Miller Reese Hutchison

Miller Reese Hutchison

Montrose, Baldwin County, Alabama, USA
Death 16 Feb 1944 (aged 67)
New York County (Manhattan), New York, USA
Burial Unknown
Memorial ID 125039936 · View Source
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American Inventor, assistant and chief engineer of Thomas Edison (1909-1918).

He invented the first electrical hearing aid, the first hearing aid, called the Acousticon. Among other inventions was the first vehicle warning horn, called the Klaxon horn, which fell out of favor with public vehicles but was used by the military.
"The iconic 'ah-oo-gah' noise of the Klaxon horn was created by Miller Reese Hutchison...(who)said at the time that car horns were too melodic, and he felt the sound should be more annoying in order to warn people...." ("Odd Travels" by Kelly Kazek,, Mobile Press-Register, Sept. 7, 2014, p.24).

Born in Montrose, Alabama, on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay, he moved with his parents to Mobile soon after 1880 and they lived at 908 Government Street for several years until about 1892. 908 Government was one of the city's more prestigious addresses, the Roberts-Pillans mansion, which the Hutchisons rented from Dr. Edmund Pendleton Gaines and wife Sarah Jane Toulmin Gaines, and later the home of Mobile mayor Harry Pillans, a nephew of the home's builder. Hutchison's earliest inventions were made at 908 Government (Gulfport Daily Herald, April 14, 1915, p.4). Reportedly moved by the deafness of a boyhood friend, Lyman N. Gould (1872/4-1937), Reece Hutchison developed the Acousticon after several trips to the nearby Alabama Medical College to study the anatomy of the human ear.

Dr. Miller Reese Hutchison was educated in "the private schools of Mobile, Ala., from 1883-1889" and at Marion Military Institute, Marion, Ala., (1889-'91), Spring Hill (Ala.) College, (1891-'92), the University Military Institute (Mobile) (1892-'95), finally completing his collegiate studies at the Alabama Polytechnic Institute, now Auburn University (1895-'97). He took out his first patent at age 16 (1892). He later became Engineering Advisor to Thomas A. Edison.

“While a student, Hutchison hoped to benefit a friend who was deaf and mute. He developed the electrical hearing aid (which he called the “Akouphone”) after much research, including a time of study at the Alabama Medical College. He obtained a patent for the device in 1895. He succeeded in improving the man’s hearing, but never succeeded in interesting him in mastering speech. He continued to improve the device, patenting the “Akoulophon” in 1898, which was sold by the Akouphone Company of Alabama for $400. The more portable version known as the “Acousticon”, patented in 1902, found the greatest success and garnered worldwide attention. Hutchison was brought on board the Victoria and Albert in the North Sea to personally fit a hearing aid to Queen Alexandria, consort of Edward VII of England. For his successful service, which was reported to have restored her hearing to within 90% of normal, he was given a royal medal, a portrait of the Queen in a jewel-encrusted frame, and a generous stipend.”

Hutchison left Edison Labs to establish Miller Reese Hutchison, Inc., on January 1, 1917, taking with him the sales rights for the Edison Storage Battery.

Miller Reese Hutchison and his first wife were living apart by 1930 (ref., 1930 and 1940 censuses). According to a family tree online, he married Mary Stilwell Edison. Fragmentary evidence and obscure references indicate he either married or became close with a daughter of Thomas Edison and Edison's first wife Mary Stilwell Edison which may have caused friction. It's possible she was disinherited by her father.

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  • Created by: Ray Isbell
  • Added: 11 Feb 2014
  • Find a Grave Memorial 125039936
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Miller Reese Hutchison (6 Aug 1876–16 Feb 1944), Find a Grave Memorial no. 125039936, ; Maintained by Ray Isbell (contributor 47188697) Unknown.