Oldest Thomas Edison audio recording released

Jennifer White Contributor
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The public can now listen to the oldest playable recording of an American voice and the first recording of a musical performance.

Created in 1878, the recording is 78 seconds long and was made on a Thomas Edison phonograph.

The sound from the original tinfoil recording has been transferred to digital and will be played Thursday night in Schenectady, N.Y.

“In the history of recorded sound that’s still playable, this is about as far back as we can go,” a trustee at the Museum of Innovation and Science told The Associated Press.

The recording begins with a 23-second cornet solo, followed by a man’s voice reciting “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and “Old Mother Hubbard.” The man laughs at the end of the record, when he recites the wrong words in the second nursery rhyme.

“Look at me; I don’t know the song,” he says.

Museum curator Chris Hunter said he has recently determined that man’s voice on the museum’s tinfoil recording is that of Thomas Mason, a St. Louis political journalist who went by the pen name I.X. Peck.

In addition to Mason’s voice, a female voice says “Old Mother Hubbard,” but researchers have not been able to decipher her identity. Three weeks after making the recording, Mason died of sunstroke, Hunter told the AP.

In July, Hunter brought the 1878 Edison tinfoil recording to California’s Berkeley Lab, where researchers have had success in recent years restoring some of the earliest audio recording.


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