Volta Laboratory Experimental Sound Recording, Green Wax on Brass Disc

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This is an experimental sound recording made in the Volta Laboratory, Washington, D.C., about 1884. The wax, poured into a brass holder, has been dyed a bright green.
Sound was recovered from this recording in 2011.
Content summary: Hamlet’s soliloquy
Content transcript (17 seconds):
“To be, or not to be: that is the question. Whether it is nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them? To die, to sleep…”
Patrick Feaster, “A Discography of Volta Laboratory Recordings at the National Museum of American History”
Leslie J. Newville, “Development of the Phonograph at Alexander Graham Bell's Volta Laboratory,” in Contributions from the Museum of History and Technology, United States National Museum Bulletin 218, Paper 5 (1959): 69-79.
Steven E. Schoenherr, “Charles Sumner Tainter and the Graphophone,”
Wile, Raymond R. "The Development of Sound Recording at the Volta Laboratory," Association for Recorded Sound Collections Journal 21, No. 2, 1990, pp. 208-225.
Currently not on view
Physical Description
brass (overall material)
wax (overall material)
overall: 1/4 in x 10 7/8 in; .635 cm x 27.6225 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Dr. Alexander Graham Bell
See more items in
Work and Industry: Mechanisms
Hear My Voice
Computers & Business Machines
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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