Corrections and Elucidations


The Earlier Earliest Bell Recording

This week, there has been a lot of publicity about the first recording of Alexander Graham Bell’s voice, an 1885 disk, finally being heard thanks to the latest technology. But there was an earlier recording, and it was heard in 1937.

The headline of the story in the October 28 issue of The New York Times that year was “Original Wax Voice Record, Made by Bell, Is Heard at Smithsonian After 56 Years.” The recording was a quotation from Shakespeare: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamed of in your philosophy.” It concluded, “I am a graphophone, and my mother was a phonograph.”

Bell’s co-inventor, Charles Sumner Tainter, requested that the Smithsonian remove the record from its vault and play it during his lifetime. Two of Bell’s daughters were present when it was played.

According to The Times, one of them, Mrs. David Fairchild of Coconut Grove, FL, did not recognize the voice as that of her father, but “It’s the sort of thing he would have said.” “He was fond of quoting Shakespeare and he would have liked the little joke about the gramophone that came at the end.”