Edison's Phonograph Recordings Come to Life
12 sound recordings made in the late 1800s capture voices of prominent figures, musical performances; available online
Sound recordings made on Thomas Edison's wax cylinder phonograph will, for the first-time in more than 100 years, be played for the public.
The National Park Service announced earlier this week the release of 12 records made in 1889 and 1890 in Germany, Austria, Prussia and France.
Though scratchy, the dozen recordings capture a medley of musical performances and the voices of prominent German figures Otto von Bismarck and Helmuth von Moltke.
The wax cylinder records were found in a decrepit wooden box in 1957 burrowed inside the library of Edison's laboratory.
Museum curators catalogued the finding and said the box contained 17 brown wax cylinders in "fair and poor condition" as many of the cylinders were fragmented and missing pieces, National Park Service said in a release.
With none of the cylinders labeled, however, they could not be identified until they were heard.
It wasn't until 2011 that 12 of the 17 cylinders were able to be digitized, played and finally identified. The recordings were converted into broadcast WAV files using a cylinder playback machine called the Archeophone.
Historians Stephan Puille and Patrick Feaster worked to identify the sounds.
According to the National Park Service, Edison's recording engineer, Theo Wangemann, made the records and is often credited as the world's first professional recording engineer. Others say he may have opened the doors for America's musical recording industry when, under Edison's instruction, he worked to apply the wax cylinder phonograph to music and oversaw the first production of pre-recorded cylinders at the Edison laboratory in West Orange.
The recordings can be heard online. To listen, click here.
On Saturday one of the historians who worked to identify the recordings, Patrick Feaster, will give an hour-long presentation about the findings. The presentation will take place at Thomas Edison National Historical Park on 211 Main Street in West Orange. For more information call (973) 736-0550 ext. 11 or visit www.nps.gov/edis.