now in treaty with the French Government for a 'cession' of my invention, for which I want $5,000,000. I have tried the apparatus several times since under all sorts of circumstances, and it has never failed me. Space is annihilated by the spectograph, and the thing itself is so absurdly simple that the apparatus will only cost about $3.75. My invention practically does away with telegrams. Put a written communication in front of the looking-glass at the London end of the wire and your correspondent in Paris will see it quite distinctly at his end. As soon as my contract with the French Government for $5,000,000 is signed I mean to give an immense show in the Galerie des Jardin, Champs de Mars, to all who care to come. There on an enormous sheet I will show what my apparatus can do."
Professor John E. Andrews of New York claims that twenty years ago he invented and applied for a patent on an invention which embraced seeing by wire, which Professor Sylvestre announced that he had achieved. Mr. Andrews called his invention the telectroscope. Some of the things that he said it would enable a man to do all at once were:
See the man at the other end of the telephone.
Make a phonograph record of all that is said.
Enable one to see what is doing on the planets.
Professor Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, speaking of these alleged discoveries of a process that enabled one to see by telephone, said:
"Seeing by telephone or by telegraph may be within the range of the possible. I say that because nothing is impossible until it has been demonstrated so to be. Seeing by either of these instrumentalities, however, is, as I look upon it, so far removed from the field of probability that I should treat any report of this character as an absurdity."