Experimental Sound Recording, Disc Layers of Cardboard, Plaster and Foil


This is an experimental sound recording made in the Volta Laboratory, Washington, D.C. In a ring around the center, it is marked with the initials for Sumner Tainter, one of the Volta Laboratory Associates, and a date: “S.T. Dec. 29th 1881.” This recording was copied from an 1881 master at an unknown later date.

Sound was recovered from this recording in 2013.

Content transcript: “…[indistinct] I am a magnetical graphophone. What are you? To be, or not to be: that is the question. [trilled r sounds] How is that for high?”


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.

Date Made: ca 1885

Maker: Volta Laboratory Associates

Location: Currently not on view

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


Exhibition Location:

Credit Line: Dr. Alexander Graham Bell

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: ME.287860.02Accession Number: 58498Catalog Number: 287860.02

Object Name: sound recording

Physical Description: foil; plaster; cardboard (overall material)disc (overall shape)Measurements: overall: 9 3/4 in; 24.765 cm

Guid: http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ng49ca746a6-ae5c-704b-e053-15f76fa0b4fa

Record Id: nmah_852882

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