Edison reading Mary Had a Little Lamb (1927)


In this 1927 recording made by Thomas A. Edison at the Golden Jubilee of the Phonograph ceremony, he recalls the first words he spoke into the phonograph, a recital of the “Mary Had a Little Lamb” nursery rhyme. In his writings, Edison recounts further the 1878 recording:

I designed a little machine using a cylinder provided with grooves around the surface. Over this was to be placed tinfoil, which easily received and recorded the movements of the diaphragm … Kruesi (the machinist), when he had nearly finished it, asked what it was for.

I told him I was going to record talking, and then have the machine talk back. He thought it absurd. However, it was finished, the foil was put on; I then shouted ‘Mary had a little lamb,’ etc. I adjusted the reproducer, and the machine reproduced it perfectly.

I was never so taken aback in my life. Everybody was astonished. I was always afraid of things that worked the first time.

This original recording was thought lost until scientists at the the University of California Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in collaboration with the Library of Congress had a go at recreating it using “optical imaging”.

Housed at: Internet Archive
Underlying Work: PD 70 years | Digital Copy: No Additional Rights
Download: MP3