Experimental Sound Recording, Wax Disc on Binder’s Board


This is an experimental sound recording made in the Volta Laboratory, Washington, D.C., on 15 April 1885. It is a recording of Alexander Graham Bell’s voice.

In a ring around the center, it is inscribed in the wax: “Record made April 15 1885/AGB and C.A.B. [Chichester A. Bell]/to test reproduction of numbers./ Disk A. G. B. No. 1.” A paper document, probably in Alexander Graham Bell’s handwriting, with a transcription of the recording is 287881.02

Sound was recovered from this recording in 2012. Transcript of recording (4:35 minutes):

“[unintelligible] nineteen, twenty, twenty one, twenty two, twenty three, twenty four, twenty five, twenty six, twenty seven, twenty eight, twenty nine, thirty, thirty one, thirty two, thirty three, thirty four, thirty five, thirty six, thirty seven, thirty eight, thirty nine, forty, forty one, forty two, forty three, forty four, forty five, forty six, forty seven, forty eight, forty nine, fifty

ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, sixty, seventy, eighty, ninety, one hundred

“one hundred, two hundred, three hundred, four hundred, five hundred, six hundred, seven hundred, eight hundred, nine hundred, one thousand

“one thousand, two thousand, three thousand, four thousand, five thousand, six thousand, seven thousand, eight thousand, nine thousand, ten thousand

“ten thousand, twenty thousand, thirty thousand, forty thousand, fifty thousand, sixty thousand, seventy thousand, eighty thousand, ninety thousand, one hundred thousand

“one hundred thousand, two hundred thousand, three hundred thousand, four hundred thousand, five hundred thousand, six hundred thousand, seven hundred thousand, eight hundred thousand, nine hundred thousand, one million

“three thousand five hundred and seventy one / one hundred and twenty three thousand nine hundred and forty one/ one hundred and twenty five thousand eight hundred and seventy three

“one million nine hundred and forty five thousand eight hundred and seventy six / thirty-five thousand nine hundred / thirty three thousand eight hundred and seventy eight

“forty eight thousand seven hundred and fifteen/ seven hundred and ninety thousand [no?] hundred and forty two / four million five hundred and thirty thousand eight hundred and seventy

“forty five dollars and a half / eighty nine dollars and seventy three cents / four thousand [no?] hundred and twenty nine dollars and forty-six cents

“thirty five cents / twenty five cents / thirty cents / fifty cents

“half a dollar [a? seems to be missing] quarter dollar

“three dollars and a half / five dollars and a quarter / seven dollars and twenty nine cents

“ten dollars and a half / three thousand seven hundred and eighty five dollars and fifty six cents

“This record has been made by Alexander Graham Bell

in the presence of Dr. Chichester A. Bell ----

on the 15th of April, eighteen hundred and eighty five at the Volta Laboratory

Twelve hundred and twenty one Connecticut Avenue, Washington [D.C. ?]

In witness whereof --- hear my voice Alexander Graham Bell”


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.

Date Made: 1885-04-15

Maker: Volta Laboratory Associates

Location: Currently not on view

Place Made: United States: District of Columbia, Washington

See more items in: Work and Industry: Mechanisms, Communications, Computers & Business Machines, Hear My Voice


Exhibition Location:

Credit Line: Gift of Alexander Graham Bell

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: ME.287881.01Accession Number: 58498Catalog Number: 287881.01

Object Name: sound recording

Physical Description: wax; binderboard (overall material)disc (overall shape)Measurements: overall: 1/8 in x 9 1/2 in; .3175 cm x 24.13 cm

Guid: http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ng49ca746a6-a854-704b-e053-15f76fa0b4fa

Record Id: nmah_852821

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