In 1880, Alexander Graham Bell decided to go head-to-head with Thomas Edison. His goal: improving—and commercializing—the phonograph. Bell established the Volta Laboratory in Washington, D.C., using prize money he’d received from the French government for his invention of the telephone. He hired his cousin, chemist Chichester Bell, and instrument maker Charles Sumner Tainter. Collectively known as the Volta Laboratory Associates, the three men spent the next five years researching the transmission and recording of sound.