Early European Edison Phonograph Recordings Released
Tuesday, January 31, 2012 • 2:46pm
Today the National Park Service announces the first-time release of 12 historic sound recordings made by Thomas Edison’s recording engineer Theo Wangemann on wax cylinders during 1889-1890 in Germany, Austria, Prussia, and France. The recordings include the voices of eminent German historical figures Otto von Bismarck and Helmuth von Moltke, and several performances by important musicians of the period. The sounds are available on-line in MP3-format at: http://www.nps.gov/edis/photosmultimedia/theo-wangemann-1889-1890-european-recordings.htm
On Saturday, February 4, 2012 at 12:00 noon, historian Patrick Feaster, will present a one-hour program about the recordings, titled Theo Wangemann: The Man Who Made the Phonograph Musical. This presentation will explore the life and career of Theo Wangemann, who was arguably the world’s first professional recording engineer. Also at the program, collector Stuart H. Miller, M.D. will exhibit the phonograph used by Wangemann in Europe during 1889-1890. The program will be held in the Laboratory Complex at Thomas Edison National Historical Park, 211 Main Street. The entrance fee to the park is $7.00, children under 16 are free. Seating is limited and reservations are required. Reservations can be made by calling 973-736-0550, ext. 89.
Museum Curators first cataloged the damaged wooden box containing the wax cylinders in 1957, found in the library of the Edison Laboratory. In 2005, the National Park Service completed a multi-year project to individually catalog every historic sound recording in the museum collection. Curators noted that the box contained 17 brown wax cylinders in fair and poor condition, several broken with large pieces missing. No title list or other identification survived in the box with the recordings, so the recordings could not be identified until they were heard. In 2011, the park's Curator of Sound Recordings digitized 12 of Wangemann's 17 cylinders using a French-made Archeophone cylinder playback machine, saving the audio as Broadcast Wave Format files. (Five of the cylinders could not be digitized due to their condition.) Once the audio could be heard, historians Stephan Puille and Patrick Feaster identified the sounds and wrote two scholarly essays, which are included with the recordings on the Thomas Edison National Historical Park website.
Entrusted by Thomas Edison with the task of applying the newly developed wax cylinder phonograph to music, Theo Wangemann oversaw the first regular production of pre-recorded cylinders at the Edison Laboratory in West Orange, New Jersey in 1888-89, ushering in the beginnings of the American musical recording industry. Then, in 1889-90, Wangemann played a prominent role in introducing Edison’s invention to continental Europe.
Thomas Edison National Historical Park is a National Park Service site dedicated to promoting an international understanding and appreciation of the life and extraordinary achievements of Thomas Alva Edison by preserving, protecting, and interpreting the Park’s extensive historic artifact and archive collections at the Edison Laboratory Complex and Glenmont, the Edison family estate. The Visitor Center is located at 211 Main Street in West Orange, New Jersey. The Laboratory Complex is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9:00am to 5:00pm. For more information or directions please call 973-736-0550 ext. 11 or visit our website at www.nps.gov/edis